» BERNARD LOOMIS: King of Toys No Longer Monetizing Childhood Imaginations

by Brian Awehali

Bernard Loomis (July 4, 1923 – June 2, 2006), the marketing genius who did far more than anyone else to help transform children’s television programming into a promotional arm of the toy industry, died of heart failure at the age of 82.

Largely through his introduction and marketing of dolls, action figures, and products including Chatty Cathy (the first talking doll), Barbie (measurements: 39- 21-33), The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Baby Alive (who “realistically” pooped when fed), Play-Doh, The Man from Atlantis, Care Bears, and the entire Star Wars action figure collection, Loomis’ efforts helped spawn a “toyetic” world of “entertainment multiplexes.” Every company he worked for became the world’s largest toy company during his tenure.

Continue reading

» LONG LIVE THE OUTLAWS: The Great Art and Forgery of Elmyr de Hory

by Brian Awehali

Most petty crime is dull, in both motivation and execution. But I have always wished I could be a great outlaw. Consider the outlaw, and the merits of his or her avocation: the perpetration of grand, spectacular, and/or marvelous crime. A widespread and enduring fascination with outlaws, hucksters, escapists, charlatans, and rogues of various ilk has always harkened to embrace the heroic combination of focus, ingenuity, bravery, determination, and intelligence needed to rise to a level of criminal infamy.

“I love the trite mythos of the outlaw,” wrote Tom Robbins, in his comic novel, Still Life with Woodpecker. “I love the self-conscious romanticism of the outlaw. I love the black wardrobe of the outlaw…The outlaw boat sails against the flow, and I love it. Outlaws toilet where badgers toilet, and I love it. All outlaws are photogenic, and I love that…There are outlaw maps that lead to outlaw treasures, and I love those maps especially. Unwilling to wait for mankind to improve, the outlaw lives as if that day were here, and I love that most of all.

Continue reading

» PROPAGANDA, PUBLIC RELATIONS, AND THE NOT-SO-NEW DARK AGE

by Stephen Bender and Brian Awehali
(from the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow-The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt)

Edward L. Bernays birthed the public relations industry in the United States. His clients included General Motors, United Fruit, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the U.S. Department of State, Health, and Commerce, Samuel Goldwyn, Eleanor Roosevelt, the American Tobacco Company, and Proctor & Gamble. He directed public relations campaigns for every president from Calvin Coolidge in 1925, to Dwight Eisenhower in the late 1950s. He was, in the estimation of cultural historian Ann Douglas, the man “who orchestrated the commercialization of a culture.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE (PDF; 6 pages)

Featured

» MADNESS & MASS SOCIETY: Pharmaceuticals, Psychiatry & the Rebellion of True Community

Hieronymus Bosch, "The Garden of Earthly Delights" detail, raven vs. mob

Brian Awehali interviews Dr. Bruce Levine

Author and clinical psychologist Bruce E. Levine wants to tell you that many forms of depression, discontent, and a whole raft of diagnosed mental illness are nothing more than natural responses to the oppression of institutional society. In his book, Commonsense Rebellion, Levine contends that the vast majority of mental disorders are, to put it simply, profit-driven fabrications with no established biochemical or genetic causes. This interview with Dr. Levine was conducted several years ago for publication in LiP: Informed Revolt, but the growth of corporate pharmaceutical “solutions” to deviant behaviors has only grown since then. Dr. Levine’s newest book, Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite, (Chelsea Green, 2011) is an exploration of the political psychology of demoralization and the strategies and tactics used by oppressed peoples to gain power in the United States.

Awehali: Bruce, you’re a critic of both psychiatry—the medical science of identifying and treating mental illness with drugs—and psychology—the study of human behavior, thought, and development. Are there substantial differences between the two?

Bruce Levine: When I first started out as a psychologist in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was fairly commonplace to dissent from psychiatry—that’s why people became psychologists. They saw the pseudo-science of not only the treatments but of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) itself. Unfortunately, over the years, psychology itself has slowly aped psychiatry, and there isn’t that sharp a distinction between the two anymore. The American Psychological Association (APA)—the professional group for psychologists—now fights for prescription rights for psychologists. So I guess any psychologist who maintains a position that depression isn’t primarily an innate biochemical disease, and that the DSM is a nonscientific instrument of diagnosis, is a dissident!

I should say that back in the 1970s and 1980s, before psychiatrists had the backing of the drug companies, they had very little power. In fact, they were falling apart, as evidenced by so many movies that were making fun of them, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—which could never come out today. But back in those days, when [psychiatrists] weren’t in bed with the drug companies and didn’t have much political power, you saw movies like that come out. Now, psychiatrists have the media power; they’re able to describe the playing field of the controversy.

Let me ask you a blunt question, first: Do you think there’s ever any basis for diagnosing someone as mentally ill?

Continue reading

» LIFE AFTER DEATH: A Gleefully Morbid Exploration of Cadavers, Body Donation & Human Composting

Erin Wiegand interviews Mary Roach


With one book written on cadavers (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) and another on ghosts (Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife), you might expect Mary Roach to be a pretty disturbed individual. She’s not. While her subject matter tends towards the macabre, Roach is simply one of those writers who’s fascinated by the unusual, the unlikely, and the more-than-a-little-disturbing.

