Flush Goes the Boss

Bruce Springsteen, native of Freehold, New Jersey, is the latest recipient of the widely uncoveted Golden Hicksie Award, given at appropriate moments by TCT to dishonor the most extreme sell-outs in our sprawling empire of commercialism and commodification.

Here’s what sad old Bruce looks like in this shocking self-travesty of what he used to be (or at least seemed to be):

I don’t know which is more pathetic, more galling, more flabbergasting — this pandering imagery, or the ideological stupidity of the ad’s content, which centers on the supposed desirability of meeting in “the middle” — at a moment when Marjorie Taylor Greene represents the new face of the institutional right.

And all in the name of selling more Jeeps, in the year 2021.

As usual, you could spend weeks pulling apart the depravity of this two-minute assault on everything that’s actually holy.

For now, suffice it to say that there’s never been a Golden Hicksie recipient more deserving of the exact, precise words of the late Bill Hicks:

“Here’s the deal folks: you do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call forever. End of story, OK? You’re another corporate fucking shill, you’re another whore at the capitalist gang-bang. And if you do a commercial, there’s a price on your head, everything you say is suspect, and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.”

Point blank, as somebody once said.

P.S. From the department of excessive protestation, here’s what Cowboy Bruce’s manager has to say about this catastrophe:

“Olivier Francois and I have been discussing ideas for the last 10 years and when he showed us the outline for ‘The Middle,’ our immediate reaction was, ‘Let’s do it,‘” Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau, said in a statement. “Our goal was to do something surprising, relevant, immediate and artful.”

Quoted on CNBC

Consider the Peanut Butter Jar

In an age when product containers can easily and almost costlessly be shaped at the whim of their issuers, why does peanut butter continue to come in tall jars rather than squat tubs?

A corporate PR department would surely assert that it’s because that’s what people are used to and expect.

That, of course, is 99% horse feathers.

The real reason is salable waste, aka planned osolescence.

Tall, narrow containers make it needlessly difficult to use all the sticky, amorphous gels residing in them. This structural difficulty, in turn, leads to a small but meaningful amount of the peanut butter being throw away, rather than used. It means, on average, people buy the next jar of peanut butter a day earlier than they would if the stuff came in a short, wide tub that permitted easy access to the last portions.

If you have been around big-brand peanut butter lately, you’ll know that this point stands double. Nationally advertised peanut butter jars are not just tall cylinders, but, within that form, are fairly riddled with flanges and recesses that heighten the difficulty of using the last spoonfuls. Why?

Again, there’s only one plausible answer — the obvious one: Corporate capitalist product planners want us to throw away some of what they know we want and need.

Interestingly, this very example was apparently central to the career of Brooks Stevens, the industrial designer who first publicly enunciated/acknowledged the concept of “planned obsolescence.” Here is how Stevens, near the end of his life, explained his early entry into a field in which he eventually became a superstar:

Peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches inspired one of Brooks Stevens’s simplest and most ubiquitous designs.

“I loved peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches,” Mr. Stevens says. But the jars the peanut butter came in were tall with small caps. “I could never get the peanut butter out of the shoulders of the jar.”

“So I squared up the jar,” he recalls. “And then I made the opening the full diameter of the width of the jar, so that it was a big circle and had a big cap. Then you could get it all out of there.”

The obvious question for Stevens was why he stopped there. Why not go from jar to tub?

The answer was inherent in the job description of the modern corporate capitalist product engineer:

[The industrial designer] has to be a salesman, an engineer, a manufacturer — in the sense of knowledgeable about process and materials — and an artist, and in that order.

-Brooks Stevens to The Chroncile of Higher Education, September 16, 1992

It bears repeating, and remembering: Salesman, then engineer…in that order.

Junk Sociology from MIT

image of junk on conveyor belt

Dangerously lazy thinking pervades what passes for green politics. Consider the stunning fact that activists leaping straight from worry for their children to “doing something” are about to kill off Portland, Oregon’s lone glass recycling facility, thereby ensuring that whatever glass continues to get used there will be trucked or railroaded to far-off plants. All because the leaders in involved can’t be troubled to think beyond their first reactions.

As TCT readers will know, we here have long tried to convince people that one important taproot of such pratfalling is the continuing replication of stories about “consumerism” and “consumer culture.”

A recent major interation of this awful trope comes courtesy of no less august an entity than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In “A Brief History of Consumer Culture,” Kerryn Higgs advances the hypothesis that “[o]ver the course of the 20th century, capitalism preserved its momentum by molding the ordinary person into a consumer with an unquenchable thirst for more stuff.”

There are many things to be said about the dense skein of errors in this little essay.

One point, however, seems most important: Higgs provides no empirical evidence to substantiate her interpretation.

Are ordinary people heedless greed monsters? That’s a rather gigantic claim. Higgs says it is true, and expects us to agree. But she provides not an iota of support for the assertion. No pertinent data of any kind.

And what of capitalism, the force Higgs says unleashed our inner greed monster. How did/does that happen? Higgs refers to various tertiary speculations, yet fails to a single word about the multi-trillion-dollar-a-year branch of big business behavior-management known as “marketing.” Literally, she doesn’t so much as mention it.

This, in a book from MIT, printed in the year 2016.

The upshot of the whole familiar mess is, as always, the rather conventional message that, marketing and corporate power notwithstanding, we have met the enemy is it is us, all of us, co-equally.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Fusion and Fission

The next phase of the “electric vehicles” haloware operation is apparently going to lead to a big build-out of charging stations.

Unsurprisingly, the stations are being planned as nodes for further communicating to “shoppers at retail and essential business locations– seconds before they select a brand.” As interfaces for big business marketing operations (including advertising and data scraping), that is.

The image above, from one of the aspiring installers, is fascinating at several levels. Where, for starters, are the actual automobiles? There’s one way across the scene, curiously NOT being charged.

More fundamentally, this depiction shows a society whose cultural planners have no intention of offering up anything but more of the same, come Hell and/or high water.

Shop til you drop, babies!

Frederick Douglass in Your Kitchen

“Power concedes nothing.” So observed Frederick Douglass in an 1857 speech, 30 years before Lord Acton’s famous riff on the point.

The point applies at all levels of applied power, too.

Very probably, we presently live in the early stages of a world-historic ecological crisis requiring a collective acknowledgement that the teenage fantasy of endless wealth accumulation can’t work. I order to save civilization, we will have to make huge changes in our main institutional priorities. The way we design and make products will have to be very seriously altered.

Soon. Like yesterday.

Meanwhile, despite this, per Douglass, power concedes nothing:

Behold Lasso, the (supposedly) forthcoming kitchen appliance for sorting and packaging your recycling!

Here is how Engadget describes this dishwasher-sized machine’s ideal operation:

The still-in-development Lasso will have a vertical slot or tray for depositing items. A series of cameras and sensors will then analyse the packaging and decide if it’s recyclable. No good? Then the object will be returned to you, rather like a vending machine spitting out change. Otherwise, the material will be steam-cleaned to remove leftover food, grease, dirt and labels. Finally, it will be ground down and placed in a dedicated compartment at the bottom of the Lasso. When one or all of these boxes are full, you’ll use a smartphone app to organize a kerbside collection. A driver can then pick it up…

Yes, nothing could possibly break in that chain, could it?

Meanwhile, the entire scam here presumes continuing purchaser ignorance about the severe limitations of recycling.

As social order that permits its runaway elite to continue to pursue endless commercialism and commodification is not long for this planet. Yet, here we see it — redoubling, as always.

Power, remember, concedes nothing.