don't just do something, stand there!

thinking about the article on torrid i read this morning got me thinking about how that store offers itself as a solution to a problem… a problem which lies mainly in the customers' minds.

"The function of advertising became the production of discontent in human beings. One of the sub-texts in all advertising is you're not OK, you're not OK the way you are, things are bad, you need help, you need salvation. And in that sense advertising is designed to generate endless self criticism, to generate all sorts of anxieties, all sorts of doubts, and then to offer the entire world of consumer goods as salvation. That's where salvation rests, anything and everything that you can buy."

that's from one of my professors, barney mcgrane. another thing he used to say regularly: "That's one of advertisement’s most brilliant accomplishments, to get us to believe that we're not affected by advertising." it's so seductive, the material world.

i miss barney. i spent i don't know how many semesters with him, either in one of his classes, or being a TA for one of his classes. i was the copy editor for his book, The Un-TV and the 10MPH Car: Experiments in Personal Freedom & Everyday Life. the book was a collection of the experiments done in one of his sociology classes, and students' reactions to them. the "un-tv" experiment has been posted to the internet, if you're curious. i highly recommend it (and the rest of the book). to give you an idea of what a typical class with barney was like, here's the reading list from one of his classes:

SOC 320 - Sociology of Death Required Texts:
1. Bernard McGrane - The Un-TV and the 10 MPH Car
2. Inge Bell - This Book Is Not Required (Revised Edition)
3. Leo Tolstoy - The Death of Ivan Ilich
4. Simone de Beauvoir - A Very Easy Death
5. John James and Russell Friedman - The Grief Recovery Handbook (Revised Edition)
6. Mitch Alben - Tuesdays with Morrie
7. Philippe Aries - Western Attitudes Towards Death
8. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross - On Death and Dying
9. Ernest Becker - The Denial of Death
10. Stephen Levine - Who Dies
11. Raymond Moody - Life After Life
12. Carlos Castaneda - Journey to Ixtlan
13. Sogyal Rinpoche - The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying
14. Reader: "Bardo" [Library Reserve]

Recommended Texts:
1. Philippe Aries - The Hour of Our Death
2. Michel Foucault - Madness and Civilization
3. Norbert Elias - The Loneliness of Dying
4. R. Kastenbaum - Death, Society and Human Experience: Is There Life After Death
5. Jacques Choron - Death and Western Thought
6. Richard Selzer - Mortal Lessons
7. Audrey Gordon - They Need to Know, How to Teach Children About Death
8. Philip Kapleau - The Wheel of Death
9. Da Free John - Easy Death
10. Trungpa and Freemantle - The Tibetan Book of the Dead
11. Herman Feifel - The Meaning of Death
12. Edwin Schneidman - Voices of Death
13. George Bataille - Death and Sensuality
14. Colin Wilson - Afterlife
15. Avery Weisman - The Coping Capacity
16. Joel Whitton - Life Between Life
17. Stephen Levine - Healing Into Life and Death
18. John Robbins - Diet for a New America
19. P. Sargent, I. Watson - Afterlives
20. Marie-Louise von Franz - On Dreams and Death
21. Robert Bosnak - A Little Course in Dreams

yep, you read it right -- 14 required texts, 21 recommended (and that "recommended" was really more like 'required' if you wanted to get the most out of the class). for a semester-long course. and we're not even getting into the papers, assignments, or experiments. how i can read so much text so quickly should be pretty apparent. even though his classes were extremely demanding and challenging, i enjoyed them, and barney's teaching style immensely. he is a warm, kind, insightful person. you would never guess that he's a friend of robert pirsig* or a student of chögyam trungpa rinpoche. barney once brought pema chödrön to come talk with his students, when i was a freshman. meeting her was so very cool. i'd never met a buddhist nun before, and i watched her field mundane questions about why she had shaved her head just as gracefully as she answered questions about bodhichitta and steadfastness. the next week, he'd have us calling up funeral homes to find out just how much it would cost to die in this culture. the week after that, it'd be breaking into our dorm rooms to learn enw ways of thinking about space. it's funny how applicable barney's work is to the feri study i'm doing now. i should tell him about it; i think he'd be interested and amused. and his advice would probably be the same as it always was: "see what you can see." *barney showed my one of my essays to pirsig. his reaction: "she's either brilliant, or insane. or both." i've still got that essay with pirsig's comments on it, somewhere in my filing cabinet.