Knatz.com / Teaching / Thinking Tools /
@ K. 2003 10 25
Scale: Not Irrelevant to Perception
Mission: to consider overlooked factors in perception
Once again this file is a place holder, a sketch pad, a temporary receptacle for jottings, holding ideas till I can budget time to come back and to compose and “complete” them.
Some things are too big to be perceived by humans; likewise, too small. (Some things may be too big or too small to be perceived by “god”! (If true, would that depend on the god? or be a still higher category?))
What’s too big or too small changes with time and circumstances. Once upon a time Jupiter’s moons were too “small” (that is, too far away from earth) to be perceived by the Church, by the writers of the Old Testament, the New … But once the telescope was conceived, and once Galileo built one for himself, he saw them right away: and then had the devil of a time getting the always conservative (that is to say, the not actively perceptive) society to also see it: and process its consequences for their cherished beliefs.
Recent history has a controversy no more rationally handled than Galileo’s discovery: Professor Key’s thesis on Subliminal Suggestion. I read and enjoyed his book decades ago. Was the big
supposedly airbrushed into the Gilby’s gin ads really there? I saw it: after a while. Was I being suggestible? Who was responsible for the suggestion? Prof. Key? Gilby’s ad agency? The publisher of Key’s book? My gullibility? Or my high-powered intelligence?
In other words, was my perception responsible? Did it serve survival?
This issue has not been taken up by “science” with anything like the avidity with which it’s been seized by the faithful: where there’s more than one camp of faith. The “card-carrying” skeptics have proscribed it among their anathemas. Never-the-less, for whatever it’s worth, I (sometimes) see it.
(As I sometimes see other such things)!
Indeed, in the mid-1980s I made something of a sport of it. Camping around Philadelphia’s Main Line to visit my son at his college, heading out toward Haverford on some tributary to Lancaster Blvd, just going through a “black” section, I saw a big billboard for Newport cigarettes. A girl’s face filled the left side of the horizontally oriented rectangle of the billboard. Her hair was soaking wet, but it streamed horizontally to her right, defying gravity. That right there provided much of the macroinformation of the composition. I made a U-turn and parked across the street from the ad so I could “study” it. Prof. Key insisted that these ads are designed to “work” on our subconsciousness after the briefest of glances. They are not made to be studied. Sure, but I’m a scholar: Shakespeare’s “salad days” may have been written to speed by the audience, but I’ve still been pondering it for half a century: looking, listening, reflecting, looking and listening some more …
Several things about the ad intrigued me. For one thing, I didn’t think the “girl” was very pretty. Her excitement with her wet hair seemed to me to be too “hyper’.” And what was the scene we were supposed to imagine? She’d just stepped from the shower and her building suddenly fell over? before her hair had a chance to redirect “downward”? Then why was she still grinning?
I didn’t see any big Hollywood blockbuster Ben-Hur-type, 3-D-granite Ss or Es or Xs scribbled into the image. Prof. Key is right on the money on one thing: objectively, I swear; these are paintings; not photographs. Photography may be involved somewhere in the process, but the “print” has been retouched: everywhere, in all cases.
“Sex” isn’t the only thing scribbled into tobacco and liquor ads. My son would sometimes join me in these games. Once we pondered a full page color ad in a magazine. Guy is standing in a lake, again, dripping wet: top of his hair to the water line. Water is streaming from him everywhere. He’s got this stupid, shit-eating grin on his face … So? Ah, but his cigarette is utterly dry, just lit: immaculate.
OK: running water seems to be a theme: as with the girl with the wet hair too. Total immersion. Also, something jutting from the face, from the mouth in particular …
After a while, still feeling unenlightened, I left the billboard and returned to Haverford. But the next time in Philly, having succeeded or failed to sell some more art to support my near-fatal writing habit (thinking habit, reading habit, intelligence habit, offering-salvation habit …), I again parked short of the billboard and studied it some more.
After I-don’t-remember-how-many such sessions, I suddenly saw it. The perceptual problem had been one of scale! The horizontal orientation of the “wet hair” only seemed to be off-kilter. There was no streaming water in this image, no wet hair cantilevering impossibly to the horizon … No. I’d been totally tricked: by the off-scale truth. What jutted from the girl’s hyper-excited face wasn’t primarily hair, though hair was involved: both on her head, image-left, and at the opposite extreme, image-right. Likewise, though fluids were involved, what was streaming (or about to stream) wasn’t water. And, in fact, what jutted from the girl’s face didn’t jut from it; it jutted to it: into it: hard!
