Boorstin’s Epigraphs Technology... the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.—Max Frisch My money affairs are in a bad way. You remember before the wedding, Anisim brought me some new rubles and half rubles? I hid one packet, the rest I mixed with my own... But now I can’t make out which is real money and which is counterfeit, it seems to me they are all false coins.... When I take a ticket at the station, I hand three rubles, then I think to myself: Are they false? And I‘m frightened. I can't be well.—Anton-Checkhov, The Hollow Survey of Popular Culture
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
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
America Richard Poirier Survey of Popular Culture
America Reflections on America Survey of Popular Culture
America When you get there, there isn't any there there. --Gertrude Stein Survey of Popular Culture
America For some reason Americans are terrified of the very idea of passionate love going on past middle age. Are they afraid of being alive? Do they want to be dead, i.e., safe? May Sarton, Journal of Solitude Survey of Popular Culture
America 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
America 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
America 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
America Consider to what extent an "antique" is prized because it is excellently made and beautiful and to what extent it is prized because it is an antique and as such is saturated with another time and another place and is therefore resistant to absorption by the self just as a pine piling saturated in creosote resists corrosion by the sea and thus possesses a higher coefficient of informing power for the naught of self. If you say that a writing table made by Thomas Sheraton is of value because it is excellently made and beautiful, how would you go about making a writing table now that would be similarly prized as an antique two hundred years from now? The real question of course is whether the twentieth- century self is different from the eighteenth-century self, both in its reliance on "antiques" to inform itself and in its ability to make a writing table which is graceful and useful and for no other reason. Was a well-to-do eighteenth-century Englishman content to buy a Sheraton writing table, or would he have preferred a fifteenth-century "antique"? Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book Survey of Popular Culture
America Why is it almost impossible to gaze directly at the Grand Canyon under these circumstances [as a sightseer] and see it for what it is—as one picks up a strange object from one's back yard and gazes directly at it? It is almost impossible because the Grand Canyon, the thing as it is, has been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer's mind. Seeing the canyon under approved circumstances is seeing the symbolic complex head on. The thing is no longer the thing as it confronted the Spaniard; it is rather that which has already been formulated by picture postcard, geography book, tourist folders, and the words Grand Canyon. As a result of this preformulation, the source of the sightseer's pleasure undergoes a shift. Where the wonder and delight of the Spaniard arose from his penetration of the thing itself, from a progressive discovery of depths, patterns, colors, shadows, etc., now the sightseer measures his satisfaction by the degree to which the canyon conforms to the preformed complex. If it does so, if it looks just like the postcard, he is pleased; he might even say, "Why it is every bit as beautiful as a picture postcard!" He feels he has not been cheated.... Is looking like sucking: the more lookers, the less there is to see? --Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle Survey of Popular Culture
America 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 Survey of Popular Culture
America 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
America Someone once wrote a definition of the difference between English and American humor.... He said that the English treat the commonplace as if it were remarkable and the Americans treat the remarkable as if it were commonplace. --James Thurber Survey of Popular Culture
America If America didn't have Blacks it would be Switzerland. —Attributed to Roy Blount Survey of Popular Culture
America American life is a powerful solvent. --George Santayana Survey of Popular Culture
America A new, unsteady kind of creature lurches forth on the deserted streets of America these days. It is the Walking Driver. You can tell immediately that these beings are not true pedestrians: they waddle, they are unsteady, they have little back-of-the-head vision, they seem unused to the true weight of their bodies. They are not bipeds, nor are they four-legged creatures; they are semi- bipeds, sitting, folded creatures. A Martian observing the lunch hour in one of our cities said to me that an American without a car is gravely ill, like a snail that lost its shell. In fact, an American body is only a "body" when it is inside an automobile. What we see "walking" is only part of the body.... --Andrei Codrescu, "The New Body” Survey of Popular Culture
America The American body, my friend explained, is an aggregation of man and machine. The latest addition to it is the computer. Very soon, a body not seated in front of a blinking screen can be considered as ill as a body outside of a car. My Martian friend, who has been a passionate observer of Homo Americanus since the nineteenth century, foresees a day when all newly born humans will have a plug inserted in the small of their back. There is no doubt that the new symbiosis has occurred. --Andrei Codrescu, "The New Body” Survey of Popular Culture
