Monday, November 07, 2016


The Signals catalog came today, and as my wife is away, helping with the new granddaughter in Nome, it fell to me to peruse it and see if we were keeping it for ordering possible Christmas gifts.  I have not looked at one in years.

There are fewer children, more pets, especially cats.  Fewer grandparent nostalgia items.  There is lots of A&H signalling - the irony of the catalog name strikes me just this moment - showing how much we love art, how much we love books, how much we love musical in-jokes. Lots of scarves, and celebrations of how great particular types of women are. The only appearance of men are as recipients of the type of man-profession T-shirts that they would not buy for themselves but women would buy for them.  Engineers, mathematicians.  Women in those professions would not be impressed by these cutesies, I don't think.

Not much music anymore - just the tchotchkes. 

The irony of the name "Signals" was prescient, wasn't it.

All this is according to the pattern I noted a decade ago in The Sadness of NPR Christmas.

Contrast this to The Sadness of NHH Christmas, which still devastates me.


Sam L. said...

Signals is the video catalog, Wireless the radio catalog. I've found a few cute things for kids and friends there.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, I may have missed a trick there.

DOuglas2 said...

I feel I would understand this better if I knew what A&H represented.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Inside reference. I have been referring to the Arts & Humanities Tribe here for years, but it is not a generally-accepted term. I come from that tribe, and many relatives and friends are still in it. But I left it years ago and now only hang at the edges of a few of the American Tribes. Some of the names of those may give you some idea how I structure this: The Science and Technology Tribe; Government and Unions; Military; God & Country. There are also regional and religious tribes - though the latter are not always along denominational or historical lines.

Sam L. said...

NPR, being NPR, is not religious. It is not Christian, either, though some employees may be. I expect they're really quiet about that.
For the NHH, I expect those broken souls need a lot of help just to get thru the day.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Retriever couldn't post this somehow, so she emailed it.

But how could you resist the Darth Vader light saber immersion handheld blender?! Seriously, tho, having just moved one brat and awaiting another temporarily moving back in and still storing wedding gifts for one w too little space for them, our family is NOT in mood for catalogs. Or shopping. Too much clutter.

Despite our national voyeuristic glee at watching Hoarders and seeing someone messier than ourselves, clutter reflects cultural malaise as well as individual pathology. We buy and consume because so little we do seems to have any real effect. Because connections are asunder. Because the food tastes like dust in our mouths and the smiles of associates look more like disguised snarls.

For me, it's an index of spiritual health too: I've noticed that when I am paying more attention to God and trying to help my neighbor and NOT my greedy wrathful self, I buy less crap.

Still, I enjoy the catalogs...

The problem is, most of these witty cute clever gifts aimed at a tribe are entertaining for about a minute for the gathered family or office during the unwrapping. Then the person never uses them. I remember one fantastic online site I found w techy gifts I bought my brats w things like Star Wars flash drives and other gewgaws. Five years later I found, still in plastic, the cool black and white t shirt I had bought my daughter that said something like "and I can kill you with my brain". She had laughed and appeared to like it (attending a high school socially ruled by jocks and beautiful bimbos) but hadn't actually worn it.

We've all discussed (on this site) this question of social signaling vis a vis political posturing and stances on "moral" issues. Because we all want to appear righteous. I think that as people have felt less effectual politically and less secure economically, also less satisfied with their
broader relationships (even if quite devoted to their families) they have done more signalling with their possessions.

Veblen wrote about the ways the rich do it, over a century ago. But now all the rest of us have been encouraged to signal tribal, aspirational and now other affiliations. I know I do it. Right down to the ethnic raffia bag and African animal necklace bought in school from one of those direct-from-formerly-penniless-women importing do gooder groups, to my current more upscale purchases that purport to be produced paying a living wage etc. Or when I believe the farmer as I scratch the ears of his piglets and buy the frozen carcass of the previous batch of pigs, when he tells me near our place that he tries to give them a good life and gets his neighbor to actually kill them. These details help us feel better about our consumption. But I digress.

As to wh tribe I belong to? I'm not sure which I belong to any more tho I know wh ones I admire (military, tech, medical, academic, real missionaries not joy me on the head culturally insensitive fundies but old fashioned medical or teaching types who bring people something g they k is they want and gradually bring them to God..I visit many tribes. You only belong to one so long as you can pay the dues. Like pew rent. Difficult family circumstances have isolated our family til we have become awkward, cranky and no longer fit in well with the charming, confidently rapacious capitalists and artsy academics we were raised around. I have been accused of barking like a junk yard dog by childhood friends and relatives whose way has been smoother.

RichardJohnson said...

Regarding not being able to post,it appears that if you preview and log in you cannot publish- post. In order to publish-post, you need to publish and log in. That is, you need to have your piece completely ready to publish. Do not preview, as you can currently not preview and publish. Tip from Althouse.

Retriever said...

Thanks! Given my verbosity, typos and tendency to write on phone during brief breaks, that's somewhat alarming...but at least now I know why it's been such a problem.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

All the brilliance you will ever need is on this site and its sidebar.