I have a fascination with bad products. They hold my attention like Steven Segal building a bomb with coconut oil and glass in Under Siege 2.
The psychology behind the movies is straightforward: they allow me to indulge a fantasy of physical dominance and control in an increasingly violent, complex, technology-obsessed world. I know who the bad guys are, the black hats in spaghetti westerns, so in a sense, action movies tap my desire for a simpler life and less ambiguous boundaries. Those narrative worlds birthed in Hollywood grace the protagonists a definite purpose: â€œThis evil man from this posse of insane terrorists wants to kill thousands of people. I must stop him.â€
Who doesnâ€™t long for a mission with such a clear, sparkling moral imperative?
Bad products donâ€™t give me insight into myself. They give me insight into the U.S. American publicâ€”that slice of the populace that watches infomercials and reads direct mail advertisements: patrons of the late Billy Mays, owners of Flowbees, devotees of Jewelry Television.
A former roommate of mine worked at jTV, and talked to Nicholas Cage over the phone more than once. Mr. Cage bought gems and other semi-precious stones to put in his fish tank. Now we know what he did with the millions he made by slinging his stringy locks and punching fools in Con Air.
Bad products are easy to find. After all, conspicuous consumption is the cultural air that we breathe. My new favorite loser is the Buzz Lightyear Funtime Tumbler, a sippy cup with indiscreet straw placement and a name that did nothing to save the designer from losing his job. I know the designer was a man because no woman would have ever agreed to work on that cup.
Buzz now sits on a shelf of my memory with The Triumvirate of Pathetic Wares, which includes the Hug Me Pillow, Peekaru (aka, Fart Catcher), and, of course, Snuggies. I never thought anything could topple the Triumvirate until I came across a picture that I took back in November 2009 during a trip to Boston and New York with friends.
â€œJapan trend spotter: Wear your dead petâ€
On a subway one day, I picked up a copy of Metro and saw an article with that title.
Surely, this is a joke, I thought. Surely this is an article from The Onion accidentally reprinted in Metro.
Hereâ€™s the article that I typed out for your reading pleasure:
With its string of pastel pink beads and sparkly diamond clasp, the necklace would not look out of place in any Tokyo fashion store.
However, this is no jewelry. Mixed inside the small clay beads are the cremated remains of deceased pets.
A new company has been launched in Japan specializing in allowing bereaved owners of deceased pets to immortalize their ashes in the form of necklaces, bracelets, pictures frames, and even lamps.
The innovative new service perfectly reflects the nation’s growing obsession with all things pet related. As Japan’s birth rate continues to dwindle, the nation is instead increasingly bestowing its love, affection and finances on the growing pet population.
From dog you to cat cafes, there are few human activities that have not been extended to include domestic animals in Japan’s pet-loving society.
Wear your pet!
â€œIt was my friend who gave me the idea of mixing pets’ ashes with jewelry after her dog diedâ€¦â€
I want to be less cynical. I want to be less critical. I want to spread hope and joy, but I can find so many things wrong with this stupid necklace. Iâ€™ll limit myself to three complaints.
1. Pet Pampering
On average, one person dies every second as a direct or indirect result of malnutrition, yet we feed our pets soft, fancy foods with names like â€œSalmon Florentine with Garden Vegetables.â€
If I ever see a dog bone that comes drizzled with blueberry coulis, Iâ€™m going to eat one. Then, Iâ€™m going to take off all my clothes. Then, Iâ€™m going to throw a table throw a window. Then, Iâ€™m going to apologize to Megan.
I take issue with dog yoga and cat cafes. Dogs donâ€™t even know what yoga is. Cats donâ€™t even drink coffee. Neither one will have any memory of the experience within, oh, thirty minutes.
Maybe I should start a Pet Scholarship fund and send one lucky pug to Cornell. I canâ€™t wait to get a cockatiel one day, and when Dogâ€”the parrotâ€™s name will be ironicâ€”turns sixteen, Iâ€™m going to give her a vintage Mustang.
The pet food commercials alone would be enough to put me off. They talk about how these tiny cans of brown vomit have a â€œnew improved taste.â€
Who tastes these foods? Cats? Do cats have taste buds, and if so, do they have the complex mental faculties necessary to compare the flavors? Who is asking the cats, â€œOn a scale of one to ten, how good does Meal A taste compared to Meal B? Making a comparison between two things takes more brain juice than many humans have.
No one is talking to cats. That must mean that somebody with a clipboard is watching how quickly a clowder of cats gobbles up Meal A compared to Meal B. As though such observations offered definitive proof that the lemon caper reduction was superior to the creamy dill!
Theyâ€™re cats, not gourmands. They eat when theyâ€™re hungry. Theyâ€™ll steal food right out of your babyâ€™s hands. Theyâ€™ll eat garbage. Cats are not good people. I may have my own personal vendettaâ€”well, really just against Maxâ€”but my point is that pampering pets is a roundabout way of burning twenty-dollar bills.
The faster technology shrinks our world, the closer we come to burning money on stage in front of an audience of ten thousand malnourished Haitian children.
Part 3 is less, sarcastic and more encouraging, if that’s what you’re in the mood for.