America "America's critical role in the planetization of humanity does seem to be that of the catalytic enzyme that breaks down all the traditional cultures of the world, be they Asiatic, Islamic, or European. With Disneyland in Paris and Tokyo, the United States is well on its way to dissolving all the world cultures, and I do not think any nativistic revolt of Islam will succeed in stopping it any more than Marxist-Leninism did." (79) --William Irwin Thompson, The American Replacement of Nature Survey of Popular Culture
America 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
America The View from Abroad Survey of Popular Culture
America I think that in no country in the civilized world is less attention paid to philosophy than in the United States.... in most of the operations of mind, each American appeals only to the individual effort of his own understanding.... --Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America Survey of Popular Culture
America America is therefore one of the countries where the precepts of Descartes are least studied, and are best applied. Nor is this surprising. The Americans do not read the work of Descartes, because their social conditions deter them from speculative studies; but they follow his maxims, because this same social condition naturally disposes their minds to adopt them. In the midst of the continual movement which agitates a democratic community, the tie which unites one generation to another is relaxed or broken; every man there readily loses all trace of the ideas of his forefathers, or takes no care about them.... Americans are constantly brought back to their own reason as the obvious and proximate source of truth. It is not only confidence in his fellow man which is destroyed, but the disposition for trusting the authority of any man whatsoever. Every one shuts himself up in his own breast, and affects from that point to judge the world. --Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America Survey of Popular Culture
America The distinctive vice of the new world is already beginning to infect old Europe with its ferocity and is spreading a lack of spirituality like a blanket. Even now one is ashamed of resting, and prolonged reflection almost gives people a bad conscience. One thinks with a watch in one's hand, even as one eats one's midday meal while reading the latest news of the stock market; one lives as if one always might "miss out on something." Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science Survey of Popular Culture
America There is no country on earth where the "power-word," the magic-formula, the slogan or advertisement is more effective than in America. We Europeans laugh about this, but we forget that faith in the magical power of the word can move more than mountains. Christ himself was a word, the Word. We have become estranged from this psychology, but in the American it is still alive. It has yet to be seen what America will do with it. Thus the American presents a strange picture: A European with Negro behavior and an Indian soul. He shares the fate of all usurpers of foreign soil. Certain Australian primitives assert that one cannot conquer foreign soil, because in it there dwell strange ancestor- spirits who reincarnate themselves in the newborn. There is a great psychological truth in this.... C. G. Jung, "Mind and Earth" Survey of Popular Culture
America The foreign land assimilates its conqueror. But unlike the Latin conquerors of Central and South America, the North Americans preserved their European standards with the most rigid Puritanism, though they could not prevent the souls of their Indian foes from becoming theirs. Everywhere the virgin earth causes at least the unconscious of the conqueror to sink to the level of its indigenous inhabitants. Thus, in the American, there is a discrepancy between conscious and unconscious that is not found in the European, a tension between an extremely high conscious level of culture and an unconscious primitivity. This tension forms a psychic potential which endows the American with an indomitable spirit of enterprise and an enviable enthusiasm which we in Europe do not know. The very fact that we still have our ancestral spirits, and that for us everything is steeped in history, keeps us in contact with our unconscious, but we are so caught in this contact and held so fast in the historical vice that the greatest catastrophes are needed to wrench us loose and to change our political behavior from what it was five hundred years ago.
America Our contact with the unconscious chains us to the earth and makes it hard for us to move, and this is certainly no advantage when it comes to progressiveness and all the other desirable motions of the mind. Nevertheless I would not speak ill of our relation to good Mother Earth. Plurimi per transibunt; but he who is rooted in the soil endures. Alienation from the unconscious and from its historical conditions spells rootlessness. That is the danger that lies in wait for the conqueror of foreign lands, and for every individual who, through one-sided allegiance to any kind of -ism, loses touch with the dark, maternal, earthy ground of his being. C. G. Jung, "Mind and Earth"
America Europe visibly aspires to be governed by an American commission. Its entire policy is directed to that end. Not knowing how to rid ourselves of our history, we will be relieved of it by a fortunate people who have almost none. They are a happy people and they will force their happiness on us. Paul Valery
America A character in Evelyn Waugh's Put Out More Flags said that the difference between prewar and postwar life was that, prewar, if one thing went wrong the day was ruined; postwar, if one thing went right the day would be made. America is a prewar country, psychologically unprepared for one thing to go wrong. --Anthony Burgess, "Is America Falling Apart?”
