The Products are in Their Heaven, All’s Right With the World

“Whether starting off your morning or enjoying an afternoon or late-night snack, you’ll love the rich texture provided by OmniGrain Cheerios’ distinctive blend of every single type of grain in existence, from the commonplace Australian barley to the previously undocumented Southern blue quinoa, which was recorded by the ancient Inca but was only recently rediscovered by our Cheerios harvest team when scouring the high slopes of Huayna Picchu.”

-The Onion, “New Omnigrain Cheerios Made With Every Existing Grain on Earth”

Working in more than 34,000 square feet, designers created an extraordinary space targeted at young, time-pressured consumers while keeping a consistent brand and marketing strategy. The result is a crisp and dramatic store that presents merchandise categories in easy-to-find placement with effective layout and simple wayfinding communication. A linear ribbon design motif is translated throughout the store in the architectural facade and interior graphics, and a contemporary and narrow palette of colors and materials keeps the attention on the merchandise.

“Ten of the Best Award Winning Supermarket Designs”

The main way a player earns Farm Coins, the less-important of the two in-game currencies, is through harvesting crops or visiting their neighbors. The player does this by paying coins for plowing a unit of land. This readies the land for planting seeds, which will eventually be harvested after a set amount of time. The amount of time it takes for a crop to mature, and how much money a crop yields when harvested, is dependent on the crop planted and is noted on its entry in the “market” dialog.

-Wikipedia entry, Farmville

Premium members (users who pay a monthly fee to Linden Labs) have the ability to own land on the mainland. Landowners pay no additional fees to Linden Lab if they own 512 m² or less. An owner of larger areas of land must pay an increasing additional fee (what Linden Lab calls “tier”) ranging from US$5 a month up to US$195 a month for an entire 65,536 m² of mainland or US$295 a month for an individual island. The issue of “ownership” now is questionable. Mr. Rosedale recently characterized all “ownership” as leasing time on Linden’s servers. The issue of land ownership was at dispute in the Bragg v. Linden lawsuit, which was settled out of court.

-Wikipedia entry, “Real Estate in Second Life”

Although Ghirda works in Romania, the computers and the internet connection he uses are paid for by a company in northern California. Gamersloot.net is one of a growing number of firms taking advantage of a boom in online computer games by opening ‘virtual sweatshops’, using the low pay in poor countries to provide services for wealthy western players.

-The Guardian, “They Play Games For 10 Hours-And Earn 2.80 in a ‘Virtual Sweatshop'”

I write these essays using a variety of techniques. I learned one from a friend who’s a painter.. I go into Google image search and type in just the thing I want to write about and build a visual reference file and see where the images take me. The other is an inverted form of an anxiety Charlie Brooker mentioned in an interview about Black Mirror, that he tries to come up with innovative science fiction only to find out what he wrote already happened or happens soon after. So I start by imagining a science fiction story, then work backward to figure out how it already exists. Like any piece of writing, these essays are responses to things in my head that you, the reader, never get to see except in impressionistic glimpses and their implications.

And so, with that sort of opening, you’re probably expecting me to walk you through the process of how I came to this essay with precise details, to put the science fiction story and the full set of images out and then follow them with the essay. But you’re wrong. I’m a craftsman of tantalizing disappointments, I take an idea, show you the box, take pre-orders, and then run off with your attentions. After all, I need to make some sort of profit on all this…


WHEN THE BOXES AT THE SUPERMARKET GO TO CHURCH, HOW DOES THE PASTOR DESCRIBE HEAVEN?

or

THE SODA FOUNTAIN OF BABEL

I’ve always loved walking around large supermarkets and 24 hour pharmacies in the middle of the night when almost no one is there. They’re museums, but the dead things on display are fresher. They repeatedly remind you of this.

The supermarket near my house has a cafeteria with a soda machine that can mix numerous flavorings, soda syrups, into an ungodly number of combinations controlled through a touch screen menu. Numerous restaurant chains like Chipotle love to remind the public that their assembly line of ingredients can be recombined into several tens of thousands of different results. Multiple computer algorithms have been compiled attempting to mimic (actualize?) Borges’ “Library of Babel”. A video game called No Man’s Sky is near release. In the game, you’re an astronaut exploring 18 quintillion computer generated “planets”, each with their own distinct “landscapes” and “plants”. It took 13 people to make this.

I look at Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings of food products this morning. They have a harmony, a perfect bliss about them.  They’re pure in a way that neither man nor cake could ever be except in their metaphysical dreams.

And, of course, you can’t actually eat them.

The supermarket is the consolidated accumulation form of the just plain “market”. But the supermarket has shifted to the even more expansive and consolidated hypermarket. The shopping mall is dying; it relied on an anchor store and could collapse easily if a couple stores left. But the hypermarket is consuming the shopping mall’s remains in order to acquire its strength. The hypermarket can have a food court that never has vacancies.

It’s possible to imagine the collapse of the hypermarket into a new form. Let’s call it the omnimarket. It exists in no single location. It has soda fountains that can fabricate (realize?) flavors in actually infinite combinations constrained only by the user’s sentimental attachments to the soda-normative. Dead products could be resurrected from their remembered DNA and crossed with each other. A Jurassic Park of OK Soda and Butterfinger BB’s.

Our window shopping of childhood, our nostalgia as it stands, already is largely the province of products we remember consuming when we were so much moreso the age we were. Consuming man could crawl back into the womb forever.

Well, presuming he had the money.


WHY IS SECOND-LIFE PROPERTY STILL CALLED REAL ESTATE?

The power relations described by Marx, were, like his money form, a social fiction reified, not a thing with a nature. But we ascribe a nature to it anyhow. We call mountains “natural borders”, we ascribe essence to them when a large part of US industry has been their destruction and the creation of holes that have colorful layers not unlike Mr. Thiebaud’s cakes.

Fictitious scarcity, like fictitious capital, seems to reproduce the current hierarchical relations of power as well as their RL ancestors. Second Life can charge “land rent”. World of Warcraft items are “produced” in actual sweatshops. EVE online players created a “bank” and members of the “bank” ran off with a massive sum of the EVE “money”. This “money” can be converted fairly easily into USD, but he chose instead to use it to build a massive ship and destroyed his enemies’ assets, purportedly worth $16,500 (USD). EVE’s parent company now hires several full time economists to prevent crashes. An MMORPG has its own keynesian brain trust.

I though to myself a couple weeks ago, “most arguments over mass entertainments amount to verbal strong-arming over which womb everyone should crawl back into.” I then thought, “why would anyone want roommates in a womb?”

I found my answer. It was obvious. It’s the same reason people want actual roommates. To split the rent.


Guest post by Daniel Levine. Check out his first book here. He also just released a comedy album which you can hear selections from for free here.

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One comment

  1. […] of you might remember my soda fountain of babel that could fabricate soda flavors endlessly and was only limited by the imagination of the person […]

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