Turds of a Feather

Credit: Some asshole with an iPod.

Credit: Some asshole with an iPod.

Did you notice? Yesterday I didn’t try to pull any of that April Fool’s Day crap on you. I respected you as a person. That simple act of mature restraint elevated me above the likes of Google and the makers of Minecraft. For hate’s sake I claim the higher ground.

The higher ground is mine! Neener, neener, neener. In yo face!

And now I’ve lost it again. Excuse me a moment while I crawl back under the bottom of this barrel here. Ah, there’s no place like home.

Feather Flags: Empirical proof that capitalistic greed grabs take far more precedence than the visual appearance of a community.
–Tom B. Taker

Why not make an entire community look like the inner ring of a toilet when it can make a few assholes a few extra bucks, right?

I give you the humble feather flag (genus flapus fuckus).

I went to my boss and said, “Hey, wanna big like Google? Allow us 30 percent of our work day to create April Fool’s products to put on the website and sucker our customers.”

Strangely enough he had no comment. It must be nice to have a business model where friendly tomfoolery is built right in. (This layer exists on top of the evil, crass, and omnipresent steal-a-buck model that lives below the underbelly of all everyday business activities.)

Speaking of underbellies, I was talking about your friend and mine, the feather flag. This is a particularly insidious piece of advertising Americana sprouting up beside Main Street in home towns and cities all across our fruited plains.

I googled the phrase “feather flag” and found all sorts slimy businesses pimping this shit out. One even calls itself “Feather Flag Nation.” I shit you not.

Business people love to lament things like regulations. My theory, though, is that they didn’t sprout from a vacuum. They were the result of some sort of stimulus, such as people acting like stark raving assholes.

For example, in my city there is something called a sign code. These city regulations attempt to reign in the activities of local businesses who would drop atom bombs emblazoned with “Eat at Joes” if they could. That one second of recognition before the blast could boost brand awareness. That’d be worth the cost.

My first taste of the sign code came at, you guessed at, my previous place of employment. There was a monument sign in front of our industrial complex where my greedy boss tried to squeeze in a quasi-retail “store.” (Those a poisonous air quotes.) The boss had a cloth sign with his logo hung on the monument sign. The city showed up and gave him a bill for a sign permit.

You can guess what happened next. My boss literally had kittens. Of course it was my job to lick them clean. Meanwhile, my boss argued like a tasmanian devil that the sign “temporary.” The city relented and the sign was allowed to remain. No charge.

That sign is still there eight years later. Yeah, temporary.

This is the sort of me-first (me-only!) logic that pervades the backbone of bedrock small business America. Beautiful, isn’t it?

After that I learned more about the sign code. Like how the city was forced, in self-defense, to make laws that stated how many signs could be placed on a building. If not, no doubt we’d have businesses in town that were constructed out of nothing but signs. All-sign construction would be a cottage industry.

I sat in a city council meeting and heard a restaurant whine about their sign. It seems that based on the size of their building, there were permitted one north-facing sign and one west-facing sign. Additionally, the signs were limited to a certain size in square feet. The restaurant had already installed three signs and there were all larger than allowed. “But we already paid for this,” they posited logically. “This will cost us money.”

Drive through my home town and you’ll literally see millions of illegal signs. The auto dealership has ones the size and shape of political signs stuck in the grass in front of their lot. There are only about 300 of them. Ugly as hell. And all illegal.

There are signs strapped to wire fences. Signs attached to building walls. Sandwich board signs placed where pedestrians are supposed to walk. There are sign wars between merchants over these.

If you can imagine a sign, so can a merchant, and they’ll do it in defiance of the law. Meanwhile, the city, understaffed and not giving a shit, does absolutely nothing.

When the cost came down, Las Vegas style signs became all the rage. Naturally every merchant in town had to have one. A new even sludgier playing field had been established. You don’t have a Las Vegas style sign? Then you’re not in the game! Even the mortuary has one.

Then local landowners got offers from the fat cats to put mini billboards on their properties. These things stick up in the air and rotate a new message every minute or so. (More ad space to sell.) Overnight they were all over town as people cashed in and took the free money. $30,000 to $50,000 and all I have to do is allow a billboard in my front yard? Pack up, honey. We’re going on a cruise!

After dozens of these things had been erected the city council said, “Gee. Maybe we better look at this issue?” But it was too late. And, in the end, they lacked the political will to do anything about them. It’s open season.

Now we’ve got the feather flags. These things are sprinkled liberally all over town, right between the dancing mattress and the Statue of Liberty break dancing motherfucker and the pizza juggler.

Drivers, please keep your eyes on the road and not the Las Vegas style signs or the myriads of other distractions on the sidewalks.

Since there is a plethora of companies willing to make customized feather flags, you’ll find a myriad of messages on these things. Clever advertising like “Diner” or “Car Wash.” Some are extremely details an include panels of photographs and tiny text. “U.S. Cellular” screams another. Or, “SCUBA.”

I’d like to meet the person who sees a feather sign and says, “Oh! Yes. I do need a SCUBA. And right now. Thank god for that feather flag. I was this close to living the rest of my day without precious SCUBA.” Yes, I’d like to meet that weak-willed yellow belly and plant my own customized feather flag complete with pole and spike kit right in his forehead.

Meanwhile the city council proudly made a sign which stated that one of their “goals” is “hometown feel.” Apparently that means a community that looks like a web page covered in spam.

Photo Contest: Find a feather flag in your community and take a picture of it. Share it with us here on the blog. The weirder the message the better. If you find one advertising “nipple rings” you automatically win. You’ve got my word on that!


5 responses

  1. Feather flags are not so popular in my neck of the universe. More like sandwich boards…and they NEVER advertise sandwiches.


    1. They’re on their way. Soon to be featured in a TV mini-series written by Stephen King.

      Don’t worry. They’ll get there. Then you’ll know that I’m omniscient.

      Patience, my child.


  2. I have a feather flag in my garden with pretty lady bugs on it. Yup.
    MY biggest peeve are the signs along the highways. The major highways. At night, do you know how much energy could be saved if they turned off the billboards? It’s night! We should be looking at the road, not the local dealership “shouting” that their Chevy’s are better.

    Then there’s the electronic billboards now! The owner of this brilliant ad idea is raking in money hand over fist for these multiple ads for the price of one billboard distraction. Again, how much energy is being wasted at night when we should be watching for the idiot in front of us or Bambi?

    But owning a business isn’t easy. I couldn’t do it. Too many regulations. Most townships look the other way when it comes to advertising. You do anything you can to get customers attention and if it means having a little nylon flag waving in the wind, then you do it. You don’t care if it’s annoying anyone else. That’s their problem. But if it brings one customer in, then you win.


    1. I’m at work so this will be brief. How tall is the flag in your garden? 27 feet?

      I suspect your garden flag is beautiful and not covered by my policy of hate. 🙂


    2. I understand owning a business isn’t easy. Lots of red tape, yada yada yada. What’s the alternative, though? Not owning a business? Working for someone else? Suck it up and get ‘r done. Or shut your mouth and go be a customer service associate for Taco Bell.

      What of the businesses that obey the sign code laws? They basically get hosed down by the cheaters and the law breakers.

      You’re right about energy use. We treat electricity like it grows on trees or comes right out of the ground. The local funeral home with the Las Vegas style sign keeps the bloody thing lit up 24 hours a day. It’s never ending, just like death itself. Perhaps that’s the point.


Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

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