America The Japanese may make all the televisions but the Americans make all the images. Survey of Popular Culture
America America and the Ersatz Survey of Popular Culture
America Now, from America, empty indifferent things are pouring across, sham things, dummy life.... A house, in the American sense, an American apple or a grapevine over there, has nothing in common with the house, the fruit, the grape into which went the hopes and reflections of our forefathers.... Live things, things lived and conscient of us, are running out and can no longer be replaced. We are perhaps the last still to have known such things. --Rainer Maria Rilke Survey of Popular Culture
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007). French sociologist, communication theorist, and media critic. America Survey of Popular Culture
Laughter on American television has taken the place of the chorus in Greek tragedy. It is unrelenting; the news, the stock exchange reports, and the weather forecast are about the only things spared. But so obsessive is it that you go on hearing it behind the voice of Reagan or the Marines disaster in Beirut. Even behind the adverts. It is the monster from Alien prowling around in all the corridors of the spaceship. it is the sarcastic exhilaration of a puritan culture. In other countries the business of laughing is left to the viewers. here, their laughter is put on the screen, integrated into the show. It is the screen that is laughing and having a good time. You are simply left alone with your consternation. (49) America Survey of Popular Culture
The glass facades merely reflect the environment, sending back its own image. This makes them much more formidable than any wall of stone. It's just like people who wear dark glasses. Their eyes are hidden and other see only their own reflection. Everywhere the transparency of interfaces in internal refraction. Everything pretentiously termed 'communication' and 'interaction'—walkman, dark glasses, automatic household appliances, hi-tech cars, even the perpetual dialogue with the computer—ends up with each monad retreating into the shade of its own formula, into its self-regulating little corner and its artificial immunity." (59-60) America Survey of Popular Culture
There is nothing more mysterious than a TV set left on in an empty room. it is even stranger than a man talking to himself or a woman standing dreaming at her stove. It is as if another planet is communicating with you. Suddenly the TV reveals itself for what it really is: a video of another world, ultimately addressed to no one at all, delivering its images indifferently, indifferent to its own messages (you can easily imagine it still functioning after humanity has disappeared). (50) America Survey of Popular Culture
Robert Frank, “Restaurant, U.S. 1 Leaving Columbia, South Carolina” (1955) America Survey of Popular Culture
In America the arrival of night-time or periods of rest cannot be accepted, nor can the Americans bear to see the technological process halted. Everything has to be working all the time, there has to be no let-up in man's artificial power, and the intermittent character of natural cycles... has to be replaced by a functional continuum that is sometimes absurd.... "The skylines lit up at night, the air-conditioning systems cooling empty hotels in the desert and artificial light in the middle of the day all have something both demented and admirable about them. The mindless luxury of a rich civilization, and yet of a civilization perhaps as scared to see the lights go out as was the hunter in his primitive night. There is some truth in all this. But what is striking is the fascination with artifice, with energy and space. (50-51) America Survey of Popular Culture
From a historical standpoint, America is weightless. (52) America Survey of Popular Culture
Europeans experience anything relating to statistics as tragic. They immediately read in them their individual failure and take refuge in pained denunciation of the merely quantitative. The Americans, by contrast, see statistics as an optimistic stimulus, as representing the dimensions of their good fortune, their joyous membership of the majority. Theirs is the only country where quantity can be extolled without compunction. America Survey of Popular Culture
In the future, power will belong to those peoples with no origins and no authenticity.... Look at Japan, which to a certain extent has pulled off this trick better than the US itself, managing in what seems to us an unintelligible paradox, to transform the power of territoriality and feudalism into that of deterritoriality and weightlessness. Japan is already a satellite of the planet Earth. but America was already in its day a satellite of the planet Europe. Whether we like it or not, the future has shifted towards artificial satellites. America Survey of Popular Culture
America In Don DeLillo's White Noise, the small Midwestern town where Hitler Studies professor Jack Gladney teaches at the College on the Hill is threatened by an "airborne toxic event" spread by a nearby chemical factory. Soon after the accident, Gladney speaks with a technician from SIMUVAC, a member of a "simulated evacuation" task force delegated to the creation of a working model of "events" like the one that has just taken place. "But this evacuation isn't simulated," Gladney observes. "It's real." "We know that," the technician acknowledges. "But we thought we could use it as a model." Asked, then, how the actual event is going, he replies: The insertion curve isn't as smooth as we would like. There's a probability excess. Plus which we don't have our victims laid out where we'd want them if this was an actual simulation. In other words we're forced to take our victims where we find them.... You have to make allowances for the fact that everything we see tonight is real. There's a lot of polishing we still have to do.... Survey of Popular Culture
