Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Phantom Menace

And so begins my Guerilla Media Campaign...

Yesterday I ate some Chinese food, and my fortune cookie said, “DO SOMETHING UNUSUAL TOMORROW.” And I said, “Get out of my head fortune cookie!” I already had something up my sleeve for the next day.

I often work odd temp jobs because I got restless working lame jobs at coffee shops and such. On Monday I worked for my boss’ sister at her flower shop in San Francisco. She always needs help in the shop around Valentine’s Day because of the large shipments of roses that come in. I spent the day de-thorning bouquet after bouquet of red roses for $10/hr with unlimited snacks and the company of a cat named Chloe. It was an alright day, but I started thinking about where those roses came from. The packaging around the roses were labeled “Star Latin” and were all in Spanish. Then I started thinking about that movie Maria Full of Grace, and how the main character worked in Columbia putting together bouquets just like these. I put together in my head the route which it takes for those flowers to get to the shop which I was working at, from there the roses are sold at anywhere between $100 and $200. The whole process got me pondering what a big business Valentine’s Day is. After a days work and a pocket full of tax-free cash, I went home and did a bit of research on the subject.

I came across some articles which gave me a little more insight on the business of buying love. While many see Valentine’s Day as a “Hallmark Holiday,” there is much more to February 14th that involves Latin America, India, and Africa. In this article by, surveys done through market research companies showed that the total 2007 spending for February 14th is expected to reach $17 billion. An article from The Huffington Post explained more about what I had been thinking about while de-thorning roses. The article goes into depth about what Columbian flower workers must go through to prepare for Valentine’s Day. Flower workers, including 80,000 Columbian women, make around 50 cents an hour putting together 70,000 bouquets a week in preparation for this holiday. To think that I was making $10/hr, leisurely de-thorning roses on Monday while young women like myself were in Columbia working twice as hard for much less to get those roses to me got me down. In another article I found more information about making rose buyers aware of this big business and at what expense these roses come.

I decided for Episode 1 of my Guerilla Media Campaign I would try to make others take notice of what is behind Valentine's Day. In hopes of making people more aware of where those roses came from that they are buying their spouse, girlfriend, lover, baby-mama, or friend.
Evil cupid and myself put our heads together to think of a good way to do so (while simultaneously slapping Valentine's Day in the face)...

After some consideration, we thought balloons could do the trick. Without spending too much money or time on something which might fail miserably, balloons seemed like the right idea. Yesterday I went out to my nearest party supply store and bought 6 balloons, which somehow ended up being free with purchase of Little Mermaid party plates and a package of birthday candles. The Diddam's employee didn't seem to care about the balloons, and I didn't argue. With my research handy, and a jumbo black Sharpie pen, I decorated the pink balloons with facts and ideas to ponder this Valentine's Day.

I took these balloons with me early this morning to show to my audience: the students of San Jose State University. Since I live in San Jose, this seemed like the ideal place to spread awareness to open minds.

I took the six balloons and placed them all around campus where I thought they would be seen. I put the first balloon here in the stairwell of the crowded parking lot.

I tied another to a bench in front of the library.

After distributing the balloons in front of buildings and in courtyards, I decided to stick around and see if anyone notices my work. I sat in the shadows near the entrance of the library like a creepy voyeur, drinking a nasty Odwalla drink I bought from inside the Student Union building, waiting. People walked by, acknowledged it was there, but did not read it. A skateboarder smacked it while riding past, but for the first 15 minutes it got no response.

Then, it finally happened! Two girls leaving the library stopped and took a few seconds to read the balloon. My heart jumped and I scrambled to snap a photo of this rare encounter. When it was over, I was thrilled. I suddenly got excited to see if my other balloons were causing a stir at their posts.

This one was causing a stir. I walked up to the scene of the crime. In this photo, a campus police officer struggles to detach my balloon from a bench in front of this building. I didn't wait to see how long it took to take it down, but it probably took a while (I triple knotted that thing).

On the other side of campus, in front of the Student Union/Cafeteria, another student stopped to read the balloon. I felt pretty good about my balloons and the response they received, so I decided to head out. I hope my balloons last a little longer than the one in front of Moorehead Hall did. Most of all, I hope the people who stopped to read the balloons acknowledge and appreciate the work that goes into making this holiday possible.

Good job evil Cupid. Our work here is done.


Caleb said...

So I take it your not in love at the moment...I will show you some love though, because I'm digging on the idea. And you executed your first smear campaign very well (research and everything!). When I first looked at the post I thought, wordy (that is just because I'm lazy). But it was well organize with an enjoyable dark little tint to it. You got your first topic on a silver platter, now I'm eager to see where you are going with this. Hopefully not here....I know, bad joke. But this reminded me of it.

Claudia said...

I have the same sentiments of this commercialized holiday. I loved the idea that you came up with, although it may not have caught tons of attention, I think you got your point to a few, which is a great thing. Congrats!
I felt your writing was great, you provided tons of information and described the scene superbly. Great job over all, I will definitively be checking out your blog to see what other great ideas you come up with.
Check this site out.

myko said...

Frickin awesome post and guerilla art! FYI: this is not relevant.

JiratuX said...

I love love love the use of pictures to tell your story. Each one made want to keep reading even though I didn't necessarily have to in order to understand what happened. Keep it coming bro.

I have no link that I can think of that relates to your blog. This is actually the first time I've heard of "Guerilla Media." But I'm definately intrigued.

Shameless plug in 3...2...1...


Jesse said...

I love the concept of your blog! Especially the last post on the anti-v-day balloon raid of SJ state. You should take a look at these guys possibly for inspiration for your next guerilla media campaign. They have some awesome videos and photos of their work. Your ideas are awesome, keep it up!

Anonymous said...


What a wonderful display and expression of your emotions using your creativity. Your demonstration reminds me kind of the ad campaign truth. They use the same tactic as you did. And since we are in a business of story telling, what a wonderful story you have presented, effectively as well. My favorite picture is of the police! Of course knowledge can be viewed as power thus the police are just one institutionalized agent to control us! Very funny! I hope your creativity inspires other as it has inspired me! Have a nice weekend and take care.

Yours for justice,

Shera said...

I liked this posting a lot. You had a unusual "itch" and went with it. Reading it reminded me a bit of the
OBEY logos/stickers that were spread around urban areas for many years. No one quite knew what they were. They represent a very low-tech campaign that become an anti-establishment icon in their own right.