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Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture.

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1 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture

2 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture Chapter 1 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Laurence Shames, The More Factor PAIRED READINGS: UNDERSTANDING SHOPPING Malcolm Gladwell, The Science of Shopping Anne Norton, The Signs of Shopping Mark Dery, Dawn of the Dead Mall Credit Card Barbie [PHOTOGRAPH] Thomas Hine, Whats in a Package Joan Kron, The Semiotics of Home Decor Andrea Chang, Teen Haulers Become a Fashion Force S. Craig Watkins, Fast Entertainment and Multitasking in an Always-On World John Verdant, The Ables vs. The Binges Tammy Oler, Making Geek Chic Thomas Frank, Commodify Your Dissent

3 For what underlay our clearing of the continent were the ancient fears and divisions that we brought to the New World along with the primitive precursors of the technology that would assist in transforming the continent. Haunted by these fears, driven by our divisions, we slashed and hacked at the wilderness we saw so that within three centuries of Cortes's penetration of the mainland a world millions of years in the making vanished into the voracious, insatiable maw of an alien civilization. Musing on this time scale, one begins to sense the enormity of what we brought to our entrance here. And one begins to sense also that it was here in America that Western man became loosed into a strange, ungovernable freedom so that what we now live amidst is the culminating artifact of the civilization of the West. --Frederick Turner, Beyond Geography Survey of Popular Culture Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption

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5 When we pick up our newspaper at breakfast, we expect-- we even demand--that it bring us momentous events since the night before. We turn on our car radio as we drive to work and expect "news" to have occurred since the morning paper went to press. Returning in the evening, we expect our house not only to shelter us, to keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but to relax us, to dignify us, to encompass us with soft music and interesting hobbies, to be a playground, a theater, and a bar. We expect our two week vacation to be romantic, exotic, cheap, and effortless. We expect a faraway atmosphere if we go to a nearby place; and we expect everything to be relaxing, sanitary, and Americanized if we go to a faraway place. We expect new heroes every month, a new literary masterpiece every week, a rare sensation every night.... Survey of Popular Culture Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption

6 We expect everything and anything. We expect the contradictory and the impossible. We expect compact cars which are spacious; luxurious cars which are economical.... We expect to eat and stay thin, to be constantly on the move and ever more neighborly... to revere God and to be God. Never have people been more the masters of their environment. Yet never has a people been more deceived and disappointed. For never has a people expected so much more than the world could possibly offer. (3-4; my emphasis) Survey of Popular Culture Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption

7 To furnish a barren room is one thing. To continue to crowd in furniture until the foundation buckles is quite another. To have failed to solve the problem of producing goods would have been to continue man in his oldest and most grievous misfortune. But to fail to see that we have solved it, and to fail to proceed to the next task, would be fully as tragic. --John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society Survey of Popular Culture Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption

8 Americans continually find themselves in the position of having killed someone to avoid sharing a meal which turns out to be too large to eat alone. --Philip Slater, Earthwalk Survey of Popular Culture Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption

9 America is striving to win power over the sum total of things, complete and absolute mastery of nature in all its aspects.... To occupy God's place, to repeat his deeds, to recreate and organize a man-made cosmos according to man-made laws of reason, foresight and efficiency: that is America's ultimate objective.... It destroys whatever is primitive, whatever grows in disordered profusion or evolved through patient mutation. --Robert Jungk, Tomorrow is Already Here Survey of Popular Culture Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption

10 The commonly accepted notion that Americans are materialists is pure bunk. A materialist is one who loves material, a person devoted to the enjoyment of the physical and immediate present. By this definition, most Americans are abstractionists. They hate material, and convert it as swiftly as possible into mountains of junk and clouds of poisonous gas. As a people, our ideal is to have a future, and so long as this is true we shall never have a present. --Alan Watts, Does It Matter? Survey of Popular Culture Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption

11 In a Cathy comic stripCathy Guisewite's ruthlessly perceptive daily chronicle of modern spacinessCathy and her boyfriend Irving introduce us, in a Sunday comic show-and-tell, to all the new material possessions in their repertoire, all of which are "state of the art and none of which is ever used: an "anodized aluminum multi-lens three-beam mini excavation spotlight that live its life in the junk drawer with dead batteries"; a "high-tech, epoxy- finished, heavy-gauge steel grid hanging unit for home repair tools that required two carpenters to install and is now used as a scarf rack safari clothes that will never be near a jungle"; "aerobic footgear that will never set foot in an aerobics class"; a "deep-sea dive watch that will never get damp"; "architectural magazines we don't read filled with pictures of furniture we don't like"; Survey of Popular Culture Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption

12 "financial strategy software keyed to a checkbook that's lost somewhere under a computer no one knows how to work"; an "art poster from an exhibit we never went to of an artist we never heard of. Guisewite brilliantly labels this post Me Decade conspicuous consumption, "abstract materialism": materialism about as "realistic" or representational as a Jackson Pollock canvas. "We've moved past the things we want and need and are buying those things that have nothing to do with our lives," Cathy herself tells us in the cartoon's final frame. In the 1980s, the age of the yuppie, we perfected the art of what Time magazine has called "transcendental acquisition." Survey of Popular Culture Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption

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15 Survey of Popular Culture Laurence Shames, The More Factor

16 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture UNDERSTANDING SHOPPING Malcolm Gladwell, The Science of Shopping Anne Norton, The Signs of Shopping

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18 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture Mark Dery, Dawn of the Dead Mall

19 Survey of Popular Culture For here is the mall.... Every facet of its operation, including the air that everyone breathes, is controlled, as if outside its walls there were only a fatal eternity. It could be anywhere, or nowhere; it could even be moving about. If you stand in the right place... the vibrations of people walking and the low hum of the mall's comfort control machinery can offer the illusion of movement, through the air, or through... space. The fantasy is explicit in the video arcade, but out here it is still curiously valid: a limited cybernetic excitement, in a safe, enclosed structure with room to walk around in.... Give it a warp drive and a five-year mission and you've got this... starship. William Kowinski, The Malling of America Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption

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22 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture Thomas Hine, Whats in a Package

23 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture Joan Kron, The Semiotics of Home Decor

24 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture Andrea Chang, Teen Haulers Become a Fashion Force

25 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture S. Craig Watkins, Fast Entertainment and Multitasking in an Always-On World

26 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture John Verdant, The Ables vs. The Binges

27 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture Tammy Oler, Making Geek Chic

28 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture Thomas Frank, Commodify Your Dissent

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33 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture Graceland

34 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture Baby Boomer Yuppie Slacker Goth

35 Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption Survey of Popular Culture The whole modern age has been, as Norbert Wiener observes in The Human Use of Human Beings (64- 65), one prolonged Mad Tea Party on a planetary scale. Since the discovery of the New World and the concomitant obliteration of the limited, pre­Renaissance closed universe, humankind has behaved as if we could always "move down" to the next available open space at the world's table after exhausting all the natural resources at its previous location. "When Alice inquired what would happen when they came around to their original positions again," Wiener notes, "the March hare changed the subject."

36 At different times in our history, different cities have been the focal point of a radiating American spirit. In the late eighteenth century, for example, Boston was the center of a political radicalism that ignited a shot heard round the world a shot that could not have been fired any other place but the suburbs of Boston.... In the mid-nineteenth century, New York became the symbol of the idea of a melting-pot America or at least a non-English one as the wretched refuse from all over the world disembarked at Ellis Island and spread over the land their strange languages and even stranger ways. In the early twentieth century, Chicago, the city of big shoulders and heavy winds, came to symbolize the industrial energy and dynamism of America.... Today, we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a metaphor of our national character and aspiration, its symbol a thirty-foot-high cardboard picture of a slot machine and a chorus girl. For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment. Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

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