In the Space Age, acoustician R. Murray Schafer shows in The Tuning of the World that despite an obsessesion with "high fidelity" in sound reproduction, we live, in the midst of our simulations, in perhaps the lowest fidelity soundscape in human history (41). Against the perpetual background noise of both indoor and outdoor environments, the perpetual hum and drone of generators, motors, air- conditioning, flowing electricity, "Moozak" (the "audio analgesia of earthly boredom" as Schafer calls it), radio and television, individual, "discrete" sounds have lost virtually all definition. Survey of Popular Culture
HYATT: THE PERFECT WORLD Andrei Codrescu I went to the Hyatt House in Indianapolis recently, and I have come back to report that it can support human life indefintely. Its climate very much resembles that of the earth. There are green plants hanging from protruding formations, and once I stumbled into a circle of extremely real looking potted shrubs around a black piano. The air is neither too thin nor too thick and is slightly scented by the thousands of bodies scrubbed with hotel soap that stumble out of its showers every morning. The creators of the Hyatt have contrived to take a perfect late summer day on earth and are able to play it over and over, no matter what season or time is experienced on the outside. Survey of Popular Culture
I had a good look at the city of Indianapolis out the window of my room and the air outside appeared to my naked eye to be cold, crisp and turbulent. I experienced none of those conditions behind the plate glass window that separated me from the city. I would have liked to go out there, to walk around, but I immediately suppressed that nostalgic impulse by reminding myself that, thanks to modern art which isolates the eyes from all the other senses, I could safely view the world without actually mucking about in it. But the most remarkable aspect of the Hyatt was the supportive nutritive system. On several floors discrete little feeding stations functioned smoothly. All of them produced several varieties of nachos, Bloody Marys, and fried zucchini. The ones on the lower floors also stacked large slabs of recently killed meat so that, I became convinced, an advanced system of communication existed between the Hyatt and the outside world.
As I rose silently in the glass bubbles of the elevators, I surveyed the seemingly endless tiers of this perfectly ordered world. In a large room businessmen stood before gadgets with drinks in their hands. In another large room writers read poems to appreciative audiences with pockets bulging with their own poems. This was the room where I too was expected. I pulled the paper from my pocket. At the top it said "Hyatt, the Perfect World." I began to read.
America In a Cathy comic strip—Cathy Guisewite's ruthlessly perceptive daily chronicle of modern spaciness—Cathy 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";
America "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."
John Oliver on Ironic Distance John Oliver on Bush’s offer to have Rove appear before the congress "The Long Kiss Dubai" Holocaust Denial Conference "Petty Woman" Gay Nazis The Republicans Play the Rapture Card "Tangled Up in Bleau" Colbert at the White House Correspondents' Dinner Lithgow Does Gingrich's Press Release Heard on "The Colbert Report" Pap Smears at Walgreen's Colbert Decries the Casting of a British Superman Blaming God Heard on "The Colbert Report" Carrie-ing America The Daily Show The Colbert Report
"Holy F&*$ing Shit”: Profanation, Parody, and Bleeping American Unreality in The Onion, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report Giving and Taking Offence, University of Aveiro, Portugal Jon Stewart
The Pythia of Delphi has now been replaced by a computer which hovers over panels and punch cards. The hexameters of the oracle have given way to sixteen-bit codes of instruction. Man the helmsman has turned the power over to the cybernetic machine. The ultimate machine emerges to direct our destinies. Children phantasize flying their spacecrafts away from a crepuscular Earth.--Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society... the emphasis on surface; the blankness of the protagonist; his striving toward self-sufficiency, to the point of displacement from the recognizable world.... Does the icy quality of an artificial outer space, the self-conscious displacement and blankness of car commercials, MTV, and "Miami Vice," correspond to a glacial inner space?--Todd Gitlin, "We Build Excitement" Survey of Popular Culture
In a late 1980s issue of Marketing Week, a columnist laments the post- Jetsons lack of real Space Age advertising and calls for campaigns more in keeping with an era of Star Wars and SDI (Myers 12). Surely he cannot read magazines or watch television. Advertisements could not be spacier than they are now. Never slow to capitalize on the tacit tendencies of the cultural psyche, advertisments, "soak... up certain ideals in circulation at the moment, and squeeze... a version of them back at us." According to Todd Gitlin, ads present "the incarnation of a popular ideal--or rather, the ideas of that ideal held by the marketer." An advertisement is thus, in a sense, a "tiny utopia." The commercial "conveys what we are supposed to think is the magic of things; those things which, if we buy them, are supposed to work miraculous transformations in our lives" ("We Build Excitement" 141). In the Space Age, it seems, the advertising industry has realized that virtually anything can now be sold to us through appeals to our otherworldliness. Survey of Popular Culture Space Boosters
