Posts Tagged ‘consumerism’

Donuts with Derek

December 30, 2017

Steel City Fruit_donuts

soundtrack

(Dedicated to the working-class males of suburbia)

We’re waiting at Kirk’s house, watching a Saturday Night Live rerun after smoking a small joint outside in the snow. It’s going to be quite an evening: two hours of comedy re-runs and then… Derek Haddad!

Derek Haddad works two night-shifts per week at McDonalds in order to pay for his new Firebird Trans Am with the black-on-gold paint treatment and hood scoop with flying eagle logo. He also works at his dad’s woodshop full-time in the day, but on his evenings off, he loves to drive people around doing hot-knives in his muscle car.

He finally arrives about 30 minutes later than expected. Kirk and I get on our coats and join Derek and his friend Curtis who are in the front seat. We sit in the back with the blow-torch.

The plan is to get really stoned and then do “donuts” in the nearby Walmart parking lot, which is covered with ice and snow and is virtually empty tonight, the night before New Year’s Eve. “Doing Donuts” involves accelerating as fast as you can on an icy surface, and then hitting the brakes suddenly in order to be thrown into some heavy g-force curves. We’re all in our late teens, and this feeling is very close to the sex we crave every second of our lives.

donutsDonuts are also called “Round-up” by some people, but I don’t like to use that name since Round-Up is also the name of an insecticide bar we used to put on our lawnmower until we found out that the chemicals in it slow down children’s central nervous systems for up to a decade after contact with the residue. My father starting buying these poison wax bars after seeing an infomercial that showed children being seriously injured by slipping on dandelions. The miracle product, the TV spokesmodel explained, would kill dandelions and keep your kids safe. Everyone on TV that evening agreed that children’s safety was important so the dandelions had to die. Later reports from the Federal Environmental Office warned Round-Up users that the product contained some of the same neurotoxic chemicals that had been dropped on Vietnam, and that dandelions were not, in fact, dangerous at all.

Finally arriving in the parking lot, after ten minutes of rolling the hash into little balls, Derek cranks up his powerful car stereo, and his friend starts the blow torch and hands me the two knives to go first.

Ten hot-knives later, Derek changes the music to a new group called, appropriately, The Cars, and we start to accelerate into our first donut. Weeee! Finally, a kind of thrill you can enjoy with other people that doesn’t involve sharing anything personal or talking about life. What in the world did people do before parking lots, Trans Ams, and hot-knives were invented?

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

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Theodore

September 7, 2010

Theodore

soundtrack

We were a postwar family – both my parents were born just before WW2. And taking a page from the veterans of that massive war who came back damaged and in desperate search of social isolation, my parents relocated to a prefab suburb of trailer-quality bungalows on massive lots. “A place where you could throw a ball,” I heard a neighbor’s father say.

Our barracks was just like our neighbors’ barracks, and we’d all wait by our picture windows for our dads’ tanks to roll into the driveway at five-thirty each day. What else was there to do when you weren’t throwing a ball?

Our main enemies were the lawn weeds and insect infestations of the suburban cartoonscape. We heroically doused these parasitic insurgents with the latest army-issue biopoisons, when we weren’t chopping them up with the noisiest machines we could buy on credit at the hardware megastore.

The human animals in our house were all expected to maintain stiff upper lips because this is what helped the English-speaking good guys to win all their nasty wars against foreign evil. Sometimes this protruding lip turned into a snarl, and there were times when my mother reminded me of Johnny Lydon of the Sex Pistols.

Once our French-Canadian grandparents died, hugs and kisses in our Anglicized household were limited to X’s and O’s as a cutesy sign-off on personal letters. It was as if our parents were rationing affection to prepare us for real life, where “real life” meant World War Two and the hunt for Germano-Japanese scalp.

a remnant of ceremonial burial in post-war suburbia

Into this suburban military compound of emotional marasmus fell little sister Charlene. The baby of the family, she started out in life getting non-stop hugs and kisses from affection-starved older brothers and sisters like myself. But as she got older and less cute, all the sibling affection dried up in favor of sarcasm and psychological torture.

We honed the art of cold, distant personal relations while watching TV with our parents and interacting with the people in the identical bungalows around us who were watching the same shows.  Hugging became something nostalgic that nowadays, only actors do.

