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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, April 18, 2008

When Lyrics Work Overtime

A few weeks ago, I shared the song "New Soul," that you may have heard first in a Macintosh commercial. That song and its creative music video help us understand that well-written lyrics reach beyond the page (and even beyond the lyre, the ancient musical instrument at the right from which we get the word lyric). Throughout most of the 20th Century, advertisers relied on getting "jingles" in our head to help their advertising dollars work overtime for free.

Jingles not only make lyrics work overtime... they also work over time. Many of them have become unforgettable classics in their own right. Most of them follow the same simple formula: state the name and claim of the product. "Brylcream: a little dab-l-do ya" (name and claim) Or "My dog's better 'cause he eats Ken-L-Ration." (claim and name). [Note: I could easily get side-tracked on this topic. For more see the P.S. at the bottom of this post.]

Back in the 70's, Coke found that advertisers could borrow a song that had nothing to do with a product and if it caught on, if the song made people feel good or appealed to "our better angels," it would enhance the way consumers felt about a product. The song Coke introduced was "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" (which did add their name and claim at the very end: "Coke: It's the real thing"), but it was the song itself that became a hit for my generation for years--including millions of non-Coke drinkers like me.

As long as there are radios and products to peddle on the air waves, there will be jingles, but in this 21st Century we are seeing more and more use of unfamiliar, inspiring songs draped around a product. Take the one from CVS Pharmacy, for instance. That song was also used in the enchanting film Charlotte's Web. Another great song in a commercial is the haunting question sung by Hem: "Is this the part where you let go?" used in the Liberty Mutual commercial. It shows ordinary people doing the right thing for others.

This song kept playing through my head those days we were in hospice with my mom (after returning early from Thailand). So it's no surprise that it came back to me when I was editing the video and saw the footage of an Akah man dying in his hut (it was a large "family hut" with three related families sharing it). Dr. Mary was holding the man's hand as we prayed because there was nothing else the doctors could do. One week to the day after taking those pictures, I was holding my mom's hand under similar circumstances.

The video project is practically complete. I used the following clip at the end of a longer presentation put on DVD along with the portions you may have watched on POI Youtube.

"Is This the Part Where You Let Go?"

If you watch this montage a second time, you may want to play "I Spy" with the clips. Here's a guide of what to look for.

Clip #1: It did not rain a drop the week I was in Thailand so I had to use a brook in the opening clip. A few days after I returned home, they had a rare downpour in the dry season. Clip #2: Look closely—-there is an old sandal embedded in the hardened clay, leftover from the rainy season. (A foot probably got stuck in the thick mud and the sandal just hardened there as the path dried.) Clip #3: I thought it was interesting that the boys demonstrated that in their culture a vehicle's primary worth is in carrying loads of beams or bamboo. Clip #6: The small children sometimes play "sidewalk soccer" with stones. Clip #7: Look closely at the upper edge of the clip when the boy is running in slomo. You'll see a satellite dish. In the past few years, nearly every village has installed one. Clip #8: The man is wearing a "U.S. Army" shirt. Needless to say, he wasn't a GI, but the hill tribes often get cast-offs from the "irregular" bins of the many Thailand textile companies that supply "name brands" and familiar logos for the rest of the world. Clip #10: Holding this dying man's hand during prayer was all the doctors could do. Little did I know when I took that shot, that I'd be holding my mother's hand under similar circumstance exactly one week later. Clip #11: Akah woman with cataracts.
Clip #12: Behind the sad boy hugging the post is an old man smoking opium from a PVC pipe. Clip #14: Girl with soccer ball and baby. The team gave away two new soccer balls to each village. Clip #16: Detail of Akah vest on young girl. These colors and patterns are unique to the Akah tribe and they sell many handmade items like this at the markets. Clip #17: Lady in purple walked all the way up the hill by herself. It took 20 minutes. She had severe arthritis. Clip #18: Booted women coming in from the rice fields for the clinic. Clip #21: Small Boy crying after tooth extraction. He had a hard time. Afterwards, I wanted to give him something. All I had in my pocket was a penny, so I gave it to his father to give to him. They had never seen one and were very grateful. I hope they don't someday misunderstand the gesture when they find out a penny is our least valued coin.
Clip #22: I have used this girl in the window three times. I call the video file "Eyes." Clip #23: At the end of the clinic in the very far village (where they were making brooms), these girls brought us plates of fresh fruit.
Clip #24: This is the wife of our Akah translator, John. Her name is "Nut," and in that language it has only positive connotations. She and John are a remarkable couple. Clip #25: I call this clip "Number 97" because I have a photo of this Lahu woman proudly holding up her "take a number" ticket. She was thrilled to get the ticket but did not know that 97 meant there was nearly a hundred in front of her. After a few hours, she was sitting against a wall (#97 still in her hand...look closely). Her countenance went from bright-eyed to pensive. I did not notice it was the same lady until weeks later when I began editing. Her face and eyes show the wisdom and weariness that comes from shared life.

