A couple of years ago I took a job at a large agency and inherited a department of young people. On my first day we had a meet-and-greet and near the end I opened up the floor to questions. One of the team, a 24 year-old girl, asked me “what was dot-com like?” It was a funny question, it felt like when people in my generation ask their parents what the 60s were like. Anyway, that was 5 years ago and I don’t remember what I said. If asked the same today, I’d say it wasn’t all that different, only there were far fewer people involved and there was far less money floating around than there is today. But I worked with the biggest bombs of the dot-com era and when the bubble burst I braved 18 straight months of unemployment. On the bright side, being cloaked in failure certainly builds character (don’t let anybody tell you different).
“I hope you see things that startle you
I hope you feel things you never felt before
I hope you meet people with a different point of view
I hope you live a life you’re proud of
If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again”—
Every generation has a moment, that all-galvanizing event that changes everything and lifts the veil of innocence and all we take for granted. For some it was Watergate, the Warren Commission or the Iran Contra scandal. For a younger generation it may have been the ballot recounts of 2000, WMDs in Iraq or Too Big To Fail. I’m talking about that solitary moment where you realize the game is fixed, the dice are loaded, and you’re being deceived and subjugated to serve the will of those in power. It’s the heart of the 99 percent movement, that epiphany where we see the world as it really is, and realize our place within it. For me that moment was the Nike Air Pump.
During the 1980s Nike and Reebok battled for market supremacy. It was a two-party race and for one brief moment in history, there were only 2 kinds of people in the world: Nike people and Reebok people. The brand you chose said something about who you were: Nike had history and heritage but Reebok had fashion and style. And unlike the cola wars, this wasn’t simply about marketing - the sneaker industry was driven by genuine innovation, of design and technology. Every new line of sneakers held the promise of better comfort and better performance. Marketing was always a big part of the movement, and nobody does lifestyle marketing better than Nike (“Just Do It”) but for the first time in modern consumer culture, lifestyle marketing was driven by something tangible, something real. There was a genuine ethos at play, and that ethos culminated with the Pump.
Reebok released the first Pump sneaker in 1989 with what’s become known as the “Pump Bringback”. It was a big, bulky high-top with an inflatable bladder embedded in an outsized tongue. On the tongue you had a big, bulbous rubber ball, which you’d squeeze to pump air into the chambers, and around back there was a value to empty the air. The Pump represented evolution, it was Homo sapien to Nike’s Waffle Trainer’s Homo erectus, and Reebok eventually incorporated this superior technology into all their lines, from basketball to soccer, football, tennis and track. It was a better product, and they staked their future on it.
Nike released their version of the Pump right on the heels of Reebok, with the Nike Air Pressure. The original model had a giant cocoon grafted onto the back that looked like an alien laid eggs in your Achilles. The shoe came with a separate inflation device you’d affix to the back, as if pumping a bicycle tire. It didn’t sell very well. The next edition, the super-excellent Air Command Force, improved on the design and provided an embedded solution that seemed easy, convenient and functional. But ultimately the line only went one further with the less memorable Nike Air Force 180 Pump. And that’s it. No more pump for Nike. They’ve never even re-released it as a retro edition (though they have brought back the abomination that is the Air Huarache Basketball, which is absurd).
Reebok’s rediscovered this technology over the years, shifting a manual pump and bladder in the tongue to a self-regulating pump in the heel, with the Pump 2.0 in 2005. It was an ambitious design: with every five steps the pump actuator would be compressed, causing the shoe to automatically inflate, forming a custom fit around the runner’s foot. The Pump 2.0 was said to be designed by engineers from NASA and MIT. It was born in a laboratory where people study high-minded things like Applied Physics, Materials Science, and Kinesiology. I’ve never bought the Reebok pump, but I do believe in it now as I believed in it then. Because I believe in science. But Nike doesn’t believe in the Pump, and ultimately buried the Pump as the next big thing that never was. Which makes me feel like a sap… every time I think about it.
McSweeny’s is a publishing house founded by Dave Eggers. They have four regular publications, spanning a website, a quarterly literary journal, a monthly magazine and a quarterly DVD. I like to check the McSweenys Internet Tendency website once in a while, but admittedly I don’t read it enough. Because every so often I will, and I’ll trip across something completely brilliant. Like What Your Favorite Classic RockBand Says About You (parts 1 and 2) by John Peck. These lists blend highbrow wit with lowbrow culture like Gore Vidal shot-gunning a can of PBR every time there’s a dance interlude during Laugh-In. It amazes me how disposable content’s become today, each of these list deserves a movie deal (if not a Pulitzer). It’s a shame they’re going unseen, they’re that good. My top 10 favorites:
The Doors: You have been bitten by an animal while trying to get it stoned.
The Eagles: You can only reach orgasm while listening to talk radio.
Santana: You have had an hours-long conversation with someone before realizing it was just a pile of clothes.
Thin Lizzy: You are often forced to change or cancel your plans due to NO LOITERING signs.
Deep Purple: Some part of a law named after a young girl applies to you.
Kiss: You have partied on a boat in a driveway.
The Georgia Satellites: You lost your virginity in a Chevette that was being towed.
Alice Cooper: You have a photo of your dog wearing sunglasses on your phone.
A collection of mod poster redesigns of classics, spanning the Star Wars trilogy, Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson films, the Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow collection and more. Artists include Olly Moss, Justin VG, Ibraheem Yousef.
I’ve recently developed a crippling fear of traveling back in time and contracting some antiquated disease that’s since been cured. But seeing as how my time machine was irreparably damaged in transit, as they always are, I’m left to die of something unfortunate that House MD could’ve easily cured by popping a can of Coke Zero. Which really sucks.
Even a 5 year-old can tell you why the chicken crossed the road: to get to the other side. Seems pretty innocuous until you consider the joke as allegory. The punchline tells us very specifically that the chicken crossed the road to get to the other side. That was its motivation, to get to the other side. Taking the “other side” to mean death and whatever it brings, and the chicken crossing the road as the means to get to the other side, we’re left at the scene of the crime with a chicken suicide, a couple of potential human casualties from the 5-car pile-up, and one bleak joke.
"Because it was stapled to the armadillo" just became the humane punchline.