Instead of accepting our natural human vulnerability and neediness, we learned to be poker-faced schemers so that we’d win our own personal wars. Prepared by New York TV writers for the adult lives we would eventually drive to, we were then ready to face any Nazis or Soviets we might come across at the mall.

Charlene grew increasingly desperate for affection as she neared nine-years old, so my mother temporarily suspended the house-ban on pets and allowed her to get a small gerbil, “as long as you clean his cage and I don’t have to look at him.”

About two weeks after she brought Theodore home from the pet shop, Charlene woke up screaming because she had accidentally crushed him in her sleep.

When my mother came out of Charlene’s room that morning, I asked her what happened, and she looked at me with a firm gaze and said, “Theodore’s dead.” It was like getting bad news from the front from a concerned corporal.

That same day after school, my mother held a military funeral for Theodore in the back yard, and her and Charlene  –  the only attendees –  fashioned a cross out of sticks, and buried him about three inches deep in the chem-tech lawn.

She got a new gerbil a week later, and killed him exactly the same way. I later found out her M.O.: Late at night, the noise from the nocturnal rodent would wake her up. Vulnerable and semi-conscious, Charlene would then take the helpless creature out of his cage, and start to hug him very gently until she fell asleep …on top of him …silently crushing him to death.

By the fourth gerbil, there were no more tears shed, and the ceremonial burial was replaced by the sound of a toilet flushing and my mother saying, “so long, comrade.”

soundtrack bis

Technology and the Little Bears

August 19, 2009

tech and bears 2

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The soundtrack above is playing on Bimmer’s toy radio when the glass door slides open. “There’s no airbag in real life, boys. You just go right through the windshield, split your head wide open and die!” Old Bear Roger has been listening to their storytelling the whole time.

“Roger, you scared my fur right off!” gasps little Bimmer.

“Well, I must be going on home now,” chugs the old bear. “I really like how you integrated wiki articles into your little story, lads.” And off he goes into the frozen air, back past the Climate Institute, avoiding the oil mercenaries on ANWAR hill.

“I’m sort of scared, Range,” adds Bimmer. “Maybe we should go downstairs and play with the girls’ barbies just to calm down. I’m not gay or anything. I’m just kinda nervous.”

“I used to find barbies sort of faggy too, Bim, but if it’ll help you sleep, why not. I’m confident enough in my bearhood that I think it can withstand the occasional fashion drama.”

They head to the girls’ room and quietly sneak out with a nice set of tastefully-attired dolls.

Ten minutes into a mediocre round of How do you like this outfit?, Bronc’s doll has a flash of doll-playing brilliance. “I just discovered an amazing new technology, Rangina. Want to try it out? It’ll revolutionize your life…”

“Why sure, Nurse Bella!” Ranger walks his Chanel-knock-off-cloaked Barbie over towards “Nurse Bella,” Bronco’s nurse-uniform-wearing counterpart.

Bronc whips out a can of industrial varnish and gently sprays a few wisps onto Rangina’s hard, round cheeks. Putting on an exaggerated high female voice, he says: “I am not endorsing or soliciting anything, but I just know that this product will give you a lively complexion and a glow that Ken will love!”

He empties the entire can into the trendy doll’s smiling face.

“I LOVE my new look!” shrieks Rangina in a faux-excited  Barbified voice. But then, the doll’s plastic hair catches fire from combustion with the varnish fumes and Ranger drops the glamorous melting clump of plastic onto the snowy tundra.

“Oh, I think my face is melting, Nurse Bella!” Ranger giggles. “Maybe you should have tested your product a bit more.”

“I’m not really a nurse. The nurse outfit is just a way of branding my technology. It gives it a science feel.”

And on that note, Nurse Bella hops into her convertible and  drives quickly to the next town where the local Barbies have never heard of her or her “revolutionary” product or service.

Prophet Air

July 1, 2009

fmj prophet air

soundtrack

FMJ nonchalantly balances a Kool Menthol between his ear and euro-gelled hair.

Tracing a line in the dust of the bulletproof window with a finger, Judas looks puzzled: “But Jeez, you already own 400 learjets. Why buy another one you’ll never use?”

