Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

28Nov/06Off

We Built This City On Discounted Shit

Okay. So I admit that technology hasn't really been altogether interesting lately. Part of that is undoubtedly the rapid release of so many new trinkets that I am not interested enough in to fight lines of surly gamers or spend a third of a monthly paycheck or any of the other worshipping of golden calves necessary to be cool for like two weeks. I only buy game consoles when they become cheap and the games that run on them become cheap and plentifully available in the 'used' flavor. The Wii is marginally more interesting but I haven't been a Zelda fan since the original Nintendo console.

When nothing is interesting in the world of blinking lights and shiny things I end up looking around for things that have a little more depth. It's sort of a temporary meander into white trash cultural studies land that lasts a little while and helps to scour much of the marketing crap out of my brain. One thing that I did find really interesting reading over the past couple of days was actually a review of a book about the evolution of the American department store as a sort of cultural bashing of the snooty bulwarks of upper crust boutique style shopping that preceded them. It's really fucking interesting and does what a book review should: points out the interesting stuff, the not so interesting stuff, and makes me actually want to read it myself rather than chuckle at a few funny anecdotes in a summary and move on. I had never really thought about department stores being the clear predecessors for the Wal-Mart (no point using plurals in this case) in terms of driving out small businesses and providing a sort of cultural leveling by providing ample opportunity for the less solvent classes to indulge in some consumerism that was largely out of reach before then.

The 'experience' factor is a little more obvious as shopping malls were heavily invested in this venue in the 1980's. What to do? Hang out at the mall. Duh. One thing that had definitely never occurred to me before was that department stores became the staging ground for all sorts of social interactions like the Santa Claus during Christmas and other events like it. They're all of course geared towards either driving some sales or luring the curious in where they will be quickly overcome by the heady clouds of gratification drifting through the conditioned air. The difference here is that department stores were generally concentrated in downtown areas which is a vast difference from the current mega-plexes and acres of strip mall that line the suburbs.

Weird to think that the loss of something as traditional and transparently commercial as mall Santas would seem like a sad loss of commonality. I guess it's the sort of downer everyone needs while we go staggering into the holiday season. I'm definitely going to buy the book, though, so I guess there is a slight upside to the melancholy reading this review evoked.

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