In their 1953 novel The Space Merchants, Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth imagined a Madison Avenue advertising agency given the task of convincing the human race that it should migrate to an uninhabitable Venus. In Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner, we see an early twenty first century Los Angeles cityscape in which huge, floating video billboards beam promises that "a new life awaits you in the off-world colonies." Neither of these science fiction prophecies has come true (though Sony has now developed multistory video billboards), but they now hardly seem fantastic to us, for though we are not yet being sold Venusian real estate, we are being sold unearthliness. Survey of Popular Culture Space Boosters
In 1981, I lived and taught in Shanghai, People's Republic of China. When I left with my family on a long Pan Am flight to an alien world, the space shuttle Columbia, then on its maiden voyage, orbited the Earth. It touched down soon after our arrival in Asia. In the Far East edition of Time, I read that the successful mission had given post-Vietnam, post- Watergate America a "mighty lift"; and President Reagan, convalescing from an assassination attempt, waxed eloquently to the Columbia's heroes, telling them (I learned), "Through you, we feel as giants once again.” On my return to the United States later that summer, badly culture- shocked from my time in the People's Republic, I struggled to acclimate myself again to the frenetic, spacy American way of life. More than ordinarily attuned to its peculiarities and absurdities, I began to notice a new kind of advertisement appearing with surprising frequency on television (and, I might note, I watched television with open-eyed wonder after months without it in Shanghai). The image of space was, throughout the decade, everywhere. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters --I saw Space Age microphotography--designed, we are told, to view the Earth from space--reveal the epidermis of a woman's skin in order to convince us of the positive effects of an antiaging cream. --I saw the three-ply lamination of Glad garbage bags fuse together, set against the backdrop of interstellar space. --I saw Maybelline Dial-a-Lash tubes shoot off from launching pads. --I saw a fashion model, standing on the lunar surface, wear Revlon lipstick said to exhibit "out-of-this-world colors.” --I saw a Technics turntable orbit the Earth. --I saw the Cincinnati Bell logo transformed into a space station. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw an ad for Always Plus Night Super Maxi Pads depict the feminine hygiene product as a UFO.
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw a ready-to- assemble "wall system"-- labeled, of course, as a "Space Age" product-- offer "new heights in organization" and "infinite" possibilities for creativity, solving storage needs by allowing the owner to "fill unlimited space.”
Space Boosters --I saw a United Negro College Fund appeal, showing African-American scholars in graduation robes and mortar boards set against yet another cosmic backdrop. (For, after all, this solicitation for contributions informs us that the mind is as "vast as space.") --I saw Taster’s Choice--like Tang before it--offered to us as the choice of astronauts (the shuttle astronauts in this case). --I saw a spot for Home Box Office show a family in its living room flying through space, watching HBO.--I saw an insurance company's famous "piece of the rock" appear in a cosmic landscape resting on an Earth seemingly without atmosphere (the moon appears only miles away), orbited by a ranch-style, two-stall garage home, a sports car approaching on a highway through space, and a floating sailboat followed by frolicking dolphins--all in keeping with Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters the advertisement's promise that "With the Prudential, the sky's the limit.” --I saw cartoon children carried into space by Bubblicious balloon bubbles. ("It tastes so unreal it'll blow you away.”) --I saw, during a decade in which (inspired by Reagan-era deregulation) it became increasingly difficult to distinguish Saturday morning television programming from its advertising, "kidvid" become more and more spacy. (A television critic notes that producers--under the influence of both George Lucas's and Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars"--came to agree that "outer space, high tech and faraway enemies in a distant future are a safer, tidier, less complicated way" to capture an audience (Engelhardt 1986, 88-89). Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters --I saw a vacuous blonde, female astronaut in a lunar lander proclaim to her companions, "Go ahead without me. I've got a run!" ("She would have been the first woman on the moon if only she'd worn Sheer Business Panty Hose.") --I saw Timex watches link together to form Star Wars-type spacefighters, accompanied by a montage of images of a man and a woman in space suits on an alien world, while a voice- over tells us that "Timex performs with all the accuracy and beauty of the cosmos.” --I saw a special new antiplaque electric tooth-brush ("Interplak"), bearing a striking resemblence to the starship Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey, majestically dock into its recharger on a bathroom sink --choreographed to a Strauss waltz. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters --I saw a man, traveling through a magically real yet alien landscape (Earth visible on the horizon), have a "vision of the future," not, we are told, of "space travel" or "time machines," but of the financial welfare of his family (through the assistance of Equitable Insurance). Upon his arrival home, he then witnesses his garage door open--like the entrance to the mother ship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind--to disclose a blaze of white light out of which emerges a figure we take to be an alien but which turns out in fact to be his daughter, excitedly pronouncing, "Daddy!" Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw woofers and tweeters of a Delco- GM Sound System become a formation of flying saucers beckoning us to "Ride into the Sound Set.”