FMJ: “Why not buy one more is just as good a question, Judas Buzzkill!

Jesus doesn’t like it when Free Market Judas tries to interfere with the natural rhythms of His Shopping. This is a crisis, and with all the celebrity trials and union mutinies, it’s no time for Consumer Interruptus.

FMJ: “Look Jude, if I don’t buy a learjet every few months, I get depressed. And when I get depressed, entire continents can starve – the entire economy can come down with me. So stop biting the invisible hand.

You’re supposed to be my press attache at this staged confrontation between me and the union-president, Free Market Earl – my second cousin. I’m not paying you to tell me how to live my life – what to buy and sell.”

FMJ rolls his eyes and pops a yogurt-covered date into his gaping mouth.

Judas: “I just think you ought to put off buying photogenic big-ticket products until your trial is over, Jeez. Think what Moe or Bernie Silverberg could do with a pic of this. It could make you look like a bit of a prima donna.”

Free Market Jesus inhales deeply, flaring his nostrils as he exhales.

FMJ: “I haven’t bought any private lakes or polo fields in five years. Jude, I’m not sure I want to live in a world where it’s not safe to buy a learjet when you’re feeling under the weather.”

A tinny electronic remake of Daft Punk’s One More Time blurts out of Judas’s white leather belt as he lifts a razor-cell to his ear.

Judas: “Mary, I have to take this call.”

Jesus flirts with his reflection on the metallic gas cap of the plane as he applies organic lip-balm to his collagen-laden lips. Finally, he finds himself face-to-face with tangible proof of his value as a human being in the form of a gift to himself from himself.

Amen.

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fmj tag

Greed: It’s the original ideology !

Farfour Meets the Borat Jews

May 16, 2009

Borat NFLD 3

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“What brings you to North Sydney, Mr. Farfour?”

Shona McIsaac has the most charismatic voice of any hostess on Island Television. She’s been interviewing celebrity tourists for the daytime lifestyle show “Northside Today” for the last five years on a voluntary basis.

Farfour likes the affable glee in Ms. McIsaac’s Irish eyes. “I’m still waiting for my flight to Beirut, and I’m not supposed to leave Canada for a few weeks,” he says beaming from ear to shiny ear. “I really like the people here in Cape Breton. They remind me a lot of my friends back home in Palestine. Do people call women lassies over here?”

“Oh no. They only use that word in Scotland, not in Nova Scotia. Though there are some people here who still speak Gaelic out in the countryside. I guess the English couldn’t get rid of them all . Haha

But back to you and your exciting trip, Mr. Farfour… I hear that you’ll be traveling with a family of Borat Jews. How in the world did you meet up with them?” She smiles and holds out a large, furry mike.

Farfour has been advised in an email from his lawyers that he ought to keep away from political discussions.

“Well, Ms. McIsaac… (his smile is back) they’re Muslim just like me, and it’ll be a blast praying together on the ferry.

Just then, a faux-wood-paneled Caravan arrives carrying one of the two families of local Borat Jews.

“Farfour! Farfour! How ‘s she goin’? The kids have been right excited knowing we were gonna be traveling with the one and only Farfour!” says the father of the family – Omar Kazhaki. Four years earlier, he was a television writer from Staten Island. Then – like many other Borat Jews – he converted to Islam and changed his name to sound Kazakh after reading about the phenomenon in People magazine while waiting in line at his unemployment office.

“You must be Omar, bye. And these boys must be Abdallah and Marat. And… oh. Aren’t you the sweetest little dear. Julia. is it? I watched your gymnastics routine and your school pageant on Island Television.”

Farfour looks at his swatch. “Hey, it’s almost five o’clock and the ferry leaves in a half hour. Where’s your sister at?”

Omar silently points to another faux-wood-paneled Caravan arriving behind Farfour.

bj on board

Omar’s older sister Gyuzyal is driving, while her husband, Yerzhan sits in the backseat with their twin sons who are only two and need to be attended to every few minutes.

Farfour walks over to greet them along with Omar and the kids.

Gyuzyal immediately asks: “Hey, Omar. Where’s Nikole? Did she fly up alone on Monday so she doesn’t get sea sickness like she said she was gonna?”

