Lileks and I are both conservatives and usually he gets his flak from folks on the far left. I have listened to people on the left go into a deep discussions and berate him for his discourse to one of those young girls who George Soros paid to canvass for Kerry. You know the ones--the ones which inform folks about the evils of the GOP. Yes, Lileks comments often about how both left and right are never satisfied with his political views. Today, I read his blog and he spent the whole thing rambling on about architecture and the 1939 New York World's Fair. The line that caught me however as Lileks rambled on was that he says he would give a year of his life to spend a day at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Is he nuts? Well, don't answer that. He's just on another flight of fancy:
Flights of fancy are disconnected from reality. They are emotional needs seeking fulfillment. Let me explain:
Look at that picture above. I'll break down for you what is so compelling about these retro-advertisements in a scientific manner. Look at the colors. The warm browns and gold convey security, hearth and home. Do you see the cat near the window? It's sleeping or dozing in a relaxed manner. Everything's so very peaceful. The barber is a good old chap and is certainly not a "hair stylist." The Dad tells him about the kids, whom he knows by name, and the wife who are going shopping there on main street while dad and grandfather get their hair cut. Tomorrow is Sunday and they'll all be safely tucked into that church you can see outside the window and down the street. Why it's the coziest, safest, sweetest town on earth. Heck, I want to go there! Sadly, such a town just doesn't exist.
Illustrators, like Andrew Loomis, were so good in those days that they had a science to each illustration. The could compose a picture so that the shapes and the lines were completely compelling. Far better actually than many ads today. They were selling things and they were so good they still seem to hold Lileks (and many of his readers) entranced. They knew shapes triggered various emotions. Rectangles and squares conveyed security. So the picture above is framed in a rectangle. Since this was originally an airplane ad security was an important pitch. Since going far away meant leaving the home town, the artist attempted to convey that the home town didn't mind if you got on a flight to Timbuktu and, in fact, everyone was excited to see you leave on a shiny airplane!
Ovals convey femininity. Whirlpools convey wonder. Jagged lines uncertainty--insurance companies used this a lot. Globes floating conveyed immensity. Symmetry is used to convey integrity and solemnity--just look at how many blogs and news sites use the center column surrounded by twin pillars of navigation buttons or ads, etc. The golden ratio is used when shaping rectangles because it is the most appealing to the eye. Here on this blog, the white space and the globe convey the abstract. The excessive white space also conveys honesty and integrity. It's all a big psychological game that advertisers and web design folks play. And it is a science.
Lileks gets a lot of psychological run off from those old ads and I'm sure he knows it. It's a gimmick, but it's a very good one. If the ads convey security, family and he's talking about Gnat--why everyone feels like they're Lileks' neighbor and shed a tear with him when the trees outside his house fall low to Dutch Elm disease. In some ways having Lileks on the blogosphere is like having our own little Mayberry and main street we can come to visit.
But the reality is Mayberry never existed. Main street towns were often backwater burgs where ignorance and prejudice marched hand in hand. Where gossip was potent and could ruin a person's reputation so that they would be exiled from the small burg to start life in the big city.
As for the 1939 NYWF--the worlds fair was a precursor to Disneyland and a chance for farmers to see some flesh. It was big on semi-nude sun-worshippers and topless 'magazine covers.' Yes, it heralded television and had it's own version of Marlin Perkins known as Frank Buck. The past is not a panacea to the present. They were complaining about the hectic hubbub of modern life back then, lamenting the motor car at the same time they heralded it. These folks also worshipped the past. They longed for the days when bands would play in the parks in the evenings and girls wore corsets and music came from a Victorola. In fifty years there will be some folks looking back on the early days of the web and the home computer with reverence. It will have assumed a Holy sanctity and dignity in these folks eyes, a sanctity which those living now certainly know it does not possess.
So I hope Lileks recants his wish. Traveling to a sticky, dirty fairgrounds filled with Plaster of Paris statues and garish murals in exchange for a year of his life is not worth it. And Lileks certainly doesn't have to take my word for it...he just has to ask Gnat.