Out of the corner of my eye, I caught this ad featuring a beautiful young woman dancing in close embrace with a handsome young man  and as drew closer:


 I am suddenly introduced to a new product. A toothbrush, actually two of them packaged together, each with a dab in the middle of the bristles of Johnny on the spot toothpaste. And this toothpaste was apparently so juicy that using it does not require the adding of water. So much for carrying around in your bag a toothbrush and a cumbersome tube of toothpaste and bottle of water. What with it being so juicy, one doesn’t even head off to the bathroom, but brush behind a bush maybe and spit on the ground or something.

Talk about your convenience.

I guess the fear of halitosis runs deep. That’s an odd word, halitosis. I don’t hear it much any more. We now say, quite openly, “bad breath.” But at one time, I think, the word served to suggest something sort of scientific that required a sort of scientific cure, like Listerine. Indeed, the Listerine people made it up by combining words from Greek and Latin. They devised a disease and gave it a scientific name.

For a long time now, women especially have been subjected to advertising suggesting that halitosis is just god awful and may completely ruin one’s social life.

One ad shows a man and a women in embrace with the line “Till breath do us part.” So bad breath is like death and possible grounds for divorce. Once again the ad is directed a women, suggesting that they especially must be concerned about emitting foul odors.

Below, we find that poor Milly catches the bridle bouquet. She should be next in line to wed but her friends know otherwise and they know why too. Milly has bad breath. But she doesn’t know it.

badbreath2.jpgPoor, poor Milly. Damn! 

So there you are with a constipation so intense that you suffer loss of appetite, early weakness, nervousness, and mental dullness, but what you are really, really worried about is halitosis.


Technology has come a way I guess.

I watched, as a kid and adolescent, those black and white TVs with rabbit ears sticking out the back.

They had an actual knob on the TV; you turned that to change the channels. To turn the damn thing on and off–there was a knob for that too. That was about it. Although I do think there was something to make the picture stop flipping as it sometimes would or zigzagging.

zenith.jpgBut that was about it.

Yesterday a guy came to our house from Best Buy to “recalibrate” the TV we bought from them. Recalibrate?

According to the guy, who was very informed, TVs are generally first calibrated–whatever that is–to look their very best in the TV showroom. Showrooms are all in door light and usually bright with fluorescents. To keep the picture from being washed out, the blues are turned up high and so is the white background, to keep the picture glowing.,

So this guy came with a laptop and some other device to calibrate our TV to the conditions of our living room, some indoor light, some outdoor light.

And–damn!–what do you know? but it looked better. Flesh tones were more exact and you could see the blades of grass on the football field.

Is this TV better than the old black and white. I guess so, although it has wires sticking out of it I will never dare to touch.

Later the guy emailed us the graphs he created when he recalibrated our machines via email in adobe pdf files.

There were no emails when the world was black and white. No pdf files either. But we did have Walter Cronkite. In black and white.

That was something. walterk.jpg

Did Coke Create the Modern Santa Claus?

One of my students is researching the commercialization of Christmas. She got taken in by an urban myth: that Coke created the image of the Modern Santa. So did I. Amazing, I thought: the power of advertising. Then I checked it out.

True, around 1931, Coke ads featuring Santa cemented his image. So the Santa today is pretty much the Coke Santa. But Coke Santa drew upon already established images of this fictional creatures.

Norman Rockwell drew a number of Santa Clauses that look very much like the Coke Santa. But while I don’t like Rockwell generally for his incredibly sentimentalized visions of American life, I like his Santa much better than the Coke Santa. Rockwell’s Santa looks old at times and tired out. The Coke ads dehumanize Santa and turn him into a one dimensional Santa whose main purpose is to drink Coke.

If you reflect a minute, this is pretty disgusting. Once again the sales pitch is aimed at kids; and what is being sold to kids is benign and joyous Coke, not some sugary stuff that can make you obese. Coke ought to be ashamed.

But of course they are shameless, on their Coke Heritage page, they claim:

Before the 1931 introduction of the Coca-Cola Santa Claus created by artist Haddon Sundblom, the image of Santa ranged from big to small and fat to tall. Santa even appeared as an elf and looked a bit spooky.

I guess for Coke being human is a bit spooky.

And for fun: Springstein’s Santa Claus is coming.

This Mess

Perhaps looking back is too much like crying over split milk. Still sometimes looking back serves to remind that “what is” frequently isn’t what was.  And if that is the case, perhaps too what “will be” doesn’t have to be “what is.”

What was in 1980 was that the credit card “industry” was going in the toilet.  Usury laws prohibited the “industry” from taking more than 12% interest on its unsecured credit card loans; but inflation was running at 20%.

At the same time, agriculture in South Dakota was going in the toilet.  Farmers needed credit and could get it only from local banks that were charging 30 to 35% on a business loan.  So Citibank contacted the officials of South Dakota and said if you remove your usury laws and allow us to charge the interest we think the market will bear we will move our credit card operation to South Dakota.

So that’s what happened.  No more usury laws.  The credit card companies were freed up—along with an assist from a law that said the credit card companies could “export” the interest rate they were charging in South Dakota to the whole nation.

So that’s how the floodgates opened.  De-regulation and legal chicanery and suddenly unsecured loads were available to every American.  This propelled the growth of what I call the consumer society.

And now we see the results—28 years later….

And the government could, if the government wished, once again enforce limits on the usurious interest rates now charged by the credit card “industry.”