S U B L I M E S L I M E
The Slug Tales INSIDER Newsletter
"Dead Dogs Chase No Tails"
Vol. 11, #1 May 1990
- Special, "There's No Future Like the Near Future" Issue -
The 1990's: What the Hell Is Going To Be Going On, Anyway?
Roger Locust Amherst III Managing Editor
In 1988, MTV offered viewers the Chance of a Decade in one of
their frequent contests. The winner and nineteen friends got to go
on the road with a heavy metal band for two weeks. The package included
their own tour bus and an unlimited supply of the co-sponsors' products:
candy bars and wine coolers. A binge of heavy metal, wine coolers, and
candy bars just about sums up the 80's. From the addictive frenzy of
greed to the vapidity the Reagan Administration preaching balanced
budgets while tripling the national debt -- it really was a Heavy Metal /
Wine Cooler / Candy Bar kind of decade....
Of course, it's only been a few months since we all had to suffer
through the endless retrospectives of the 80's. They just served to
highlight that the whole idea of spending so much time looking at the
decade just passed is a little dopey. After all, already knows more
about the 80's than any other decade. It would have been LOT MORE
ENLIGHTENING to call 1989 the 20th anniversary of the end of the 60's --
or the 120th anniversary of the 1860's. Then at least we would learned
All that energy would been better spent thinking about the 90's -- you
know, the future. Where you'll be spending the rest of your life. Shouldn't
we have recognized 1989 as a wake-up call for our future? Think about it:
the Berlin wall fell, Jim Bakker and Lyndon LaRouche moved into the same
federal "penal facility", and endless cable TV ads proved that a substantial
number of adults entitled to vote WANTED to pay 20 bucks a pop to buy
videocassettes of old episodes of "The Beverley Hillbillies." C'mon:
Lassie could have figured this one out. The 90's are going to be a hell
of a decade.
Think about it. Prior to Dan Quayle, we were boasting about America when we
said, "anyone can grow up to be President." Now, we watch Reagan's deposition
of his foggy recollections about his own terms as President. Our cold
comfort now is that if we survived Reagan's detached ineptitude, then maybe we
could survive Quayle, too.
Now, I know you're thinking, "Roger: chill out: things can't be that bad."
Oh yeah? Well: let's put it to the test... News item:
- - - - - - - - - - -
New York Times, 4/1/90, p. 2:
"Vice President Dan Quayle refused a request for an interview by a major
business publication. Quayle, declining the Barron's request, said, 'God
knows, Marilyn and I feel for you people, but beyond that I just don't
know what I would have to say to people who can't have kids.'"
- - - - - - - - - - -
Would you REALLY be surprised?
That's why we've produced this special issue on the decade ahead. And
that's also why we'll continue through-out the 90's our commitment to
provide you with the news of the future, no matter what happens. So: slap
on your shades, pop a Certs, drop a condom in your pocket, and we're
off. It may be a rough ride....
"Long as I can see the 'Lite'...."
Harsh and unaesthetic, saccharine didn't cut it as an 80's kind of
artificial sweetener. In its place, aspartame. Of course, nobody called it
aspartame: it was Nutra-Sweet. And it was Organic!
In the 1980's, Getting MORE of Less Was Best. We had already gutted
soda of sugar, and in the 80'S we took out the caffeine. We even had "New
Coke": Coca Cola without the Coke taste. The remaining ingredients were going
fast. Next was "New York Seltzer". Diet New York Seltzer had no sugar, no
caffeine, and -- horror of horrors-- no caramel coloring. In the end even
Nutra-sweet wasn't safe: plain sparkling water (aka seltzer) was the rage.
Futurists predict that this trend will continue through the 90's. By June
1991 store shelves will carry "Lite Seltzer", with only half the water, "for
when you can't afford that bloated feeling." However, true Marketing history
will wait until 1994, when the first entirely empty bottles roll
off the assembly line. The ads will crow: "Bubbles made seltzer fun:
and our new seltzer is 100% fun -- with nothing but the bubbles." By the
end of the decade, Coca Cola and PepsiCo will simply electronically
debit your bank account so that you will not have to consume sugar,
caramel color, aspartame, water, or carbon dioxide.
Goin' to 'Hal' in a hand-basket....
