Monday, March 21, 2011

Thank you, great giver of alpacas!

On Saturdays, the post office closes at noon, but the building stays open until three, so you can still check your mail if you are very lazy and have not showered by noon, not that that has ever been an issue for me, no sir. Last weekend I happened to miss noon by about ten minutes, which was distressing as I found a yellow card in my box that said, "You have too much mail." That means I have to go to the window and ask for my mail, like it's 1902 and I'm Anne of Green Gables. Sometimes this card means something exciting has come, but more often it means Axa has sent me an enormous report that cannot physically fit into my box. The post office is willing to crush or destroy almost anything to get it in the box, but even they cannot make that Axa report small enough. They might as well file it in the recycling bin, because that's what I do before I even leave the building, but I guess it would be illegal if they did it. Anyway, it didn't bother me much that I was missing out on an Axa report -- until I remembered that I told Axa to start sending them to me electronically. Which means the yellow card indicated that there was a chance, albeit low, of something interesting having come.

This part of the story actually has no bearing on the rest of it, but I felt it needed a bit of suspense at the beginning, so that you could experience, in miniature, the day and a half that I spent thinking, "WHAT IS IT?" and therefore see why it was so funny when I finally found out what it was. When I returned on Monay I was still mostly expecting some enormous nuisance from one of the many organizations that exist to plague me. What I got was this:

I appear to have been mysteriously subscribed to Alpacas Magazine. That, or I hit the best jackpot ever. Which is the jackpot that randomly sends people camelid-related periodicals. Now that I think about this, there should be a lottery that is not about money, but is about completely unexpected things happening at unexpected times. They would be good things, obviously. Things like, you buy a ticket, and six months later a stranger mails you a postcard from Brazil telling you that you are the brightest star. (That will make perfect sense in a minute.) Everyone would win this new surprise-based lottery, and none of them would be tempted to funnel their sudden wealth into a doomed restaurant and lose it all, which apparently is the typical fate of lotto winners.

Anyway. I have been reading this magazine, and so far, one thing I've learned is that the advertising of the alpaca-breeding world trumps all other advertising I've ever seen. For example:

First thought: "That's not Sirius Black!" Second thought: "Actually, Sirius Black was an Animagus, so maybe it could be Sirius Black!" Third thought: "This ad couldn't be any weirder." But I was wrong. Behold the inside:

My loyal friend Simon P. and I have a tradition of trading headlines that we have misread. Recently I sent her the headline "Heavy Rains Linked to Humans." I had misread it as "Heavy Rains Linked to Hamas," which led me to believe for a moment that Hamas had genuinely impressive powers. She wrote back and said, "I misread your Hamas as Llamas." I don't know if that would be impressive for llamas or not. They do spit, after all, if you want to consider that rain. But the point is that I sometimes fall victim to little reading errors. When I read the right-hand side of this ad, for some reason I read it as "Satan King," and I must tell you I was very confused as to why the Satanic alpaca was being depicted among puffy clouds with a heavenly light shooting out of its head. Even now I am not entirely sure what's happening in this ad, but it's sort of a masterpiece if you ask me.

Now that I've got that important advertising analysis out of the way, I should say this is actually a terribly interesting magazine that many people could benefit from. There's this one article on alpaca behavior in which someone complains to the author that his alpaca spits. He believes it is simply the nature of this alpaca to spit. If this alpaca existed in a neutral vacuum, the gosh-darned creature would still spit. The author asks him, nonchalantly, what he is doing when the alpaca spits. He says he is picking nits out of its fur. She says, "Stop doing that." I really think the lesson here also applies to humans. No one is born a spitter. So to speak.

There's also an entire article on how to take good pictures of alpacas that is really about how to take good pictures, period. And, to my delight, it ends with an explanation of why you should never send a designer an image that is 72 dpi and expect it to print well on paper. Seriously, alpaca-photographers, non-alpaca photographers, and, to cover all our bases, photographers who may or may not be alpacas. Don't do this. It makes your designer spit.

I'm almost done here, but there are a couple more things. First, did you know there was such a thing as Berserk Male Syndrome? Yes, of course you did, because you remember college. But that's not what I mean. Evidently if you hang out with a baby alpaca too much, the baby starts to think people are alpacas too, and then when they're adults, they start feeling that they need to defend their territory from you. Apparently this is quite dangerous, and the condition is incurable, and generally they end up being euthanized. Fortunately it is rather rare. Usually when alpacas are mean, it's because you're picking nits out of them or giving them images that are 72 dpi. Anyway, it's a great name for a syndrome. Flexible usage.

Second, aside from the holy alpacas above, there is some great marketing in here. Take this tagline for example: "When roses aren't enough for your girl... try Rosehaven Alpacas!" While there are relatively few circumstances under which is it practical to bestow a bouquet of alpacas on someone, I love this idea both figuratively and literally.

And third, this:



Pandora said...

We have exactly the same reading disorder because I also thought that remarkably heavenly-looking advertisement was starring Satan and found it rather curious. Although it's not any less curious now.

Maybe I will take up spitting as a means of correcting clients who send me 72 dpi images. I think it will curb their behavior rather quickly. Or I could just sent my Berserk Male alpaca over to their offices for a little visit....

Simon said...

I'm glad it wasn't just me who thought Satin was Satan. And yes, I think spitting is an entirely appropriate reaction to low-res images. The Berserk Males tend to head-butt, or was it chest-bump, I can't remember. I think either would would be a good deterrant.

The subscription, I have just learned, is a birthday present from Simon P. She has been asking me since January whether it has arrived yet. It has arrived!

Anonymous said...

Ha - it is funny how the eyes work. There is clearly not a second "a" in the right hand picture, but my eye creates one, and manages to simultaneously throw in a "t" without my noticing that when I assume an "a" then the "t" disappears. On the other hand, I'm done with the "t" by that time, so who needs it anyhow?

Which actually gives me an idea: This example clearly shows that once we have gotten past certain letters in reading a word - it makes no difference if they were actually, clearly, individually part of the word. So, think how much space and ink and paper could be saved if a font could be designed where one glyph was read as two letters.

When approached from the left, it took on the appearance and function of one letter, then, after you passed that one, and were exiting to the right, the second letter became apparent. Presto - two letters, one symbol, less ink, less space. Do that with enough letter combinations, and "War and Peace" could fit on a postcard. Oh, on second thought, maybe "A Separate Peace" would be postcard size - "War and Peace" might still need a bit more room.

Did I say that this was a good idea? No, I did not, just that it was an idea. I leave the evaluation to the reader, and anyone who wants it, can claim the patent on this wonderful poly-glyphic/multi-functional font.

Simon said...

If there were a postcard with "A Separate Peace" on it, I would buy that postcard, because then I could carry that book around with me all the time and I would always have high-quality reading material.

Your comment makes me think of medieval manuscripts, in which sometimes there were glyphs for multiple letters. They used them for things like common Latin endings, or common words like "et," which became an ampersand. Or so I seem to remember. It's been a while. Anyway, it saved ink and space. Interestingly, I find that totally charming, yet it annoys the hell out of me when people spell "your" as "ur" even though it's more or less the same thing. I guess I just think it's classier when the symbol stands for a word that is spelled correctly.

But returning to the point, I thought I read something on the Rag Bag a while ago about Ben Franklin's alternate alphabet, but it turned out that alphabet was just more phonetic, not more efficient. So the more efficient alphabet has yet to be invented. Or re-invented. Someone with artistic skills should get on this ASAP. Think of the money that could be made from texting addicts.