Consumer Vortex – Lower Broadway

August 15, 2011

A quick subway trip uptown to indulge my preoccupation with shoes and whatnot  (I’m heading out for a ten-day vacation abroad, and I want my feet, the man-earth interface, properly shod) and I find myself debouching from the R-Train right on Lower Broadway, across from one of my favorite NYC buildings!  It’s called the Little Singer Building to distinguish it from the skyscraper, for a while, the world’s highest, that is no longer with us.  A blast from the past of consumer culture, right out of Paris:  the curving Art Nouveau ironwork brings to mind Galeries Lafayette, the great 19th century department store.  (More on the buildings here and here.)

Walking around the area puts one in the center of the tourist, chi-chi, consumer maelström, and it can be overwhelming, but I soldier on.  As I put on my own consumer hat, I chuckle at the thought of my current reading, a fabulous study of the origins and nature of consumer culture.  The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism is a rich and complex analysis that takes off from Weber and ends up at the mall.  The author disposes of the simplistic explanations of consumerism – instinct, manipulation by élite conspiracy, or variations on Veblenesque emulation – and locates the origins of our culture in the latter 18th century (Not much controversy there, think Josiah Wedgewood and his factory, embodying Adam Smith’s dicta on the division of labor.  The two were friends, and Darwin later married into the family.  So many cultural cross-currents at that point in time and space!) and links the ‘spirit’ of our consumerist age to the mutations of protestant theology and the cult of sentimentality.  His argument is brilliant – not sure if I’m convinced yet, but his approach to the questions is the best I have ever come across.

The book is not for casual reading as it is assumes a wide knowledge of 18th century European, especially British, culture, and it makes a very involved and dense argument about religion and culture.  I will try to post a summary of it once I have finished it and digested it somewhat.  Meanwhile, I consume, calm in the knowledge that I must be of my Age, even if I repudiate its values in many ways.  “I shop, therefore I am,” may not apply to me, but shop I must.


Footsteps on sidewalks

January 20, 2010

click for credit

In old films, especially film noir, pavements are always wet.  The sounds of men’s shoes as they walk makes a gravelly, scraping sound.  I grew up loving this sound.  I always wore rubber-soled sneakers, and I lived in southern California where the sun always shone.  As soon as I could, I moved to the wet and dark northeast and bought myself some shoes with leather soles.

In my search for images and sounds of footsteps, I found that Fritz Lang made a film renowned for its audio effects, and which also includes an unusual clip with foot and shoe themes.


Tip to Toe

September 19, 2008

I’m not what you’d call very fashion conscious, but I’m not unconscious either.  When it comes to clothes, I leave the adventurous stuff to others – I prefer to blend in.  I do have my crotchets, fetishes, or whatever…

It’s all very philosophical you see.  Clothes are the second skin of man.  (Architecture is the third, according to Hundertwasser.) Shoes are the mediator of the critical MAN-EARTH interface, while hats do the same for the MAN-SKY interface.  It’s important to keep one’s brain warm, but the energy of the sun must be moderated.  One must gain and keep one’s footing, and shoes should look the part.  For men, at least.  The cultural signaling of women’s shoes takes the woman-earth interface as a starting point only – they have other fish to fry.

It’s a minor art, this fashion business, and it IS a business, but it’s an art too.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 204 other followers