Omar replies: “Yeah, when it’s her own health, my wife will gladly send the rest of the world to hell. But other than that, everything’s nice, al hamdulilah.” He knocks on the faux wood of the van.

They all laugh as a reflex, and then join Farfour and the kids and shuffle into the ferry terminal to buy their tickets and get their vans weighed.

Farfour likes to talk while waiting in line. “So why are you guys going to Newfoundland? Is it your first time there? Are you excited about going to see the new Sacha Baron Cohen Museum of Jewish Humor in Gander?”

Gyuzyal answers: “We decided to look around for somewhere else to live. Seems like the entire Anglosphere called the big witch-hunt on Muslims – it’s no friggin’ place for Borat Jews likes us. The Wasps say we’re radical Muslims. The Jews call us traitors right to our faces. The comedy writer’s guild called us flakes and lice in a full-age advertisement in the New York friggin’ Times. Upstate New York was hell those last years. North Sydney’s nice and everything, but it’s too small for us . We want our kids to get away from all the Hollywood shit here on the mainland.”

Farfour looks at them, “This isn’t really the mainland. But is that why you’re moving to St. John’s? For the culture?”

“Yeah. Dat and for the freedom. They gots the great sense of humor down there, and that friggin’ comedy guild has no influence down there neither,” answers Gyuzyal while changing the twin’s diapers on a folding IKEA Loorstenoll table. ”

Down home in Newfoundland, people makes their own jokes, and hopefully there, our ethnic group won’t always be the friggin’ butt.”

“Hey, byes!” shouts enthusiastic Yerzhan as he gets back with their tickets. “Youse is gonna be taking the HMS Demi Moore that leaves in two hours so we got time to do some last-minute shopping at the Galilee Shopping Centre. More, more, more! Haha!”

Farfour grabs Yerzhan by the collar and speaks softly but with some force: “We’re not going to that mall. We’re getting on the boat. We don’t have time for More, more, more. Do I make myself clear?”

The younger children are frightened by Farfour’s sudden change of mood and aggressive eyes. But then their mom talks to them about the evils of shopping and gives them each a Quran-themed pacifier.

After Farfour finally sets a wrinkled Yerzhan back onto the floor, the whole gang gets onto the ratpack-dedicated ship and heads off to Newfoundland.

Why People Buy Luxury Brands

March 7, 2009

video

lux flood

At some point in your adult life, you realize you’ve sacrificed most of your personality in the name of economic considerations whether these considerations are real or constructed – biological or status-seeking.

It’s at this point in your lifestyle-and-career that you begin to need inanimate objects that seem to have a personality – just the thing you lost over the course of your Consumerist “life.”

So I posit that the “need” for BMW, Prada, Disney, Iphone and Haagen Dazz is created by people who’ve lost their souls to Consumerism, and are aggressively trying to buy it back.

Sadly, I’ve never seen this strategy succeed in replacing the real personality that a consumer drone lost in himself. You can’t buy back a lost soul. You can only stop being distracted by snake-oil salesmen mythology and wait patiently as it (hopefully) grows back.

For many people, luxury items like cars and mansions are a “need” that they have, though it can’t really be logically demonstrated how the possession of these objects really helps improve their lives. Most owners of automobiles – for example – spend a quarter of their waking lives driving, parking, or paying for their life-improving object.

Hard to believe humanity is willing to sacrifice most of its free time in order to buy the “luxury” of spending time listening to CDs in traffic. It may be true that leather is more “luxurious” than cloth upholstery, but it’s also true that free time is far more important to anyone’s happiness than leather upholstery.

All of this identity-seeking-via-products is constructed via marketing and branding. These products have little to do with relieving any craving that people just naturally have. Cavemen didn’t sit around pining for the day they could tear around corners at 120 kmh in Corinthian leather. They were just happy being able to eat food, hang out, and live out of water.

Of course, some would say we’re so much more sophisticated now because of our sudden attraction to brands and machine pedigree. Others might ask, “Why do we have to leave our homes because of the floods?”

:: Capital, Volume One
:: Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
:: A lively PoFo discussion on this essay

thanks for bumper cars


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