I had a momentous day recently. One of those days that only comes around every few years if you are me. I had spent a few days doing what is one of my favourite things in the world to do and the culmination of those efforts was for me to email a colleague and say “place the order”. I was like a kid with a new toy which is kind of what I was, except I am not a kid and it was not a toy. I had chosen and I had ordered my new company car. I got to choose the one I wanted and I was very happy indeed.
That’s not what I’m writing about though. It got me thinking about how important what is written on stuff is. It’s also very important to you but you just didn’t know it yet. When I say stuff, I mean things. Things are unlike the arts, music or culture, things are things.
When it comes to art, music and culture, what is written on it, or about it, is pretty irrelevant to our feelings about it. What is written on things is far more important than what is written about them. You may be confused about that, but bear with me.
Regardless of your taste in art, music or culture, you will form your opinion of the painting, sculpture, movie, album or show based upon what you personally thought of it. The Critics are in quite universal agreement when heaping praise upon the ‘Les Miserables’ movie for example. I thought it was a bit crap. Everyone tends to think Pink Floyd were musical geniuses, I find their music to be pretty dreary. People will pay significant sums of their own money to hear or see Coldplay. I would pay the equivalent amount to never have one of their miserable dirges sucking a bit of the joy out of my day ever again. There are people who do not own, nor have ever even heard the Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’ Album when it should actually be issued to every child at birth.
There are many people who voluntarily listen to James Taylor, or that guy who sang about a lady in red, or even more bizarrely, Dubstep. I’m sure I have said it before but ‘Dubstep’ in my opinion is the noise a robot would make if it were possible to torture one to death. I really like ‘don’t stop moving’ by S-Club 7 whereas some people would like to ceremonially set their entire back catalogue on fire for crimes against music. I on the other hand would like to do just that to John Lennon’s pretentious rubbish. I really like heavy rock and even punk rock, but also have 9 Kingston Trio albums. Yes, exactly!
There are people who go all silly over modern art. Most of it looks like it has been done by a child, with crayons. Some people will pay millions for what I can achieve with a kitchen wizz and a bowl of raspberries by accident.
So no, regardless of what is written about arts, music and culture you will form your own opinion on whether it is any good or not.
This doesn’t work that way for things. I’d like to briefly gloat about my new car if I may. I had chosen for my company car, the brand new 2013 Audi A3 2.0 TDI which has 150 horsepower’s and 320 torques, 320!! That’s an awful lot of torques, more than some Porsche 911 variants. Torques are the bit of the engine that helps when you put your foot down to pass people without changing down a gear or two. 320 is more than the majority of cars on the road. The new Audi A3 has such clever technology that while I am driving flat out, but within the national speed limit of course, passing everything in sight with all my torques. I can also do a combined MPG of nearly 70. I’ll get over 1000 miles out of a tank of diesel if I choose to let some other road users be in front of me for a while. That’s actually amazing because while I am doing all that I’ll only be using 107 carbon footprints which means I don’t pay much tax on it either. The car tax in Britain is based on how bad for Polar Bears our cars are. I’d chosen a red one as I didn’t want to pay extra for metallic paint and I’m sure we will soon learn it’s bad for the Colombian Tree Toad. I don’t care about the Colombian Tree Toad but I don’t want to have to pay any more tax on it’s behalf.
But back to my point about what is written on things. If you told me I could have all that in exactly the same car but the car had BMW written on it instead. I would decline without hesitation as it would be an awful car which I would not be seen dead in, why is that? You could say to me. “I’ll give you £25,000 to spend on a nice Audi or here is £100,000 to spend on the best BMW ever made”, I’d take the Audi. I hate BMW’s despite them being an excellent motor car. I hate them because they have BMW written on them. Other cars suffer from having the wrong things written on them. Look at Alfa Romeo, they make beautiful, stylish cars but because they have Alfa Romeo written on them we take it for granted that they will sooner or later break down. I’m not sure how long ago that was a reality but the reality is that is what we think. Ford makes tremendous cars. Really brilliant, comfortable, technologically advanced and well specified cars but they have Ford written on them, which means many people will not have one on that basis. In Australia people will actually beat you up if you favour the wrong side of the Ford versus General Motors (Holden) argument in the wrong place. I’m not making that up.
I, and it’s not just me, make value judgements of things regardless of their quality because of what is written upon them. Some examples. I view t-shirts as underwear, I do not wear t-shirts unless as an undergarment to accessorize a shirt. I have two t-shirts, black ones. One has Hugo Boss written on it and one has Marks and Spencer’s written in it. The Hugo Boss one cost 5 times as much as the M&S one and they are indistinguishable but for the writing. I like my Boss one best and wear it the most, under a shirt where you cannot see what is written on it.
In New Zealand we have two main breweries. Lion and DB. There are many other beer makers now but these are the big boys. They have a base beer each. One is called Lion Red, the other is called DB Draught. I’ve never tried but in a blind tasting it would probably be impossible to choose which was which. They are basically the same thing. However, no self- respecting supporter of one brewery or the other would ever be caught drinking the wrong one. I would no more drink a Lion Red of my own free will than fly to the moon. We are from DB stock. Our family are DB people and Lion Red is for Aucklanders and Rugby League fans.
If you took my iPhone and wrote Samsung on it, I would throw it away despite them doing much or almost entirely the same thing. If you gave a woman I know some greenery and showed her the bag afterwards with spinach written on it, she would actually throw up. I’m pretty sure if my New Zealand Passport had Australian Passport written on it, I would kill myself. Is it the power of suggestion, or the words themselves, or what they mean? It must just be the words in some respects, as surely if the item under the words is the same as an item with other words written on them we would be perfectly happy. Well except the Australian Passport of course, I shuddered a little bit as I wrote that down. Apart from the Aussie Passport, it’s simply that some clever marketing or advertising person has changed what you think of what words represent. It’s that simple really.
You think I’m being trite? Look at your sunglasses? What are they? Have you ever heard of Luxottica? Of course you haven’t, but they make all the sunglasses. I mean ALL the sunglasses. You like your designer sunnies of course and don’t mind paying a few bob for a really good pair. The reality is they are all made by the same company and you are just paying for a different logo to the other designers sunnies which are made by the same people who made yours. You have shelled out all that cash purely based upon what was written on your sunglasses.
What is written on your things is your driving decision in the buying of the things. Far more so than you think, or thought. My driving decision was easy, my driving thing has Audi written on it and I was very happy indeed, not in any way a kind of blue, which I will have on the car stereo. I find it calms me when I see all the boorish behaviour of the BMW drivers I have to share the road with. I bet they listen to dubstep.