For the Irish whiskey’s latest effort in its “Since Way Back" campaign, the brand and agency Cornerstone has Aaron Paul telling a tall tale dubbed “Cooking with Meteors” with a few old friends and some animated help. Basically, the actor did such a great job convincing his roommate that a meteor had landed in their backyard that his buddy’s girlfriend actually called in the media. It’s a great gag and not, as the more cynical among us may suspect, one exaggerated for the benefit of the brand. Paul actually told the original story on a Conan appearance last year.
This last example suggests why the J.F.K. cult matters — because its myths still shape how we interpret politics today. We confuse charisma with competence, rhetoric with results, celebrity with genuine achievement. We find convenient scapegoats for national tragedies, and let our personal icons escape the blame. And we imagine that the worst evils can be blamed exclusively on subterranean demons, rather than on the follies that often flow from fine words and high ideals.
Sometimes I feel like this here blog is run by #96
Van Utrecht’s picture takes us back four centuries, to a time when abundance was new and not to be taken for granted. He knew it was hard to get that lobster. Europeans of his era were amazed (as we still should be) that human beings can arrange the world in such a way as to make possible so bounteous a feast. They knew that marshes had to be drained and cattle fed through the winter, and they were impressed that lemons could reach a northern table. Perhaps these very fruits were carried by donkey from the Neapolitan hills down to the harbor, onto leaky wooden ships that braved storms and struggled with unreliable winds.
People of that day felt the beauty of trade and understood how easily it could be disrupted by blockades or war. Every pleasure of the table was sending money around Europe—a force for peace and prosperity. The picture remembers all this effort and celebrates it.
Today we are so afraid of greed that we forget how honorable the love of material things can be. In the 17th century, homage was still paid to the nobility of commerce—a concept that boredom and guilt have made less accessible to us. Perhaps we can learn from this picture. A good response to consumerism might be not to sacrifice these pleasures and live without lobster and lemons but to appreciate what really goes into providing them.
Our desire to have luxury cheaply is the real problem. If the route to your table were dignified and ethical at every stage, a lemon would cost more, of course. But maybe then we’d stop taking lemons for granted and find their zest all the keener.
Art for Life’s Sake — Alain de Botton, Wall Street Jounal