Home > Uncategorized > And now, a message from the Vague Platitude Society

And now, a message from the Vague Platitude Society

August 12, 2011
Smile sign on sidewalk

...because whoever put this sign down is bothered by all the frowny-faces.

I learned an amazing fact today: apparently defacing public property with graffiti is OK if you use high-quality materials and offer a message that you think is socially constructive.

No, really: somebody has been plastering the sidewalks on campus with these super-durable vinyl tiles.  They’re made of tough, shiny material (probably slippery in the rain) and stick strongly to the sidewalk.  There are helpful, one-word messages on them like “Smile” and “Improve” and “Encourage”.  They’re printed in black letters with a photographic-quality granite background so they look like a stone inlay in the concrete.  They’re made for heavy traffic and will probably last for months if people walk on them and set them in place.

Maybe I can use the same principle: I think that “Imprison Wall-Street fat-cats” would be a socially constructive message.  My durable graffiti medium would be, let’s say, epoxy paint.  And if it’s OK to deface public property, maybe it would be OK to deface private property!  Like the car windshields of whoever laid these signs down.  Think that would be OK?

I don’t know who put them down but there’s no faster way to piss me off than telling me I should “Smile”.  Seriously, sign-putting-down person, who the hell are you to tell me what facial expression I should have on?  Maybe I’m lost in thought, or worrying about my sick cat or my hip is bothering me.  Or maybe I just enjoy the world quietly in my own way.  Should we all walk around with smiles on our faces all the time?  Why?  I have an anatomically-impossible suggestion for you.

Here’s the other signs that I saw today.  There may be more; I will look tomorrow:

"Improve" sign on sidewalk

"Improve" what? I'm just generally not good enough?

Honesty sign on sidewalk

"...If you search for tenderness it isn't hard to find...."

Encourage sign on sidewalk

Encourage what? Promiscuity? Smoking? (Hey, you didn't specify...)

Mason's sign on light pole

"Who are the Masons? Ask one!

This is the first time I’ve ever seen graffiti like this… and also the first time I’ve ever seen a recruiting sign for… Masons.  Do you suppose they are the ones who plastered our sidewalks with self-improvement words?

From what I’d heard about The Masons, they were a pretty upright, constructive bunch.  Or they’re hiding secret documents from the Founding Fathers that have treasure maps embedded in them, I don’t know.  Maybe they’ve never had to recruit before and just don’t know how to go about it.  But if they are new to this game maybe they should consider learning the ropes of graffiti communication in a medium that washes away.  Like, you know, start with chalk.


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. August 13, 2011 at 05:50 | #1

    When you said that they were on campus, the first thought in my mind, given that there was some obvious money spent on these, was that the responsible organization was either a) the university itself, or b) some religious or “humanity improvement” group. The Masons might not be a bad guess either.

    Either way, I still agree that it shouldn’t have been done.

  2. August 13, 2011 at 08:32 | #2

    ” … there’s no faster way to piss me off than telling me I should ‘Smile’.”

    A-men! The next person who says that to me is asking for it.

    Hey, I know. You should place constructive signs like, “Masturbate. It’s healthy.”; “Use Condoms”; “Use Deodorant”; “Bathe”; “Call Your Mother,” “No. YOU smile.” etc. Maybe then the university will reconsider its policy.

  3. dof
    August 13, 2011 at 10:33 | #3

    Cognitive – I like your alternative messages!

    And I always want to say to these clowns, if you want me to smile, do something charming. Telling me to smile is just idiotic on several levels. If you want me to improve, inspire me. If you want me to encourage others, lead by example, and so forth.

    I doubt it was the University that put out these signs. For one thing, single-word messages would be very out of character for academic types, who all seem to have Academic Verbosity Disorder. For another, University-sponsored messages always have their provenance clearly displayed. So this is some community group or something.

    My guess is they didn’t see themselves as engaging in graffiti. Or realize that effective graffiti, like any other form of communication, has a learning curve. For every Banksey, there’s about a thousand plain old vandals. Some of them, apparently, respected pillars of the community. Lots of organizations do it in chalk and that’s perfectly fine.

    Web Urbanist has some graffiti that made me smile. Unfortunately the web pictures of the graffiti are covered in ads that you have to click-off… which is sort of ironic. Wonder how many layers deep that can go?

  4. August 14, 2011 at 15:30 | #4

    Using chalk, even though the messages can be annoying, is much more appropriate. As the rain will wash things away after some time and is just temporary. Something more permanent like that is just stupid.

    And I agree. Fuck you if I can’t meet your standards of cheeriness.

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