AC Delco - In The Future, The Floor Will Be Hot Lava

Continuing our inaugural World's Fair week feature, we bring you another attraction from the GM Futurama: The auto service center of tomorow!

In 1964, AC Delco had a courageous vision of the future of car repair. The floor would be hot lava. They didn't mean the real kind of lava. The pretend kind.

If you're anything like me, you were a kid at some point. Every kid played the hot lava game. In the hot lava game, you had to get from point A to B - say, from one end of the room to the other - without touching the floor. You could climb on chairs or window sills or tall slender cabinets with vials of nitroglycerin on the top, but you could not touch the floor. To make the game really fun, your mission was to retrieve something from the far end of the room, making the return trip more challenging, due to the encumberance of, say, an Evel Kneivel Stunt Cycle.

Anyway, AC Delco seemed to understand that in the future, the floor would become hot lava. That's why they had the wisdom to put the entire contents of the garage up on stands. "But," I hear you protest, "maybe those stands are for access to the underside of the car? Did you ever think of that, you stupid fascist?" Actually, I did think of that, and I don't appreciate the unprovoked attack, thanks very much. The giant circular bases of the stands look really difficult to walk on. It doesn't help that they're styled like turbines for no good reason. So, I'm led to believe that in the future, the mechanic doesn't touch the car. Why else would he be sealed in a tiny Apollo capsule? he can't get out very easily, so maybe he just looked after the repair progress by playing that little Moog synthesizer in there? It looks like the mechanic's greatest hits are displayed on those cool record players near the wall, for easy scratching.

Strangely, though Delco were able to forsee our modern problems with floor temperature, they lacked the vision to predict any means of data storage more sophisticated than the punch card system. "You hand the mechanic a punched card. On the card is the proper performance level of your shocks, brakes, engine, ignition - every vital part of your car." Then they attatch "an electronic device" to the car, but apparently in the future we're still using a data storage solution that can be ruined by "mixing up the pile". This was 1964, after all. Despite the fact that magnetic data storage had been in use for over thirteen years, Delco's clairvoyants imagined the punch card dominating the auto industry for the visible future.

My zinger question to the boffins at Delco is this: what happens when you drop your punch card on your hot-lava floor? A pretend-fire disaster, that's what.


Johnson Wax Rondelle - That's it? Wax?

Waxy entertainment for everyone! The World's Fair brings out the best in absurd corporate pride. Johnson Wax built this gorgeous futuristic temple dedicated to wax.

 Now, coming up with plausible displays of futuristic wax technology suitable for the World's Fair would tax the imagination. You or I may think so, because our minds are standard-issue units. The sorcerers behind the world's number one brand of wax have giant throbbing brains, perhaps with little lightning bolts coming out of them. They can easily think of FIVE things to tell the world about wax. THING#1 A movie about how nice it is to live. THING#2 Talk to people who speak a different language, so long as the language is spoken in one of Johnson Wax's markets. THING#3 Get home cleaning tips from a guy behind a screen pretending to be a computer. Presumably, the answer to all questions will be "wax". THING#4 A vending machine. THING#5 Free shoe shines, provided your shoes are made from leather, vinyl, or wax. WORLD'S FAIR COMPLETE.

Yeah, but look how cool that building is. Approaching the structure would give one visions of an elven temple or a fortress of some kind, possibly of solitude. I have to believe that upon entering, you'd go "Wax? Really?", feeling a little let down. Then  a giant unseen voice would reply over the P.A. system: "YES! WAX! THE DOORS ARE SEALED. THERE IS NO ESCAPE...UNTIL YOU HAVE FINISHED LEARNING HOW NICE IT IS TO LIVE, FROM OUR MOVIE... IN COLOR!"

Who was that villain guy on Superfriends? Manta? The Golden Rondelle kind of looks like his head. I don't know why people are capable of building such great stuff temporarily, but lack the courage to make a bank or a city hall shaped like this. The World's Fair seems to bring out the exciting fun ideas, only to have them rolled up and hidden away for the next World's Fair.


GM Futurama? Yep, Futurama!

I was about to begin this post with "I miss the World's Fair", but then my cast-iron editorial acumen made me check to see if the World's Fair is as extinct as I thought. Wups. I guess there still are World's Fairs (World Expo, etc etc.), but I have a suspicion it ain't what it once was. I've seen zero news coverage of any of the World's Fair in decades.