Whether she’s writing about post-death opportunities for employment or the origins of ectoplasm, she has the uncanny ability to satisfy the morbid curiosity you never knew you had…

Continue reading

» THE MORALITY OF WORK IS THE MORALITY OF SLAVES: A Call for a More Rational Leisure Society

by Bertrand Russell (1932)

I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.

First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given. Usually two opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two organized bodies of men; this is called politics. The skill required for this kind of work is not knowledge of the subjects as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art of persuasive speaking and writing, i.e., of advertising.

From the beginning of civilization until the Industrial Revolution, a man could, as a rule, produce by hard work little more than was required for the subsistence of himself and his family, although his wife worked at least as hard as he did, and his children added their labor as soon as they were old enough to do so. The small surplus above bare necessaries was not left to those who produced it, but was appropriated by warriors and priests. In times of famine there was no surplus; the warriors and priests, however, still secured as much as at other times, with the result that many of the workers died of hunger. A system which lasted so long and ended so recently has naturally left a profound impress upon men’s thoughts and opinions. Much that we take for granted about the desirability of work is derived from this system, and, being pre-industrial, is not adapted to the modern world. Modern technique has made it possible for leisure, within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly distributed throughout the community. The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.

Continue reading

» THE RIVER VS. WATER, INC..: An interview with Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, activist, and author of hundreds of papers and articles and more than 15 books. She is the founder and director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy in India. Her work runs the gamut from establishing community seed banks to defending farmers and everyone else who eats food from the dire socioeconomic, environmental, and health consequences of genetically modified crops; from writing and agitating about water privatization to writing and agitating about corporate thievery of natural knowledge. This interview by Antonia Juhasz, about the ongoing struggle over the privatization of common resources and the need for a “living democracy,”  originally appeared in LiP magazine.

“I really hope that living democracy, articulated as the broader democracy of all life, will help us transcend these polarizations and work to protect all species while defending every human right of every excluded community.”

[From the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow - The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt.] 

Read the rest [PDF; 10 pages]

» UNDER THE ETERNAL SKY: Mongolia’s Wilderness and People Threatened by Mining Boom

by Brian Awehali

An article I wrote based on my travels in Mongolia was published in Earth Island Journal, then subsequently picked up by the Guardian, and I cordially invite you, dear reader, to check it out.

Mongolia today is the least densely populated country in the world (Antarctica doesn’t count; it’s “just” a continent). It is home to a staggering array of largely untouched natural splendors, as well as some of the last traditional nomadic peoples and wild horses on earth. It’s also home to the largest mining boom in history, and despite projections that the boom is expected to triple or quadruple the size of Mongolia’s economy in the next five years, times are tough for most Mongolians, and the relationship between the country’s great natural resources and the wealth of its people is still to be determined. What’s clear is that the actual land and 3 million people of Mongolia will never be the same.

READ ON >>

» INVENTING THANKSGIVING: The Construction of a Fictive Holiday

by Brian Awehali

Every year, as Thanksgiving approaches, and Christmas music begins to permeate every public space, I am filled with profound ambivalence. Even as a child, the standard Thanksgiving story always seemed to me too simple, too wholesome, and too peaceful to be true or truly American. Finally, past the faux-historicism of school textbook-styled Pilgrims and Indians, I was able to delve into the actual construction of the story of Thanksgiving. And, in this way, I learned just how fabricated and utterly bizarre this American holiday really is.

In 1621, at Plymouth Plantation on Massachusetts Bay, 50 Pilgrim settlers joined with at least 90 Native guests in a three-day feast which is now traditionally cited as the “First Thanksgiving.” In reality, this seasonal, quasi-secular New England harvest celebration was not repeated in Plymouth and was in fact forgotten until a reference to it was discovered almost 200 years later, in a contemporary book known as Mourt’s Relation. Contrary to the widely accepted, idyllic account of two cultures sitting down to share a meal in harmony, most 17th-century colonial images relating to Native Americans depict violent confrontation. It was only around 1900, when the western Indian wars had largely subsided due to a shortage of Indians left to kill—and when it was safe for Euroamericans to supplant fear with nostalgia—that the romantic Thanksgiving narrative most Americans today are familiar with took hold.

Most 17th-century colonial images relating to Native Americans depict violent confrontation.

As most even marginally informed people know, most 17th-century colonial relations with Native Americans involved violence, not happy dinners or horns of plenty.

Thanksgiving Day provides an ideal opportunity to consider the formation of national identity and the concept of a civil religion. It’s also a living metaphor of the prevailing American model for immigrant assimilation and the ways in which history can be reinterpreted, and indeed wholly reinvented, to serve competing ethnic, patriotic, religious, and commercial ends.

Continue reading

» BAD VIBES: Poison Pleasure Products?

interview by Brian Awehali and Lisa Jervis

When Jennifer Pritchett, Jesse Jacobsen, and Jessica Giordani opened up their Minneapolis-based sex toy store, The Smitten Kitten, in August 2003, they wanted to open a fun, sex-positive feminist business while saving fellow Minneapolites the slight inconvenience of having to drive eight and a half hours to Chicago just to buy a leather harness or sparkly purple butt plug. However, their entry into the sex toy business [online at smittenkittenonline .com] quickly brought them face-to-face with some unpleasant health- and ethics-related realities of the industry. Most major sex toy vendors, they discovered, were selling highly toxic products to customers—including porous “jelly” toys, which are susceptible to mildew and mold.

READ THE INTERVIEW (PDF)