Saturday, January 01, 2011

Dying for a drink

Didn't drink too much at your New Year's Eve celebration last night, did you? Did you get home safely to sleep off your over-indulgence? Or did you spend the night in the drunk tank courtesy of the local constabulary who saw you weaving down the road at 2:00 a.m.?

I saw an attorney on a TV news feature story last night explain that even a first offense DUI in my state will eventually cost at least $10,000. A first offender gives up his driver's license for 4 months, takes mandatory classes (which cost a couple of thousand), then when he gets his license back must pay for an interlock device on the car, which costs $600 a year. That's not counting the costs of a heavy fine and lawyer's fees.*

It's better to just stay home if you're going to drink.

(...and when I think of what I used to do in my younger days! Lordy, I'm glad I never got caught, but more happy that I never caused an accident or--shudder--a death. Mine or anybody else's.)

When you consider alcohol--as many do--in a direct link to death on the highways, it doesn't help when the liquor companies add to that perception with advertising. It's well known that images of death, skulls, skeletons, blood, draw as much attention as sex. In the magazine, Wine & Spirits Quarterly, a publication produced in Pennsylvania, and available in their liquor stores, I saw more overt images of death than sex. Sex in liquor ads has drawn the ire of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers for "glamorizing" alcohol. They haven't said anything about death images, probably because death fits into their overall agenda.

If you look at the Maker's Mark ad you can tell the red flowing substance is wax, but admit it. You think it looks like blood, don't you?

The Crystal Head Vodka bottle is a direct nod to the legends of the crystal skulls, supposedly of pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican cultures, but disputed by modern scientific examination. You can read about those skulls here. What isn't in dispute is that the skull is a powerful death image.

(I really want one off these bottles. Where do I get this product?)

The skeleton riding a rooster is both oddball and scary. Because it's advertising tequila, it's from the Mexican tradition of Day Of The Dead, but it's still a very striking image.

Those three ads were overt, but this ad for bourbon is a bit more subtle. You can see a skull on the left, made up of the logo and some careful shading. Advertisers spend millions on advertising, and to be seen amongst the flood of advertising they need something that will pop out at the reader.

*The attorney recommended you never take a field sobriety test. No one can pass one, not even a person who is sober. If you think about it, how often do you practice heel-to-toe walking, and if you stood up and did it right now would you fail? The lawyer instead said always ask for a breathalyzer or blood test for more accurate results.

In the interests of disclosure I do drink. Not a lot, but I never have a drink and then drive a car. When we go out my wife drinks wine and I have nothing. No use tempting law enforcement to make me a statistic in their campaigns against drinking and driving.

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