Mr. Whipple, as I’m sure you’ve heard, has died. He appeared in over 400 commercials as the fellow who tried to impose rules he himself could not follow, and thereby revealed not only the essential hypocrisy of the puritan impulse, but the uselessness of imposing any sort of “standards” on human behavior. That he himself was rebuked for failing to stay his own desire to squeeze, some say, was proof of a Natural Law above Whipple and the society he represented, but this was seen quite correctly by critics as a reflexive sop tossed to the reactionaries, a way of undercutting the existential truths Whipple’s failings represented. In a society without meaning or purpose, is there anything more absurd that setting up the petty bourgeois rules that keep people from applying manual pressure to Charmin in a public setting? Here, the reactionaries pounce: Whipple did not oppose squeezing; he merely attempted to establish some sort of public standard. But the personal is the public; how can the act of squeezing be acceptable in the personal realm and transgressive in the public sphere?
Whipple himself summed up the absurdity:
Inherent in his command is the assumption that the person has a home, which is a way of preferencing the currently-domiciled and excluding the non-housed, establishing them as an “other” whose desires must be denied, not merely moved behind the fiction of “private” property. If one cannot squeeze at home because one has no home, then the act of squeezing in a grocery store becomes more than personal gratification; it recontextualizes both the act and the concept of property. By squeezing the Charmin in the grocery store, the non-housed asserts a claim to the public realm, not just for herself, but for all.
Hence, of course, the necessity of Whipple’s edict, and the threat of banishment that put the steel in his peevish irritation.
Could it be said that the land in which all were free to let their Squeeze Flag Fly was, indeed, a forbidden planet? Obviously; the message was quite clearly by using the robot from the movie with the same name, a move that had the extra effect of suggesting that the working class could be replaced at a whim with machinery:
Of course, there’s another message, perhaps aimed at the Inner Party: Whipple himself could be replaced. He may have come to embody the message for the proles, but he was expendable as well. It is rare that the Establishment laid things out with such ruthless clarity; usually the messenger had the unassailable authority of the message itself – right up until the moment when he went down the memory hole – but such was the confidence of the Establishment that Whipple himself could be held up as an object of
THANK YOU, TENURE GRANTED. NEXT
Thought about getting a Kindle, since I really want a portable book-reader that has lots of things to read. Then I realized it looks like a 1996 web page. Grey and black. Make it color, give me free versions of books I already bought from Amazon, and we’ll talk. And even then I’ll probably say no. If I’m going to buy something to replace books, it has to be Books Plus. It has to have the book equivalent of a commentary track and extras, like a DVD. Maps and pictures and music – the sort of add-ons that might turn the novel into a new form of literature, the thing we’ve been promised since CD-ROMS were supposed to change everything. I mean, I could write one tomorrow about Highway 10. It would require filming the entire highway from here to Fargo. It would be a movie / novel. A movel. A novie. Jeez, there’s no good word for it. Call it a novel, then. It wouldn’t work well on the web, since people get itchy if you make them watch something longer than 3 minutes or read something longer than 2000 words. But on a cheap hand-held device? Sure.
Watched a fascinating documentary on Los Angeles’ long-forgotten monorail system. It was built in ’59 and only lasted a few years; the big oil and automobile concerns had it scrapped. It was a thing of beauty:
You can understand its appeal, but also why it may have failed for economic reasons – the cars, while sleek, only held a certain number of passengers, and the freeways had much greater carrying capacity.
The documentary includes the opening ceremony, shown here – and I think the seeds of the monorail’s doom are evident in this picture, if you can find them:
For perverse reasons they had a parade, with miniature cars carrying Los Angeles celebrities. I’m not kidding. Recognize this fellow?
He had no idea, I’m sure, that in seven years he would play a character who would be revived in a movie forty-nine years after the date of this parade. That’s Jeffrey Hunter – Captain Christopher Pike to the Trek fans of the world. He died of a stroke at the age of 43, ten years after this picture. Trek, you suspect, would have ended with him if he'd been the Captain in the TV show.
Then there’s this guy:
Dennis Hopper. He probably has the same expression and posture in his first grade class picture. The man was born to stare holes through the sides of battleships.
The monorail ribbon-cutting ceremony shows why it was doomed from the start:
And by now you’ve guessed – clever you! – that this is not a documentary about the monorail system that did not exist; it’s the long-lost “Disneyland ’59” television show, available on one of the latest “Disney Treasures” DVDs. But perhaps this is why monorails never caught on. They were cursed by the Taint of Nixon!
The show is a remarkable look at Disneyland a half-century ago, and of course it’s the throwaway bits I love.
Koad sponsored the show, so it's full of cool ancient consumer devices:
Gawky, but cool. Here's a title card for the next show to come after the Disney special aired:
Didn’t he shoot someone every episode? How many guys did he kill? They were all asking for it, I’m sure, but if he’d really shot 100+ guys you’d think there would be something in the historical record.
The DVDs also include some television programs introduced by Your host, Walt Disney – hence the name – and one of the cartoons is “Peter and the Wolf.” When one of the characters is thought dead, the others imagine him in heaven.
It’s one thing to suggest that birds go to heaven, but it’s another to suggest they get another set of wings.
New comic book cover. Then there's this: the return of Bleatchat, except in persistent coherent collected form. Let's give this one a shot, and see what happens!
Still here? Buy the book! Thank you very much.