What I’d been looking at, uncomprehending, for so long, was a super-sized blow job!
If the billboard was say forty by say twenty-three feet, then the “girl”‘s face was say twenty-two feet to the vertical. And it wasn’t thirty-five or so feet of streaming wet hair that levitated from her; it was a thirty-five foot section of erect cock that mashed her grin flat.
(I say “section” of cock. Her partner’s actual groin, public hair … the rest of his paraphernalia … was cropped. So, when I say “hair” to the right, that hair was imagined, not shown.)
I specify brand, time period, location … the best I can in hope that there would be records of such things: that the actual ad was preserved somewhere: that there are fingerprints to support or refute my assertion and interpretation: evidence; not just my say-so.
Nevertheless, I began looking for a whole new class of subliminal seduction in my ad scanning. Though I was never as confident with my results as I’d been with the Ss and Xs, or with the skulls and demons hinted at in the ice cubes, I came to believe I was onto something. There were ads where two women would be enjoying coffee and cigarettes among potted plants … or a group at a cocktail party smoking over a chef’s board: maybe getting at the hors d’ouevres early, helping to make them … and guessed that in every case I was looking at off-scale suggestions of group sex. Just two women? Lesbians? Who’s the target? No; two women … and a male: the size of a god! (That “rubber plant” between them was no simple rubber plant!) Six persons, male and female: it didn’t matter who was buxom (the participants tended not to be, in their modest black cocktail dresses) … and tending to a pussy the size of a kitchen! [note]
There’s a related issue here that I also hope to develop further: one that Gregory Bateson discussed. Experimenters rewarded a dog when he correctly distinguished between a circle and an ellipse, punished him when he failed. Increasingly they rounded the ellipse until it was closer and closer to a circle. Bateson obverses that distinction came to border on guessing, eventually crossing that border: at which point the dog bit his tormentors. (Good dog!)
I have said, repeatedly, in many contents (though only recently coded in at Knatz.com) that a difference of quantity can become a different of quality. Thresholds separate categories, and thresholds can be breached.
(“That’s right,” my office mate of 1968 said to me, “there’s a difference between punching someone in the nose and rocketing a hydrogen bomb at their city.” That was one, rare, case where I believed that (at least that part of) what I had said had been received and understood.)
(And I bet my office mate endured his life sure that no one understood him!) (And: he would have been right, part of the time, with most people. Still: be careful who you dismiss.) (And maybe we’re in a hell in which God has dismissed us! Without looking? Impossible to know, for us or him!)
Does the gentle visitor see why I mention that in relation to the preceeding? The advertisers don’t write “SEX” across the glass of “gin” so that everyone can see it unambiguously. They don’t write it so that it could be proved against them in a court of law. Newport’s ad agency doesn’t clone the girl’s hanging hair till, turned sideways, it would extend to forty feet, then retouch it to fill it with “water flow,” then retouch it till it’s unmistakably Thor’s dick. [note]
No. The “dick” is just beyond the threshold of perception. It isn’t addressed to the left brain, to the analytical, to the consciousness. The dick is painted to balance in that thin area where the smartest dog can’t tell circle from ellipse. If, indeed, that’s what they’re doing at all. It’s not fact; but it’s more than conceivable. [note]
2016 07 10 I’m just watching Serena, Jennifer Lawrence: close up of her funny face as Bradley Cooper is about to fuck her brains out. Ah, that’s it, perfect: the face that belongs with Thor’s dick squashing her thyroid flat. Her face speaks volumes, so does her ass.
After three nights and days of love-making Thor decides to introduce himself to his mortal partner. “By the way,” he says, “I’m Thor.”
“You’re thor,” she says, indignant, unimpressed. “I’m tho thor I can’t even pith.”
Wet Hair, Rubber Plant …:
I promise to come back and be a little more specific with what I “saw” as possible that had been done to suggest more than met the eye.
More Than Conceivable:
Young bk enjoyed doing those exercises with me, and, as I’ve said, showd talent at that too. But the present adult bk has recanted. As Bob Dylan had the shrink put it, “Them dreams are only in your head.”