The pace of technological change will continue to accelerate in the 90's.
It is sometimes hard for us to appreciate just how radically changes
in technology have affected our lives. Consider that in 1979, fewer than 1
in 1,000 Americans had ever been screwed out of a twenty dollar bill by a cash
machine. (Like tales of the Cargo Cults of the South Pacific, this fact will be
repeated by future generations with a curious mixture of awe and disbelief.)
For the record: there are certain technological "givens" about the 90's. The
LP is dead: in the 90's, "digital" does not refer to fingers. There will
be more tycoons who made their first million peddling stupid answering
machine message tapes on cable TV. Computers will be everywhere and even your
grandparents won't mistake a Hard Disk for a plate, Microsoft for a new brand
of toothbrush, or Lotus 1-2-3 for a beginners' guide to yoga.
However, our expert panel of futurists offered no clue as to what the people
now buying 640 K PC's at Toys 'R Us to track lottery numbers will be doing in
1996. (Well, not quite true: one futurist suggested they'd be working with
President Quayle to, "try and remember the names of those little countries
in Central America."
"I gave Geraldo's Space Baby Herpes in Line at Check stand 3"
(Subtitle: "Why I named my daughter Blue Light Special...")
Of all the issues of the 1990's, certainly the most pressing is, "What is the
exact physical law governing the relationship between TV programming and the
largest damn possible audience?" Of course: Tabloid TV. Suddenly, everything
is News. And if it wasn't filmed or didn't happen, there's always the
dramatization. As the 1990's dawned, million of Americans actually got
their 30 minutes of "News at Night" on MTV.
Two trends will shift Tabloid TV into Hyper-Speed in the 1990's: an
ever-more-jaded audience, and the need for programming to fill dozens
of cable channels 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Cable operators, who
managed the miracle of moving from nothing interesting on three networks
during the 1970's to nothing much on 35 cable channels in the 80's, are
primed for the 90's.
To grab the jaded audiences, the hottest new show of the decade will be "Let's
Have Sex With the Stars", hosted by former VJ Nina Blackwood and Ross Schaffer.
The show will feature both actual videotapes of the hosts' sexual encounters
with celebrities and dramatic reenactments of hypothetical couplings of
contemporary and historical figures. In the debut episode the audience is
treated to a tryst between philosopher Thomas Hobbes and the teen heart-throbs
New Kids on the Block.
A major challenge is just to fill all those cable channels. Of course, one
could license classic films or produce new high quality programs. But why
would anybody do that when there are fifty channels and no more than
10% of the audience is watching at any given time? As independent TV stations
discovered long ago, the trick is to find stuff other people already
paid to produce and run it over and over till the tape breaks.
The first source of new programming is already here: network programs
begging for people capturing silly, stupid, or downright sadistic things
on home video. And, at least through 1993, it's certain that one of TV's
most profitable genres will be grainy home videos of small children on
tricycles / bicycles / sleds smashing into telephone poles / walls /
clotheslines. Accustomed to the high production values of even the sleaziest
cable hucksters, the home video programs will appeal to audiences precisely
because their poor quality will be a cue that what they're watching
isn't a scam to empty their billfolds. The worse the video quality, the
more certain the audience will be that the events actually happened.
One key to expanded availability of video sources will be a 1995 Supreme
Court decision, Lowe vs. Doe. In this case the Court rules that
the "Rob Lowe Sex Tape" from 1988 can be broadcast freely. The Court
reasons that anyone stupid enough to tape a sexual encounter deserves
absolutely no right of privacy as long as the tape is not edited or
altered for broadcast.
The Lowe vs. Doe decision paved the way for the Fall 1996 debut of the
Cable Security Camera Network. Through-out the country, thousands of
businesses had installed video security cameras to deter criminals and
document shoplifting and burglaries. With the debut of the CSCN, anybody
could tune in to the edited security camera tapes from banks, fast
food restaurants, convenience stores, and public restrooms showing
the consumer habits, culinary preferences, and bodily functions of a
variety of celebrities and ordinary citizens.
Celebrities complain bitterly of invasion of privacy as shows such as
"Hollywood National Bank" and "Beverly Hills 7-11 Saturday Late Night".
