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Entries in postmodern paleo-future (15)


The Future Is So Yesterday

The Washington Post had an article on Sunday about the new Disney House of the Future. The piece touched on a lot of issues that involve postmodern paleo-futurism and reminds me of a February 23, 1997 New York Times article titled, "Disney Calls Future a Thing of the Past." An excerpt from the Washington Post piece appears below.

Disney -- so far into our heads, hopes and dreams that it is legendarily the Mouse that built the better people trap -- is now presenting not so much the future, but the future that it thinks we want. Wander around Tomorrowland and it no longer gleams with white plastic and blue trim. No "2001." It is an antique future, a bronze future, full of things that look like astrolabes channeling Leonardo da Vinci.


The future of the future is in the past?

"This is an aspirational future," says Disney spokesman John J. Nicoletti.

See also:
Disney Calls Future a Thing of the Past (1997)
Postmodern Paleo-Future
Tomorrowland, Disneyland Opening Day (1955)
Rebuilding Tomorrowland (1966)
EPCOT Publicity Materials (1981)
Mickey Futurism (1980s)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957-1967)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957)
Monsanto House of the Future Brochure (1961)



Cars Detroit Forgot To Build, 1950-1960

Bruce McCall's 2001 book The Last Dream-o-Rama is a brilliant, hilarious example of postmodern paleo-futurism (an obnoxiously academic term I came up with to describe co-opting past visions of the future).

With a subtitle of "The Cars Detroit Forgot to Build, 1950-1960" this book is pure parody. Although, side-by-side with the sincere concept drawings of Driving Through Futures Past, one would be hard-pressed to tell the parody from the real thing.

The illustration above is called the "HobbyPop RoadShop from 1958" which proclaims that Mom better drive smoother upstairs because, "Dad's trying to build a birdhouse downstairs!" More excerpts from the book appear below.

El Scandinavia Mk XXX, 1956

"The Look of Today, Tomorrow!" was Matterhorn Motors' promotional theme for 1956, and semanticists, at least those with both the time and inclination, still bicker over its precise meaning: a promise, or an IOU?


Opening night of Matterhorn Motors' Futurific Tomorrowrama Cavalcade of Chrome, Detroit, October 1954. Public hysteria topped Orson Welles's 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds before Matterhorn announced that none of the dream cars on display would be produced for sale.

Bossmobile Gal Friday Execustreak, 1958

Bulgemobile Corp. decided to give the busy Fifties executive the break he needed with its premier dream car for the '58 season. Enter the fabulous Bossmobile, where the high-salaried corporate big shot could sit back, digest his three-martini lunch, and dictate memos or gab to his golf pro on the portable Electrofone or just uncap the Johnny Walker in the lower right-hand desk drawer for a bracing nip or three before the Bossmobile deposited him at his split-level suburban home in time for cocktail hour.

See also:
Gyroscopic Rocket Car (1945)
GM's Three-Wheeled Runabout (1966)
Postmodern Paleo-Future
GM Car of the Future (1962)
Automobiles of the Future (1966)
Postmodern Paleo-Future Art



The End of the Future (1991)

In his 1991 book, Facing Tomorrow, author Thomas Hine opens with a decidedly pessimistic tone. The first chapter, "The End of the Future," expresses a feeling of betrayal that the world did not provide the future humanity was promised. An excerpt from that chapter appears below.

For at least two decades, no compelling, comprehensive vision of the future has captured the American imagination. Our culture is like a child raised without adults: We have no idea what we will be when we grow up. We don't know what to tell our own children, though we dimly suspect we are setting a bad example. We condescend to past visions of the future - the progressivist utopias of the turn of the previous century, the streamlined dreams of the 1930s, the jet age exuberance of the 1950s. But we have nothing to take their place.

Instead, our popular culture is filled with tainted dreams, manipulated horrific fantasies planted in the minds of innocents, which come true when Freddy Krueger, the sleep-invading slasher from the endless Nightmare on Elm Street movie cycle, comes to eviscerate the dreamer and most of her friends, relatives and neighbors. Today, we know all about what was wrong with the visions of the past and are, we tell ourselves, more realistic. But we are more limited, too. Besides, there's no evidence, outside of the movies, that a refusal to dream prevents nightmares from coming true.