Back in the pre-find-out-anything-in-two-minutes days, the World's Fair was, as they say at the United Nations "The Shit". It was a global fan dance of technology and industry, with each participating nation showing off their coolest future-tech. This means that to us ultra modern sohpisticates, the stuff they were showing off can range from quaint to hilarious. If you're like me, either of those is fine. The bright and perfect fantasies of the future are super cool and wildly amusing all at once. I feel no conflict at all in laughing at how off-target the predictions were, while being really glad that they were so off-target. Equal parts retro and future, tragedy and comedy, the World's Fair feeds both lobes of my artist's brain.

The 1964-65 World's Fair was held in New York. General Motors still held the clearly unassailable position of Most Important Industry In America Now And Forever (hah!), and their hubris gushed forth in a delirious display called the GM Futurama. The General imagined the future for you, because you'd probably get it wrong. You'd probably have imagined jetpacks and molecular travel, but you're dumb. The Future is all about The Car! Yep. You need GM to point out that The Future should take a shape approved by GM's board of directors.

But enough grumping. Look at that ad! The GM Futurama building actually looked like that , Somebody built that! How could humans have made something so wonderfully spacey, and yet 45 years later, the roman column and curly-cue chair legs are still popular?

I love the irrational, useless curvy wall sticking up in the air and the quasi-saucer at the opposite end. Bringing the whole painting back to the sixties is the Ralph-Bakshi-Spiderman-cartoon sky behind it.

Expect more posts about the World Expo and GM's Futurama,

Video of the construction of the Gm Futurama ride.

Video of the GM Futurama.


Patio - Exotic Mexican Food!

Bone marrow and femur segments, Mom... and don't spare the ick! I think one of the things that makes mid-century America work so well for me is the degree of naivete' combined with arrogance and a little willful blindness thrown in. In 1962, Mexican food could still be described as "exotic". For those without a globe on their desks, Mexico is right across the U.S./ Mexican border.

Remember on The Flintstones, Wilma used to make Fred a "pizza pie". Why the "pie"? Probably because pizza was a new discovery for middle America, despite it being basically an American invention (duh). I think of "pie-ifying" the word "pizza" kind of like the way they used to hyphenate words that were new and strange in the 1900's. "Air-ship", "motor-car", "hand-soap", "un-wed mother". Hyphens and over description are giveaways that the speaker is still grappling with something weird and new.

So, yeah, Patio frozen enchilada dinner. Mmm-mmm-bleah. That's a lotta earth tones. Photographing food is not easy. In fact, there are companies that do nothing but photograph food in a pleasing way. Getting food to let itself be phtographed looking like something other than a plate of sick is really really hard. Milk comes out blue and watery in pictures, for example. Any glamor shot of cereal you may see was probably photographed with glue in place of real milk. There are a whole bunch of secrets like this that food-tographers used to get a decent picture of meat loaf that doesn't look like a belly wound. A lot of the tricks were just trying to find something that looks like food without decomposing under studio lights. When you looked at a package of ice cream, the stuff in the bowl on the box wasn't ice cream. Of course, much of this is probably done with Photoshop now. Pity. Pouring glue over cereal sounds a lot more fun than just using the "levels" tool.

None of these techniquies were used in this photo. Color balance in food photography is crucial, and this is made hideously clear by Patio's ad. The beans kind of look like "practice brains" for young zombies learning how to hunt for themselves. Photographic technique aside, there were some poor choices made. Too much brown, first and foremost. Maybe the idea was to match the generally fecal pallette of the dinner, but I think they would have been better served by using a non-brown color for the edge of the plate. Blue, maybe? How bout red? The lone island of color in this sea of yuck is the lettuce and pepper, but stalwart companions though they are, two little garnishes are not mighty enough to hold back the flood of beige ichor that threatens to engulf the table. Patio Frozen Dinners - Try one today, and again in a few hours!


Red Cadillac - Life magazine. 2/16/1962

Observe the red Cadillac. Man, I don't even like American cars and this one almost sells me.
I think this is what people in the ad biz call the "soft sell". The ad hardly says anything because at the time they didn't have to . In 1962, Cadillac was already The Shit. Back in the sixties, it was far more common to use a painting to sell a product... probably because a painting could be more easily idealized at that time.