But home viewers enjoy seeing their idols as they're never seen them
before -- "Isn't that Ted Koppel buying malt liquor and beef jerky?"
Eating Your Cake and Having It Too....
In the 80's learned about nutrition, we watched what we ate, and we
ate a lot more Haagen Daz. The eternal conflict between Tastes
Great and Less Filling achieved new levels in the 80's. Oat bran
omelets -- it didn't seem entirely unreasonable.. Cholesterol free
clothing -- you bet!!!
As we begin the 90's, the big news is fat substitutes. The first is
Simplesse (from our Nutra-sweet friends). Simplesse provides ersatz
ice cream without the fat. Of course, you can't produce cooked food
yet -- but Olestra is a non-digestible product in the offing for those
purposes. So the day of the Fat Free French Fry will come soon. Of
course, Olestra -- unlike Simplesse and toadstools -- isn't
organic. But it all makes sense in a strange sort of way: those
non-biodegradable plastic diapers clogging landfills will be filled
with non-biodegradable human waste.
Toward the middle of the 90's, substitute products of other kinds will
debut. As the Drug War rages and Bill Bennett runs out of civil rights
to abridge, the situation will only worsen. In 1997 tobacco giant R. J.
Reynolds will finally figure out a way to turn the cocaine business into
profits for corporate America. RJR's NOKaine is an over-the-counter
smokeable cocaine substitute which will be marketed as, "So safe, so
non-addictive -- you'll want to use it everyday!"
The most stunning Substitute Announcement of the decade will occur in
1998, when the Catholic Church introduces Forn-u-Free. While not
actually permitting divorce, contraception, or abortion outright,
the Church will offer, "Sex with a difference: guaranteed 99.44%
Sin Free." The Church will sell ritual purification packages to
those tempted to commit sin through its many existing churches and
via a special 900 phone number. This will prove the Church's
greatest PR coup of the decade and will fill both the empty coffers
and pews as fallen-away faithful return.
"Polar Bears: Warm Fuzzies of the 90's?"
In 1996 rap music comes to an end with the airing of the first rap
political commercial, run by Presidential Candidate J. Danforth Quayle.
Quayle's commercial, which is broadcast only once, concerns global warming.
During the commercial candidate Quayle is seen rapping:
"Yo, I'm the dude named Danny Q
Q-Man to me and Veep to you
I'm upset 'cause the liberals are jivin'
'Bout the en-vi-ro-ment while the trees are thrivin'
They say the earth's warmin', and why's that bad?
There'll be beaches places where they never had."
The best advice for me and you,
Is shades, sun screen and vote Danny Q!"
The commercial effectively ends the dark horse candidacy of Quayle. Many
feel that Quayle's campaign was ill-advised, at best. At the end of the
first Bush term, Quayle "volunteers" to fill a new cabinet post created
to address the crises in the U.S. auto and electronics industries. But
many regard Quayle's departure from the ticket as a demotion, and
political pundits feel that Quayle fails to distinguish himself as the
Secretary of the Inferior.
As Quayle stumbles, Veep James Baker emerges as both the Republican
nominee and eventual Presidential victor. Baker wages a brutal media
campaign against Democrat John Kerry. Baker's ads show Kerry's name and
picture paired with a painful 110 decibel piercing shriek. By late
September 1996, public opinion polls reveal that the mere mention of
Kerry's name evokes panic attacks in 92% of the American public.
Following a first term highlighted by environmental disaster, Baker is
defeated in the election of 2000. Baker spends billions on continuing
the development of Star Wars while largely ignoring the erosion of
the ozone layer and global warming. By mid-term, Baker is proposes
deploying Star Wars satellites to the North and South Poles in order
to serve as anchors for an "Ozone Toupee" costing 600 billion dollars.
Republicans fear the worst as the election nears, but are lulled into
complacency as the campaign ignores Baker's gaffes. Never less, Baker loses
52 out 53 states to Democrat Madonna, and observers largely credit the
victory to a media campaign engineered by Veep Spike Lee. Baker simply
had no effective response to the Madonna/Lee, "I wanna, you gonna?" campaign
- T O B E C O N T I N U E D -
SUBLIME SLIME is the insider newsletter of Slug Tales. It is published on
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