(Here are the lyrics of "Is this the part where you let go?")

P.S. I wanted to add some more examples of classic "name-claim" jingles, but as I googled the topic, I found some great related links that you can just explore for yourself if you share this interest. First was this fun post about jingles by a fellow blogger. Then was this great link to a page of nearly all the famous ad jingles through the years in WAV form for free downloads. (Once you're at that site, use the index to search other categories of jingles.) I also found this "80's" page that provides video clips of some classic ads. If you want to see a funny video clip about how jingles are a part of our culture, watch this "short." (Be sure to watch the surprise ending.) And finally, if you're really into old jingles and ad slogans... test your knowledge here. Now do you see why I put this at the end--it's practically a whole different post, but I just put up the one I wrote for the weekend. =)

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Blogger the walking man said...

You know this is a small tear in the fabric and of no real consequence, but I despise a commercial that uses a Beatles tune for it's tag. Man, I do not want about a third of the tunes floating through my head associated with products. ha ha ha ha



18/4/08 3:11 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

TWM, Mark,
There is a Beatles song being used right now, but I can't think of which song it is. For me I guess it depends on the product. If I like the product and they use a song I like, I don't mind it. On the other hand, I didn't switch to Liberty Mutual even though I applaud the message they are sending in their current campaign.

18/4/08 5:29 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Tom I am currently in negotiations with Liberty Mutual for the due settlement over their client caused permanent damage to my body. (13 months now)

When they say they do what's right for their people, all I can say is settle while you have the opportunity. If not then [the attorney] is going to sue the other driver personally for every dime he has ever made, everything he owns, and every chestnut he has stored away. And he can get it back from them. If they care enough about him to give it all back. because they sure don't care about me. Jingle or no.

Once the case is listed on the docket then, then all bets are off and good man or not I will absolutely take this mans life savings away from him, his cars, house and everything else I can attach. I must live with my physical reality, he must live with his. *shrug* that is human and every time I see that Liberty Mutual commercial...well we won't go there it's not in my face at the moment...so



19/4/08 2:50 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

TWM, Mark,
Wow. That's interesting, and I appreciate the perspective. Settling "claims" is messy--especially when seriously injury is involved. Everyone goes into "protect their own" mode. This is probably not the place to discuss pending unsettled matters (though I do appreciate your well-governed comment =), but I wonder what would happen if you wrote a letter using the emotional power of their commercial and its ending line..."When people do the right thing, we call it responsibility; when an insurance company does it, we call it Liberty Mutual" (or something like that). Tempting as it would be to lash out at the company for being so slow in settling your case, I wonder if they would "hear a client" who was able to set aside the understandable frustration and explain the quiet irony you live through each time you see the commercial. I wonder if they too would see the irony and do more with less delay.
In other words, their commercial is trying to appeal to the redeemed qualities of human nature, but maybe if they thought their settlement would really settle things for good (not possible in some respects, I know, but maybe in a legal sense "settled")... maybe then they would respond better.
Easy for me to say, right?
What this anecdote really demonstrates is that there are different personalities working in the ad agency than there are in the claims adjuster's department. I think I'd tend to work in the ad department.
Good to hear from you after all these months...I've missed you, my friend. Thanks for coming by again. I pray you'll find the peace you wish for us all in this matter and in life.


