An opinion piece in this week’s NY Times by Frank Bruni entitled “Capitalism’s Suffocating Music” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/22/opinion/frank-bruni-capitalisms-suffocating-music.html) brought me up short. In it he describes how he feels advertising has managed to permeate almost every aspect of our lives. This crass commercialization of everything, he demonstrates, is omnipresent, as corporate logos are emblazoned on stadiums and cultural centers and stare up at you from basketball court floors. Product sales jingles add to the deafening din of Nascar races and other sports events. Strategically placed products are subtly intruded into films, and not so subtly promoted in the inordinately lengthy breaks for commercials on television.
What it brought to mind is how much simpler the battle against this crass commercialism was in the Sixties and Seventies when I had to rescue my children from the growing influence of advertising. Since the major source at that time was television I found an easy solution. “You can watch one hour of TV a day,” I decreed, softening it with: “But you can choose any program you want.” To this I added “Let it be understand that anything you see advertised on TV you cannot have. No discussion.”
Of course, when the “discussion” inevitably followed I added: “You should know that advertising a product is very, very expensive and that, therefore, when you pay for these products you are paying as much for the advertising as the product itself. Therefore, the product is not worth the money.” It seemed to work, at least as well as any solution could involving a determined child craving a sugar coated cereal or what seems to be a really neat toy.
What, I wonder, can stem the flow and mute the influence these days? I feel this especially after I have spent a few days in the City of Madison Avenue. I am so happy to return to the peace and tranquility of the farm that has always seemed so remote from the hucksterism that in the outer world seems so inescapable.
So it was with a shock that when Mark and I were in the vegetable garden a few days ago bringing in the remaining crop before the first killing frost hit, that I found that we were not as insulated from the commercial hurly burly as much as I thought. As I reached down gathering up the last tomatoes of the season, I turned over a tomato to admire it and was shocked to see inscribed on its skin: “I am a genuine heirloom tomato, a Brandywine. I am known for my delicious flavor. I am the best tomato in the world. Buy me. Enjoy me.” I picked up another tomato turning it cautiously, and this one read: “I am a super wonderful Amish paste tomato, an heirloom tomato. And as my name suggests I make the best tomato paste in the whole world.” Looking at yet another tomato I was depressed to read: “I am a Rose de Berne, the most gorgeous of the heirlooms, known for my delicious taste and beautiful pink complexion. I am the heirloom of your dreams. You must have me. All of me.”
I quickly crossed the garden to share these aberrations with Mark, who stood examining a large pumpkin, a puzzled look on his face. He silently passed the pumpkin to me and pointed to where it read: “I am the world renowned Long Island Cheese pumpkin, the amazing pumpkin that makes the best pumpkin pie in America. No lie. The best. Be sure to try me this Thanksgiving.”
And so it went with the collards, brussels sprouts, the lettuces, leeks, and herbs.
How, we wondered had this happened? Some kind of genetic implant? The result of selective breeding on Madison Avenue? How had this plague of commercialization spread to our vegetable garden? We moved on to do the evening chores hoping to escape this creeping hard sell.
As we arrived at the pig pen I heard a strange oinking that sounded almost human and seemed to be a kind of music. We found Vernon, our prize boar, so excited in anticipation of his night feed that he was oinking:
“I’m a big, beautiful Ossabaw boar,
Weighing three hundred pounds or more
Of the most delicious pork
In all of New York.
You must buy me
Just try me.
One delicious grilled chop
And you’ll never stop..”
We cut him off at that point by filling his trough and moved on to the turkey compound.
As we entered and moved amongst the flock I did my usual high pitched greeting: “You’re beau-u-u-ut-ifull.” Expecting them to gobble in unison as usual, but instead I got this almost human but googly sounding:
“Wr’tr the heritage turkeys you need
We’re moist and delicious indeed,
We’re not cheap to buy
But worth it, oh my,
Reserve us today,
And please don’t delay…”
We shut them up by filling their grain feeders and skulked off feeling that in spite of all our efforts even our farm was being overwhelmed by the creeping crud.
As we left the turkey compound we found our herd of British White beef cattle gathered around their water tank. We expected them to beg for apples as usual, but instead were greeted with a strange mooing sound that went:
“We are a heritage breed,
The grass-fed beef you need,
When buying your beef, don’t be hasty
Our steak are so tender and tasty …”
We hurriedly moved on but, to our dismay, it was the same with the sheep, the geese, the guinea fowl, and the chickens. One awful commercial after another.
It was not till we reached the peacock pen, our final stop, that we found the serenity of the farm we so treasured. There stood our proud peacock with his gorgeous tail fanned open displaying the irridescent blues and greens of his shimmering feathers. He stood silently, with dignity, so serene, saying nothing, doing nothing.
But as we exchanged congratulatory looks and broke into smiles, our beautiful peacock suddenly swiveled revealing to our dismay the NBC logo emblazoned on the back side of his opened tail. We walked quietly to the hous , not saying a word, and shut ourselves in.