Space Boosters --I saw a youth, dressed in Levi's jeans, launched toward distant skies while a voice explains that in the famous jeans "the mind knows no limits.” --I saw an ad for a Chevrolet pickup truck instruct us not to "leave Earth without it" and insist that a new model has "brakes so good they're almost extraterrestrial.” --I saw two female astronauts extol the benefits of a new roll- on deodorant called "Real": "We have seen the future and it is Real.” Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw "Almost Home" chocolate-chip cookies float in space in order to optimally display their "almost out of this world" taste.
Space Boosters --I saw a man in a cumbersome space suit EVA into the cockpit of a new Toyota compact and then--so impressed is he with the car--leap in ecstasy out of the frame, beyond the limits of gravity, never to come down. ("Oh what a feeling!") --I saw the new Hyundai Sonata, introduced to us as a "space vehicle," soar off into the cosmos at the commercial's close. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw an image of a patch of lawn, complete with a house, shade trees, and two family dogs, floating in outer space, evidently removed from the Earth by cutting along a still visible dotted line surrounding the property, advertising the Invisible Fence "dog containment system."
Space Boosters --I saw a solicitation for new members of the National Space Society illustrate its motives and goals through two paintings: The Ultimate Sandbox (by Michael Whelan) showing a little girl in a "Miss Piggy" space suit building a sand castle on the moon; and Leonardo's Finale (by David Brian), in which the great Renaissance man, sitting in his study surrounded by drawings and plans for future discovery, holds a prototype model of the space shuttle in his hands. --I saw three former Apollo astronauts ("Schirra, Apollo 7," "Bean, Apollo 12," "Gordon, Apollo 12"), looking for all the world like has-been athletes, testify--in extreme, unflattering close-ups--that Actifed relieved their snuffy noses in spaces. --I saw an Always Ultra-Thin Panty Liner become an unidentified flying object. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw a small, evidently sick young girl lying in bed, a thermometer in her mouth, securely wrapped in sheets with a sky and cloud pattern (which, because they fill the frame of the advertisement, make her appear to be floating), reassuringly touch a space helmet--all beneath a headline that reads: "When your little space traveler has a fever..."
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw both Motorcraft spark plugs and oil filters blast off, as if from launching pad, from the hoods of Ford automobiles toward distant skies.
Space Boosters --I saw the Chevrolet Astro minivan circle in orbit about the Earth and yet (we are promised) still remain small enough to "fit right in your garage!” --I saw--in yet another image plagiarized from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (promoting McDonald's "Spaceship Happy Meals")--children look up at the sky with true cosmic yearning (fantasizing, no doubt, about "flying their spaceships away from a crepuscular Earth"). --I saw a poster in a McDonald's restaurant (advertising a "Space Age Calendar") instruct parents to "help your child into outer space.” Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters --I saw the traditional Jewish child's toy top, the dreidel, no longer satisfactory, undergo a Space Age sea change into an "Outer Space Dreidel" (made in Taiwan)--a battery-powered model that not only lights up but "makes outer space sounds!” --I saw, prior to the feature presentation, a short subject, sponsored by theater owners and intended to discourage littering, depict an interstellar cloud of snack bar-debris-- popcorn, Raisinettes, straws, nachos, Milk Duds--out of which an exemplary soft-drink cup/rocket speeds toward the brightly lit landing dock of a trash receptacle/space station. --I saw a cartoon Albert Einstein plug the "genius" of Betamax while ensconced in an armchair in a living room floating in the cosmos. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw a Canon Typestar typewriter blast into orbit ("A new Typestar lifts off"), its "lift-off" correction key in turn lifting off from it, like a communications satellite out of the cargo bay of the space shuttle.
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw the "baby of today" in the "diaper of the future" (actually old-fashioned 100 percent cotton!) orbit about the Earth in the arms of a New Age father whose legs-- evidently his means of cosmic propulsion--dissolve into beams of light.
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw Concept Custom Length electric guitar strings ("The Final Frontier" in guitar strings) advertised by an image of a spaceman strolling the lunar landscape, an American flag planted in the moon to his left, the Earth visible in the background; and I saw Kahler guitar strings, in comparable "far-out" imagery, become in effect the orbital path of a space vehicle made of tuning pegs.
