How did we come to this point? In his latest Bleat, James Lileks has a photo of Beeswax “Lip S***” balm for sale at his local mall, about which he writes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
I don’t care that they make it. I don’t care if the store puts it in the corner, like Spencer Gifts used to segregate the “adult” stuff back with the Cheryl Tiegs bikini posters and mugs shaped like a pair of breasts. I don’t care that it exists. It would be foolish nowadays to expect it didn’t.
Just don’t shove “Sh**” in my face at the checkout counter at Christmas time, OK?
However elegant your handbags, however lovely your locally produced jewelry, however tasteful your selection of plaques with life-embracing quotes, you’re just paving the way for the day you stand before a store window looking at Yukon Cornelius having an orgy with Rudolph in the manger, thinking, “My, how did we come to this point?”
The Mayans had it wrong. The old world doesn’t end all at once: It just dies a little bit every day.
As I’ve written before, one of my local malls in San Jose is Santana Row (named after a longstanding nearby park, not the aging psychedelic guitarist), which is a mixed-use open-air project designed to look like a European street at the dawn of the 20th century. There are shops and restaurants on the ground floor, and three or four stories of condos above them. It’s sort of a retail version of Disney World — or perhaps The Village from Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner TV series.
No, that’s not fair — the staff running the asylum in McGoohan’s cult 1967 TV series were much more urbane and civilized, as a pair of examples from 2012 highlight. First up, a photo of the storefront window of Lululemon Athletica, a self-described purveyor of “yoga clothes and running accessories for sweaty workouts.” Their Website’s About Us page proudly boasts that “Quality is at the heart of everything we do, from the technical features we (sometimes literally) weave into our products, to the people we work with and relationships we build.” Just as long as you don’t mind the occasional implied F-word in their storefront windows:
I’d make a reference to a parent being asked, “Daddy, what does WTF mean?” (According to Lululemon Athletica’s Facebook page, it’s a reference to a line of clothing there called “What the Fluff.”) But Blue State demographic decline makes that increasingly unlikely. And whatever you do, don’t mention the D-word!
Speaking of decadence, further down the street at Santana Row, there’s the local branch of the Ted Baker, a British-based clothing chain, with this animated chap in the window:
(I had difficulty pulling video off my cellphone camera, so I grabbed someone else’s clip off YouTube instead. I’m not sure if this video was taken at Santana Row; it could very well be at another of their shops which features a bumping and/or grinding snowman in “festive” red thong underwear.)
But hey, these are just examples from Deep Blue redoubts such as San Jose and Minneapolis. Things are much more civilized elsewhere, right?
Perhaps not, according to this AP report, which notes, “Judge: La. woman can flip finger in holiday lights”:
A federal judge says a Louisiana woman has the right to display holiday lights on her roof in the form of an extended middle finger.
Sarah Childs sued Denham Springs, its mayor and police chief, claiming she was threatened with arrest if she didn’t take down the display.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed the suit Thursday on Childs’ behalf. Soon after, U.S. District Judge James Brady issued a temporary restraining order barring officials from interfering with the display in the city near Baton Rouge.
Childs erected the lights last month as part of a continuing dispute with her neighbors. She says she has removed them twice after one police officer told her she could be fined and another threatened to arrest her.
Santana Row features a small building whose exterior walls were imported from France. It’s an ancient former chapel that now serves as a wine bar. Which is a neat little metaphor for the state of contemporary society. We’ve kept a few details from the past, but hollowed out the culture that created them to the point of no longer being recognizable. They’re dead and buried; we’re reduced to referencing sh** and the F-word in our retail stores, converting our otherwise unused places of worship into wine bars and condos, and using Thomas Edison’s epoch-changing invention to flip the bird at our neighbors at Christmastime.
Related: Adweek puts the spotlight on “The 20 Biggest Brand Fails of 2012 A shameful roundup of the year’s most humiliating marketing blunders.”
Update: Popular culture may wallow in the merde-filled gutter, but fortunately, in sharp contradistinction, we can always turn to the world of academia to witness a much higher standard of discourse. Or, perhaps not…
Finally, back in Europe, The Return of Das or Der Primitive.