Sunday, December 6, 2009


i am always amazed when i go to costco: the scale and perspective of the place, running hundreds of yards in every direction, stacked with an infinity of goods.

the nutritional supplements aisle grows and grows. this fact shows us a populace afraid of disease and uncertain about medical care, a population eager to self-medicate and prevent disease if possible. it also shows a population that has in large part lost touch with the health benefits of food. finally it shows a culture which dreams of technological short cuts around nature: in other words, the hope that one can eat badly or not at all, and still magically plug oneself into pure nutrients, side-stepping food altogether or at least reducing it to the least troublesome amount possible. an 'acai berry digestive cleanser' featured hugely magnified images of acai berries, a beautiful and tantalizing scene which turns an industrial, scientifically-engineered product into a mere outgrowth of exotic nature. i am not saying this product is bad, per-se. all i am saying is, i bet that similar effects on the colon can be found among naturally-occurring foods available in the supermarket and a far sight cheaper than the product i saw.

another interesting trend: i saw two pallets of wooden tablets, about the size of notebooks. but the wooden tablets themselves had no functional use: they were merely carriers of a product message. one was a package of travel benefits, for bed and breakfasts or something. in short, they were gift cards. but in the land of the gigantic, little cards hanging near the check out aisle among the breath mints and soap opera digests get lost in the shuffle. giganticize them and stack them like all the other real products! this tactic seems to go against the larger trend to reduce the materiality of objects to mere images, as in internet purchase. in this case, the 'commodity' is access to a service of some kind, so it is not material. it is made so, as something that can be picked up and tossed into one's cart.

the breathtaking thing about costco is all the people: as busy as grand central station, here in the heart of suburbia we are unused to seeing so many people in one place. i wonder to myself: wow, there are so many immigrants here! it is kind of exciting, and may be the only place i will likely see so many and so diverse people in my day to day life. if only i did not have to drive to milford to experience it.

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