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw the Nady Systems Lightning Guitar and Thunder Bass-- instruments with "the right stuff"-- billed as the first electronic guitars of the Space Age and advertised in copy divided into sections entitled "Countdown," "Liftoff," "All Systems Go," "Ground Control," and "Link Up" and in the usual "product in orbit" imagery; and I saw the Carvin V220 guitar blast off from Earth in an ad whose headline proclaims the instrument to be "One Step Beyond."
Space Boosters --I saw an ad for a Kenwood stereo satellite receiver announce the company's proud claim that "after conquering Earth, we headed into space." (An image from the Japanese science fiction film The Mysterians  appears at the top.) "We've been a force in home and car audio on this planet for over 25 years. But now we're aiming even higher." "Get on board now," we are warned in a class Space Age threat. "Or get left behind.” Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters --I saw a space colonist, showered by the spores of a huge, menacing flower on an alien planet, plagued by allergies ("No matter where you go, there's going to be pollen"), at least until he uses Contac. --I saw us encouraged to give to the college of our choice through an image of a young boy in a Day the Earth Stood Still space suit and his dog standing beside a space capsule / doghouse accompanied by the following text: Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture Today he's off exploring the back yard. Tomorrow, he may be off exploring new galaxies. But before kids of today can conquer the frontiers of outerspace, they'll have to conquer the complexities of mathematics, physics and chemistry. That's where you come in. For only with your help can they be assured of the first-rate college education they'll need....
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture So please invest in the future. Give generously to the college of your choice. You'll be helping launch America to a successful future."Help him get America's future off the ground," the public service advertisment's headline pleads.
Space Boosters --I saw a woman, once "in the dark about blinds," open her Levelors --blinds "enlightened by Space Age technology"--to watch, as if from the Archimedean point, an Earthrise. --I saw a woman in Sheer Energy slippers blast off from the Earth's surface--finally able, with their support, to overcome the harsh demands gravity has placed on her feet and distance herself from its draining effect on her energy. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Survey of Popular Culture --I saw a new breakfast cereal from Ralston-Purina called Freakies--marketed as "multigrain... crunchy honey-tasting spaceships with marshmallow"--offer "out of this world fun with earthly nutrition.”
Space Boosters --I saw the legendary Barbie herself enter into space. "Barbie's on the Moon," proclaimed the cover of an issue of Barbie magazine, and there she was, in her "Astronaut Barbie" manifestation. (Later, in the "Barbie Drama" section, I learned that being the first woman on the moon was all a dream, though a spacy date with Ken at the "Lunar Lounge" made it all come true!) Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters --I saw in a Space Age toy store a new line of dolls called the Shimmerons, a species of alien Barbie clones. "Lacy- Spacy--Out of this World... Space Cadets" with spindly bodies and sparkling wardrobes, they have come to Earth--according to their back-of-the package mythology --because our planet offers not only the cosmos' best shopping but also the most awesome parties! ("What on Earth are they doing here? Well the Shimmerons wanted to discover why the Planet Earth is number one for teenage fun, and show you how fun is done on the Planet Shimmeron." "Here on Earth, the Shimmerons are discovering skateboards, hot dogs, rock music, and shopping malls!") Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters --I saw us encouraged to "Expect the World of ABC News," for, as their advertisement--showing the Earth from space, coupled with a cosmic telephoto lens and an extraterrestrial Peter Jennings—made clear, the network evidently covers the planet from the Archimedean point. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters --And I saw that entrepeneurial plans are afoot (I cite but three examples) (1) to bury people in space (several companies have marketed such schemes, one of which involves a three-hundred-pound spacecraft containing no fewer than fifteen thousand "cremains" launched into polar orbit ["Ashes of the Stars"]); (2) to offer extraterrestrial vacations (Davies; "Orbital Jaunts" 32-33); and (3) to develop robotic "space pets" (Liversidge). Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Space has, no doubt, been sold to us along with our meat and potatoes for some time now. As early as the 1960s, space ads--like those represented here--exhibited most of the ascensionistic cliche 's we find in later ones. Nor is the cosmic exaggeration of such advertising really new. It can be understood as an extension of what Daniel Boorstin describes as "Booster Talk: The Language of Anticipation," a way of speaking about things in which "what may be is contemplated as though it were in actual existence" (Boorstin is quoting an early nineteenth-century British observer of American ways). Booster Talk is not misrepresentation--or at least it does not seem that way to Americans--but rather a kind of clairvoyance, "not exaggerating but only anticipating--describing things which had not yet 'gone through the formality of taking place'" (Americans 296-98). But why, in the decade of the space shuttle, did the pace and intensity of the pitch increase so prominently? Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Interestingly enough, in 1965 the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci found the possibility that space might be marketable beyond belief. In If the Sun Dies 135-37), she contemplated the possibility that the astronauts might be commercialized but is told by a NASA spokesman that the idea is ludicrous: "Can you imagine a billboard in Times Square with a photograph of [Gordon] Cooper [one of the original Apollo 7 astronauts] smoking a certain brand of cigarette? The cigarette of space! Up in space Gordon Cooper smokes only... Inconceivable! None of them...." This was, of course, years before an astronaut became head of a major airline, and famed test-pilot (and hero of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff) Chuck Yeager lent his image in support of his favorite spark plugs. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Even as she wrote, Fallaci herself was already helping to advertise space. She confesses, "When I returned to Milan I stuck up in my study a huge map of the moon that had been sent to me by the advertising office of Nestle's Powdered Milk. On the Mare Copernicum was printed: Feed Your Babies on Nestle's Powdered Milk, but it looked beautiful to me." Only two years later Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey demonstrated conclusively, with its open display of brand names in extraterrestrial settings, that "space was finally going to be conquered by Coca-Cola and AT & T."2 And by 1970, when Norman Mailer published Of a Fire on the Moon, it had already become apparent that "a new kind of commercial was being evolved. NASA was vending space" (45). Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters But only in the 1980s did the vending become blatant: a prominent feature of our cultural landscape. (As Andre' Marchand's Advertising the American Dream shows, advertising "paved the way" for all that we think of as modern; now it paves the way for the postmodernism of the extraterrestrial.) "The master fantasy of the Reagan era," which informs the "little utopias" of the Space Age advertising chronicled here, may now be, as Todd Gitlin suggests, "the fantasy of thrusting, self-sufficient man, cutting loose, free of gravity, free of attachments" ("We Build Excitement" 143). Implicit in most advertising, according to John Berger, is the following hidden transaction: "The spectator-buyer is meant to envy the person he will become if he buys the product. He is meant to imagine himself transformed by the product into an object of envy for others, an envy which will then justify his loving himself." Thus, Berger concludes, the "publicity image" of an advertisment "steals love of oneself as one is, and offers it back for the price of the product" (134). Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters Is it too much to say that the Space Age advertisements catalogued here--which sell, in a package deal, not just mascara, or a Betamax, or Big Macs, but a hyperreal longing for space- steal--or seek to steal, not just our love of ourselves, but our very earthliness? But it does not, as in the normal marketing dialectic, then offer it back. In a "bait and switch" duplicity, it would rob us of it permanently. And we seem so ready and willing to have it stolen. As Boorstin observed (in The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America) at the very beginning of the Space Age, Americans are ruled by a powerful will-to-illusion. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters 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
Space Boosters 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
Space Boosters When Boorstin wrote these words in the early 1960s, he thought he was speaking figuratively. In 1983, I went to see E.T.: The Extraterrestrial in a movie theater in Huntsville, Alabama (a city which, because it is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, takes pride in its nickname: "The Rocket City"). At this, my second viewing of Steven Spielberg's touching story of the triumph of the values of the heart, I watched with interest a preliminary commercial for Atari (screened before the film, I surmised, because producers and distributors had convinced the game company the demographics of a typical E.T. audience indicated openness to such a sales pitch). In the ad--which exhibited special effects not unlike Tron's-- a young man sits, back to the camera, dreaming up ideas for video games, and the games he invents miraculously materialize around him, filling the screen. As his dreams become wilder and wilder, as he imagines "Asteroids" and "Space Invaders," he finds himself floating--as does the audience--in interstellar space. Survey of Popular Culture
Space Boosters The image is a common one now, of course; I'd seen it all before. But it struck me that day in that context that it presented an ironic counterpoint to the evocative tale of homesickness I was about to watch. Here, during a single Space Age afternoon's entertainment, I was being asked to imagine myself as unearthly, and then to feel the pathos of a poor alien creature trapped far from home. I suspect that, against its own better wisdom, E.T. has promoted in many of its viewers not that supreme value which E.T. himself cannot live without--the need for a place, for a home--but rather extraterrestrial urges. The desire to become precisely that which tortures E.T., robbing him eventually of his very life (at least momentarily), extinguishing his heart-light, the longing to become homeless and displaced ourselves, is so prominent now, so much an everyday search image, that it would not surprise me if many viewers of the film--if they could trade places with Elliott--might reply affirmatively to E.T.'s petition at the movie's close to "Come." Survey of Popular Culture
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