P.S. Say "hi" to Eleanor Rigby for me... One of my favorite Beatle characters... =)

19/4/08 7:54 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Extraordinary clip Tom, you are one talented man. The "eye spy" was fun- I watched twice and found most of them. I will have to come back later for the army shirt.

I am especially fond of of the verse from Matthew. Our church has an all day project next Saturday called "Operation Inasmuch"- (this is actually a state wide project for this weekend but our church had a wedding this weekend). We have several teams (with several 100 people) working throughout our county doing work and projects for people in need.

I look forward to checking out your "google" clips. I find the topic very interesting. I rarely remember the product but I always remember the jingle.

20/4/08 2:17 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thank you, Nancy.
"Operation Inasmuch"--I love it (I've not heard of it, but I love the use of that phrase as a proper noun).
The U.S. Army shirt is on the guy after the "through the window" shot toward the beginning. There is a longer shot of him in "Not for the squeamish" part of the video. These men and women sometimes had four or more teach pulled in one sitting. I had 4 wisdom teeth out and took a day or two off. I saw one of these guys go back to work on a hut. Many of them have been living with chronic toothache so the extraction is seen as relief.

20/4/08 7:26 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

Thanks for the notes.
I can understand now that I've heard the song why it sticks in your head now. It really is a great song.
Some times the songs that stick aren't so great. When I thank people for something the stupid song that sticks in my mind is from a Scrooge musical when people are thanking him for dying. They sing " Thanks a lot mr. Scrooge. Thanks a lot."Stupid song.

21/4/08 9:53 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John,
I remember that version of Scrooge. I think it's the people coming to take his things that sing "Thank ya very much... that's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me..." You're right. It's sad. Right up there with "Poor Jud is Dead" from Oklahoma. But in the case of this Hem song, I think the person is hoping that he/she can be there for the person just as the person was there for them all along... so in that sense it's a beautiful kind of sad.

21/4/08 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

So I just stumbled on the comments about LM while doing a search on the company. I am a property adjuster for them, and have to agree (if I am reading things correctly) that responsibility is only an advertising mechanism, not truly a matter of policy. And this is not to lambaste LM only, I have worked in construction previously, and have a dim view of insurance in general. Regardless of that, not only does the responsibility they espouse not really extend to the policyholders, it also does not extend to the workers. I try not to openly bash my employer, however it is hard to see how requiring someone to "choose their level of discomfort" in terms of overtime worked (without any possibility of pay) is responsible. Especially when the pressure is on to settle (read: fight) claims as quickly as they come in, and working 80 hours a week is not enough to keep up. Then mgmt wonders why customers aren't happy... I have only been here a year, and I am happy I can pay my bills with a steady income in this economy, but I know too many adjusters here who have ben divorced and physically/mentally sickened because of the stress. I do not see that as responsibility to the workers, and that results in poor customer service, which is not responsible to the policyholders. It's sad really, that responsibility has become bastardized so well in such a short time - those ads only started in the year since I started, and already the word holds little meaning to me...

Dn't get me wrong - there are plenty of upsides to having the job, the pay is decent and a company car is real nice, but...when I haven't had dinner with my loved ones for over a month, and my pets are crying for play time, to be let out, and chores are being let slide...it's hard to see that I am getting a lot of good out of this. Hopefully the economy turns around soon, cause my time here is short...

14/2/09 9:01 AM  

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