There are several things I dislike about the giant "TRUMP" sign that Donald Trump, the honorable archduke of Egotown, affixed to the lower torso of his Chicago skyscraper.
1) It reminds me that Donald Trump exists.
2) It triggers my gag reflex, and the "Ack! Ack!" sounds I make are disconcerting to tourists passing by.
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3) See item No. 1.
Trump himself has said the sign will become "iconic" and will one day "be like the Hollywood sign," but most of us non-crazy people recognize it for what it is: the signage equivalent of a dragon tattoo inked just above the riverfront skyline's butt.
Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin described it as being "as subtle as Godzilla," prompting Trump to describe Kamin as a "third-rate architecture critic." By "third-rate," I assume Trump meant "highly respected and Pulitzer Prize-winning," but who knows with that guy.
Regardless, it appears we're stuck with the five-letter salute to narcissism, so I say we turn a Trumptastrophe into a Trumportunity.
Trump's goal in erecting the 20-foot high, 141-foot-long sign is to further implant the Trump brand in the minds of anyone who looks at the admittedly beautiful Trump International Hotel & Tower. You see the tower — wow! — and then you see the sign — TRUMP — and you associate that name with good, impressive things. Then maybe you want to go to one of his casinos or watch his TV show or follow him on Twitter and embrace his anti-Obama vitriol.
That's Trump's desired outcome, but Arthur Lurigio, a psychology professor at Loyola University Chicago, believes the real estate mogul will be disappointed.
"People looking at the word 'Trump' over and over again is likely not going to increase their liking of him," Lurigio said. "Brains operate in neural circuits. When a person sees the word 'Trump,' that person's brain is going to evoke memories, past impressions and judgments, and they're all going to light up when we see the word. So either they're going to light up in a favorable or unfavorable way."
So if you dislike Trump, the sign will add to your negative feelings. And if you like the guy, the sign will just make you like him more, though you'll probably never see the sign because all you do is hang out in your basement and post mean comments on the Internet.
By my way of thinking, disliking Trump isn't good enough. I want the sight of this ridiculous all-caps sign to trigger not just a general sense of loathing but a specific insult.
When you see "TRUMP," I want your brain to immediately bring up the word "stinks!" Or "sucks!" Or the phrase "is awful!"
Perhaps, "should disappear." Or, "is the worst."
I asked Lurigio if it's possible to train our brains to lock in on a specific word association.
"You would have to overcome all the associations people already have," he said. "If people didn't know anything about Trump, there wouldn't be anything in the way. But people have a whole bunch of associations already, many of them negative. So this is another node to add to the network."
But, Lurigio said: "Neurons that fire together, wire together."
That means there's hope, my fellow Chicagoans. We can add this node!
If we put our minds to it — literally — we can make it so that Trump's ostentatious intrusion on our skyline summons up not just a general sense of his jerkiness but a carefully crafted insult.
The possibilities are endless.
You see Trump, you think, "is dumber than a lobotomized ferret." Or, "is bad for America."
If you prefer loftier insults you can link Trump with "is an insufferable wretch" or "is a braggart of inestimable proportions."
Steal the McDonald's "I'm Lovin' It" jingle and when you see "TRUMP" think, "Ba da ba ba ba ... I'm hatin' him."
I had a number of other examples, but my editors said they "didn't conform to newspaper standards of publication" or "described acts illegal in most countries" or "would get us sued." So I trust you folks to use your imaginations.
Me, I'm exercising my brain so when it sees the "TRUMP" sign, neurons immediately fire and conjure an image of The Donald being eaten by a bear. (Though it's viscerally satisfying, I feel a bit bad for the bear.)
Once every Chicagoan has his or her insult picked out and repeated enough times to make the word or image association strong, will Trump regret hoisting a sign that boomerangs aspersions?
Lurigio doubts it: "He's a man who puts himself out there in any way that's going to get an extreme reaction from people. You wonder how much affirmation he needs. And my answer to that, as a psychologist, is he never has enough."
Wow. That bear in my head is going to have an awful taste in his mouth.