This ad shows Mr and Mrs You in their perfect fantasy life, where gasoline falls from the sky like rain and all you need to do is open the filler door and all the happy little raindrops jump into the tank to help you make your day better and better. The fact that this was a fantasy living on borrowed time only makes the image sweeter: just enough gate and hedge to imply an arrival at a glamorous cotillion or ritual beheading (judging by the blood red color scheme).

There's a tricky dichotomy going on here. The improbably happy couple is painted sort of dreamily: their legs start to fade away toward the ground. The car is rendered laser sharp and orgasmically shinily. One would expect the humans to be dreaming of the car, but it kind of looks like the car is daydreaming about what kind of waspy, wonder-bread couple it would love to have as it's owners. Maybe this is where the reader is expected to fill in the blank by shouting "Me! Me! I'll be your fashionably square owner, red caddy!"

Nothing could be more slablike or straight than this car. The delirious age of ridiculous swoopy fins and byzantine chrome bumpers that looked more congealed than designed was over. Irrational bulbous excess had given way to a (comparatively) sleek and minimalist design aesthetic that makes me go "Ooo!" and not "Eew!".

Even though cars were less crazy than they had been in the fifties, this car is still longer than my house. This was a car you could plausibly live in without it being a sad social commentary. Sleep on the rear seat. Dinner on the dash, with room for four guests. Mow the roof on weekends. "Oh, honey, I wore the wrong color suit to the Fordenbergenwallace's seance. I need to change! I'll just step into the trunk and choose a different tweed." Wife makes that "That's my husband." face and fixes herself a few martinis and has a nap in the glove box atrium. Actually, my car could nearly fit in the trunk of this car. The rear overhang is about equal to the wheelbase of my VW. Emphasizing the length of the car is the fact that there is no B pillar. The roof is supported at all four corners and that's all. The roof line is uninterrupted from the windshield to the backlight. That makes it harder to reinforce the passenger compartment against rollovers, but a car wide enough to seat six people abreast isn't likely to flip over is it? Actually, maybe! A 4400 pound car on a suspension made of pudding will wallow like a pig around the gentlest of corners. That's good, because it makes the car seem faster than it is. The 325 HP V8only got this oaf to 60 miles per hour in ten seconds, so to feel as though you got your money's worth it helped if you thought your life is in danger when going round corners. Made it seem exciting and stuff. Strangely, at the same time, Lincoln Continentals were doing the same no-b-pillar thing, but they went one better by putting suicide doors on the car. This is where the rear doors open backwards, so that the whole side of the car opened like french patio doors. The car in The Matrix that Trinity and company use to pick up Neo is one of these. It's slightly cooler than a caddy because of the suicide doors. Ask anyone.

I don't think I want to own one of these cars, but I love this picture. It makes me a little sad that photographs have taken so much work from so many good artists.


Gibbs Dentrifice - plastic bubbles in your mouth

Apparently, "dentrifice" is a liquid or powder used for oral hygeine. I believe that, even when this ad was printed in a 1948 issue of Picture Post magazine, toothpaste was the standard mouth cleaner. So, even when this ad was new, dentrifice was already an anachronism.

Yeah, fascinating. But look at the great photo. Tins of Gobbs Dentrifice floating in acrylic bubbles in front of a nebulous background of irrelevant origin. Remember, there was no photoshop at the time, so what you see is what they built. It's more than possible that the acrylic orbs are just hemispheres, of course. I keep trying to look at the reflections to see if they imply a complete sphere or not. Not that it would matter, but my hat would be slightly more off to them if they went that extra mile and actually put the product inside a plastic sphere. They could be half-shells closed at a seam that's perfectly perpendicular to the camera, if you get what I mean. That would hide the seam between the two halves.

Then there's the matter of how they suspended them. There could be strings. The vague background would make that easy enough to airbrush out, wouldn't it? Let's not forget that they could easily avoid the problem of hanging everything if it were laid down on a table. Bubbles could be lying on a clear sheet of acrylic a few feet abive the background, whatever it is. The orbs wouldn't roll around if there was a flat spot on the back of them, perhaps behind the can of product?

 Point is, in the age of analog, nothing was as easy as it is today, which makes great results even more impressive.