pop goes the world: those unimaginative copycats

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  27 October 2011, Thursday

Those Unimaginative Copycats

 When an actress/politician officially backed the installation of a huge white “Hollywood”-style sign on an iconic Philippine natural landmark, it was only to be expected that reactions would erupt like, well, lava from a volcano.

To promote tourism in her province, Governor Vilma Santos-Recto wanted gigantic letters spelling “Batangas” across Taal Volcano. The news spread, and the majority of public opinion was vehemently against the silly idea.

Artist’s rendering of what the sign might look like, from GMA News Online.

The cybercommunity had a field day. Their collective ire caused the beleaguered Santos-Recto to backtrack and claim that the idea was a mere proposal under review; she asked the public not to “over-react”. But vice-governor Mark Leviste II had already confirmed that the Batangas provincial council passed a resolution on October 5 for a “a hard-to-miss landmark and potential tourism draw”. How could that be a “proposal under review”?

True, a sign that large sprawled across the volcano’s slopes would indeed be “hard to miss”. But would it be a “potential tourism draw”? Yes, for the wrong reasons – for people to jeer at and ridicule and shake their heads over the folly of misguided attempts at marketing and hype and snigger, “Who made money off that monstrosity?”

I wonder who really came up with this horrible idea to copy the “Hollywood” sign. They deserve to be pelted with eggs and rotten tomatoes, the unimaginative copycats. Boo. I’ve seen the real thing. Hollywood has done it already. They were first. It’s theirs. Why should we imitate them? How is this even a good thing?

How much would it have cost to put up such a sign? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on poverty alleviation, education, health care, infrastructure – in fact, a myriad of more pressing social problems and concerns?

Why, as a people, do we have to copy other people’s good ideas to turn them into our own bad projects? Remember the Department of Tourism’s Pilipinas Kay Ganda” campaign, which looked like it could have been drawn by a six-year-old, and turned out to have been lifted from Poland’s tourism authority?

We Filipinos are a creative people, more than capable of coming up with our own original concepts. Witness the many global awards our advertising people have won for their ad campaigns. Our artists and designers are lauded around the world. Just yesterday, breaking news on the Internet was that international pop star Lady Gaga wore a creation of Filipino designers Leeroy New and Kermit Tesoro on the cover of her new single off her Born This Way album, “Marry the Night”. (For the curious, it was described as a “leather body-armor outfit”. It rocks.)

Which is all the more bewildering why there are proposals and even done deals that cut corners, that reek of laziness and that odious mentality, “pwede na.” No, pwede na is not enough. “Good enough” is not enough. It is a base insult to the creative Filipinos who are guided by quality and excellence and maintain the highest standards in their work.

Case in point: the badly Photoshopped image of three Department of Public Works and Highways officials that appeared on the agency’s website soon after the typhoon Pedring assault. Not only was it in poor taste for such an image to be created in the first place, what added insult to injury was that it was an awful Photoshop job.

That went viral on the Internet too, and those three DPWH officials’ images appeared in all sorts of incongruous locations: behind the winner of the Miss Universe contest, on the ring with Manny Pacquiao, on Taal Volcano beside the proposed “Batangas” sign, but with the letters B, the first A, and S omitted.

Via Facebook’s “Photos of HollywoodPilipinas”

 Another example: the gaudy and tasteless lamp installations in various Manila parks and along the bridges. Bulbous and garish, they hurt the eyes and offend aesthetic sensibilities, not to mention use too much electricity better spent on more important things. Like food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless in those same over-lit parks.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – this was the credo of Steve Jobs, Apple founder, and he went on to build the world’s biggest and most respected company on that. It is also the cultural design philosophy of the Japanese, and we all know where they are now.

What this incident also makes painfully obvious is that up to now, many politicians and public officials still do not realize the power and influence of the cyber community. To be blind to the impact of current communications technology is stupid and foolish. Have no lessons been learned from the Mai Mislang sucky-wine-and-no-pogis-in-Vietnam Twitter debacle?

The Internet is a force for disseminating information almost instantaneously, and unlike traditional media, the cost of using which precludes access by the masses, the Internet may be used as a communication platform by anyone with a computer and broadband connection, or even just a smartphone and a data plan. Anyone can be a “journalist”, anyone can spread “news”.

So it’s no surprise that Gov Vi’s resolution went viral on the Internet, spawning a host of photos making fun of the “Taal Volcano” sign idea. That’s an indignity that’ll take some time to die down, and it certainly won’t help the tourism industry at all.

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For runners/walkers: the 500 Smile Run aims to raise funds for the free surgery of 500 Filipino children and young adults born with cleft palates or lips. The race is set for November 6 at the Quirino Grandstand. Distances are 500m, 3km, 5km, 10km, and 16km. Registration is until November 3. See takbo.ph for details. Since it’s for a worthy cause, quite a few enthusiasts have signed up, among them the newly-formed Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Runners Team.  ***

Polska-Pilipinas image here. Lady Gaga “Marry the Night” cover art here.

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1 Comment on pop goes the world: those unimaginative copycats

  1. joel
    10 November 2011 at 4:44 pm (3157 days ago)

    Love that ‘Tanga’ photo Jen….rolling with laughter here! LOL!

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