An entry from 2008.
Twelve years of Internet and six (?) of Wikipedia have made me very flabby mentally.
Once upon a time, if I wanted to know something, I would gladly scour libraries’ card catalogs for many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. Now I just Google, and if it’s not there, it’s not there.
Nevertheless there are at least a couple of things NOT found in Google or Wikipedia or YouTube:
1) The mid-1950s M&Ms TV commercial. I know I’ve seen this, years afterwards, possibly at the Museum of Broadcasting. It starts with a live-action shot of a little girl with a dirty face. A male voiceover goes, Susie! You’re a chocolate mess! You should eat M&Ms chocolate candies! Switch to an animated cartoon of the talking Plain and Peanut candies. The Peanut is lying in a chaise longue by a swimming pool, sunning herself and talking in a Southern Belle voice. I’m an M&Ms Peanut. Fresh roasted to a golden tan, then drenched in creamy milk chocolate—whereupon she jumps off a diving board into the milk-chocolate swimming pool.
2) Conjecturism. This was a somewhat cranky mail-order art-history course, advertised in places like the NY Herald Tribune Book Review, circa 1960. Don’t Learn About Art This Way! was the hed, above a Fitzpatrick-style heavy-ink-style editorial cartoon showing the rear view of a big thug wielding a club before a cowering little man and saying, Now look, I’m an Authority on Art, so you better listen to me—or else. The National Lampoon or some other publication did a parody of this back in the 70s, when it was still fondly remembered. But you can’t find any reference to Conjecturism on the Net these days. At least I can’t.
Possibly 1) was plunked down the memory hole for reasons of taste and political correctness. Ive written the M&Ms people for the whereabouts of the commercial, but have received no reply. Even the Prelinger Archives have no record of it. But what happened to 2)? Surely Conjecturism was no flakier than Esthetic Realism.
Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.
POSTSCRIPT: Well whaddya know? I Google again and there in the December 1964 issue of Commentary magazine—in amongst the ads for self-help books, flash cards, and Bank Leumi—we have an elaborate two-page spread for Conjecturism! Alas, the double-truck does not include the thug with the club. But fascinating.
Mr. Theodore L. Shaw, it would appear, had a certain amount of money and an unlimited grudge against some long-departed art-history teacher he crossed swords with around 1923. Surely there’s a book in this.
There will be no jobs in the future. Robots will do it all. That delivery boy who brings your groceries and adult beverages—he’ll soon be replaced. You’ll like that, because you won’t have to tip anymore. If you try to tip a robot a couple bucks, the robot will probably just make a grindy-sounding sneer, then eat it.
Your doctor and dentist. They’ll be robots too. The upside is they’ll make housecalls (and you won’t have to tip them, either). The downside is, no arguing with them. They know best, and when they refuse to write you a prescription for that really swell anti-depressant/painkiller everyone’s doing these days, you’ll just have to grin and bear it, and maybe find yourself a somewhat more expensive Dr. Robot-Feelgood.
Your cosmetologists and makeup artists will all be robotic. The Sephora chain is already planning for this, by staffing its shops with low-grade hominids. Sephora wish to find out the bare minimum of intelligence needed for working in the makeup field. The way things look now, your Sephora robots will be powered by two flashlight batteries.
All lawyers, judges, paralegals and court clerks will be replaced by robots. As with the medical trade, your excellence of service will be dependent on the type of robot-attorney you can afford.
Travel agents will be replaced by robots, too. Or they would be, if there were any more travel agents to replace. (When did you last call your travel agent?) But the real change in the travel industry will be replacement of travelers themselves.
Instead of spending a week on a business trip, or two weeks on a pleasure trip, a robot will do it for you. Every day they’ll email you memos and upload photos of exotic locales you no longer need to visit. If you wish, they’ll even drop you a postcard, to be delivered by your robot-mailman the old-fashioned way. “Having time, wish you not here, love kisses.” Only then will you realize how lucky you are, no longer having to pack your bags so the airline can lose them, leaving you to stroll down the Rue de Faubourg St-Honoré wearing magenta jeggings and a Université de UCLA sweatshirt from the airport souvenir shop.
It’s a hard life, but somebody has to do it. And since the robots are doing it so well, maybe it’s time to ring up that gilt-edged Dr. Feelgood automaton everyone’s using these days, and have him drop by with a vial of suicide pills. They’re vacuum-sealed for your safety. By robots.
Elsewhere I archived Stephen Serenelli’s early-2000s websites, and wrote some purring words of appreciation about his cancer diary. In so doing I had to slap myself down and force myself to avoid cruel mockery. (Archive link here.)
“A Journey Back to Health,” Stephen Serenelli subtitled it when commencing it in early 2003. This was just before he began a wacko course of naturopathic juice-drinking, in lieu of normal cancer treatments. Eventually his colon was completely blocked, and he had to have a colostomy (or rather, colectomy) anyway. Worse yet, by this point the bowel tumors had grown to the point where they were adhering to his pelvic wall and affecting his bladder. And oh, yes, the metastasis had invaded his liver too.
In his waning days Stephen blamed his naturopath for leading him astray. But this consultant, Ian Shillington, was never giving clinical care. Shillington was just a guy Stephen found on the internet, right after his diagnosis of bowel cancer.
And what a guy! Shillington was two thousand miles away, in Florida. He was a Scientologist, and his medical biases were doubtless influenced by that cult. And his medical management seems to have consisted of nothing more than a few e-mails. Shillington didn’t even bother to read Stephen’s online cancer diary.
How did Stephen Serenelli get into this situation? Obviously he was in a delicate way, a susceptible mood, after his diagnosis. He wanted to seek out some treatment that didn’t involve slicing and burning. We might also consider that he was “in denial”—ready to tell himself that drinking vegetable juice every day was every bit as valid a treatment as cut-burn-poison.
But mainly, I think he knew that he wasn’t long for the world anyway. He bothered with the naturopath nut because his new wife liked the idea and he wanted to keep her happy. Love covers a multitude of sins.