When the world does not seem to be going your way, it is worth finding out which way the world is going. If progress seems self-defeating, it is time to come up with a new definition of progress. It's time for a new future, one that will enable us [to] make sense of the present and judge how the actions we take each day will shape tomorrow. We need to understand our past ideas of the future, in part so that we can understand the ways in which we have gone wrong. But we can't slap a new coat of paint on our old tomorrows. We need to conceive of our future new and whole, from the ground up. We have to examine our fears, to see if they are real, and our desires, to understand what we really want and what we can hope to get. Today, people become angry at the future because it is not going to provide what was once expected. We need a clearer idea of what we can anticipate, what we can achieve, what we can create, so that we can once again feel the exaltation of moving toward something we want rather than the bitterness of settling for less.

Progress to Counter Catastrophe Theory? (1975)
Going Backward into 2000 (1966)
Technology and Man's Future (1972)


Sincerity and the Paleo-Future

The Summer 2007 issue of The Wilson Quarterly contains a small blurb about paleo-futurism. You may even recognize the name of a certain paleo-futurist blogger. An excerpt appears below.

Cars still don't fly, the moon remains uninhabited, and at home there's no robot doing the laundry. What happened to the future? To find it, bloggers and sci-fi buffs alike are flocking to websites that explore the paleofuture - "the future that never was." Matt Novak, the man behind, says that in today's cynical age, people crave the sincere and hopeful dreams of yesteryear.

Just to clarify, while we may long for sincerity in a world where sarcasm is the norm, I would rather be around today than at any other time in history. Too often we become nostalgic for a time that never existed. While the world is by no means perfect and there is plenty to do in making it a better place to live, most of us live longer and more comfortably than our great-grandparents did.

This could very well be the naiveté of a recent college graduate, but I feel writing this blog has exposed me to the fact that doomsday prophets are almost always wrong. And I like those odds.

Those of us who love studying history must occasionally take a breath and remember that tomorrow is the only thing we can truly change. So . . . what are you doing tomorrow?

See also:
Article for MungBeing


WALL-E Promo Postcards

In what seems to be another example of postmodern paleo-futurist design (repurposing past visions and versions of the future) we have promotional postcards for the upcoming Disney/Pixar movie WALL-E. Apparently these were given out at Comic-Con 2007. (via The Disney Blog)

You can view the teaser trailer for WALL-E here.

See also:
Disney Calls Future a Thing of the Past (1997)
Postmodern Paleo-Future
Article for MungBeing


Rebuilding Tomorrowland (1966)

The book Walt Disney's America by Christopher Finch contains a 1966 quote from Walt Disney which sums up why the (1997) redesign of Tomorrowland was antithetical to its original purpose.

Now, when we opened Disneyland, outer space was Buck Rogers. I did put in a trip to the moon, and I got Wernher von Braun to help me plan the thing. And, of course, we were going up to the moon long before Sputnik. And since then has come Sputnik and then has come our great program in outer space. So I had to tear down my Tomorrowland that I built eleven years ago and rebuild it to keep pace.

See also:
Disney Calls Future a Thing of the Past (1997)
Tomorrowland, Disneyland Opening Day (1955)
Space Station X-1 (circa 1955)
Postmodern Paleo-Future
Article for MungBeing



What happens when you take three summer courses at once? You go a little crazy and start making LOLfutures. If you're not familiar with the LOLCats craze, I suggest checking out the Wikipedia page, which can bring you up to speed much better than I can. My favorite incarnation is probably Ape Lad's The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats.

See also:
Mars and Beyond (1957)
Picturephone as the perpetual technology of the future
Postcards Showing the Year 2000 (circa 1900)
Sport in Space Colonies (1977)
No One Will Walk - All Will Have Wheels (Brown County Democrat, 1900)