: views from the Hill

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

PopCo, Stuff and Uncrate

Finished PopCo while I was away.

Like The End of Mr. Y, this Scarlett Thomas book had a to-me sympathetic main female character who roamed around in her head and jumped from subject to subject and landing pad to leaping-off-point in a manner I'm quite familiar with. Thomas' heroines remind me strongly of Cayce Pollard, the heroine in Gibson's Pattern Recognition.

The books are filled with consumer culture, philosophy, and weird, quirky bits of trivia. PopCo specifically has enough code breaking arcana to keep you going for a while. Alice Butler, the main character, creates sleuth kits for kids for a megacorp called PopCo (#3 in the world after Mattel and Hasbro) and finds herself stashed away in a corporate getaway with other PopCo creatives, tasked with finding a brilliant product for the teengirl market, which is notoriously hard for toy companies to crack.

I took pages and pages of notes of clever phraseology and references I had no clue to (the Riemann Hypothesis, the Voynich Manuscript), book titles I need to check our bookstash for (and buy if we don't have a copy) (Secret and Urgent: The Story of Codes and Ciphers by Fletcher Pratt) and more.

Thomas even gave a brief explanation to another character of how public key encryption works, an explanation my aunt Ethel would be able to understand!

Is this really the way toy companies are run? Is marketing really as cynical about tapping into the pocketbooks of teens and pre-teens as the book suggests? Could be.

I try not to buy stuff I don't =need=. This book made me even more aware of how you, me, and Mr. McGee are sold to.

Witness: Uncrate | The Buyer's Guide For Men Talk about cool stuff you don't really need!

We won't even begin to explore Archie McPhee and Things You Never Knew Existed.

I received an offer in the mail the other day. Because I'm a special person (because of my W subscription? because of my ZIPcode? because of the stylish, fashionable things I buy at the Goodwill?), ELLE offered me a year's subscription (normally $48! or something close thereto) for only $8!

Well, hey, yes! Of course, they'd love to have me on their subscription rolls.

But we talked about our dear mailman and all the mail he has to bring down the steps and then up our stairs to our front door. And then we talked about the bags of recycle we have to take down our stairs and up the steps to the recycle bin on Montgomery. And we decided that I didn't really need ELLE that much.

We aren't getting a stimulus check from the government. No manna from heaven $$ for stuff. I guess they figure we stimulate the economy as much as we ever will.

The younger niblet, who is doing his Peace Corps stint until June 2010, got his check, though. We'll put it in his bank account and maybe he'll be able to tap it at some point if he is in desperate need for something while he's there. At least it will still be available when he comes home.

Somehow I think his check would go a lot further there than it would in San Francisco. Be more appreciated too. Somehow I think there's less "stuff" where he is and more "Do we have enough food for dinner and breakfast tomorrow?"

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