Sun Ra - Column for 3/4

Built to Pffft

I leapt out of bed bright and early this morning to go to the gym, as I do every weekday morning. Okay, that's a blatant lie. I finally slunk out of bed after an hour of stabbing at my snooze alarm as though I had some sort of seizure with a nine-minute recurrance. But since I set my alarm for 6:30, it all works out. It's all about last-night-Ra fooling this-morning-Ra.

Anyways, as I reached the parking lot of the mall which contains my gym, I realized that I had morning breath. In my bleary morning state, I showered and dressed without brushing my teeth, and it took me some ten blocks of driving (yes, I drive ten blocks to go work out. You can laugh, but the temperature outside this morning was thirty degrees Fahrenheit) before I hit one of those moments where you can smell your own breath. All of us save, perhaps, Martha Stewart have those moments when you realize your breath is stinky. Enough, perhaps, to wilt plants and kill household pets. But it takes the right moment - you can't smell it when walking or talking to someone else (although, if they make a face, lean away from you, or fall to the floor and foam at the mouth, that's a sign as well); you only notice when you just happen to be sitting still, and breath in such a way that the little green cloud stays around to be pulled into your nostrils.

Luckily, I was going to the gym, so no one would a) be close to my mouth or b) smell all that great anyways. And when I got home, I brushed. But it got me thinking about toothpaste. See, I have noticed on those evenings when I don't brush my teeth, my breath in the morning is not bad. Sure, my teeth are a bit crusty, but the ecosystem in my mouth seems to be stable and not emitting strange gases. However, when I do brush my teeth (which is most nights. I have fine personal hygiene, thank you. No, don't look at me like that - like you have never gone to bed without brushing your teeth.), when I wake up in the morning my breath is screamingly awful. And my mouth tastes terrible, to boot. Although, as already noted, I often don't notice it (or other things like, say, sucking chest wounds) until I have mentally woken up. Which may take several hours, or even days if it's early in the week.

Why is it that clean teeth taste and smell terrible in the morning, while happily dirty teeth don't? Three explanations come to mind. The first is that more advanced stages of plaque have characteristics different than earlier, just-started stages of plaque, including less odor. The second is that, having had nastymouth for a while, you are already used to it. The third is that toothpaste is cleverly formulated so that after about eight hours the mouth tastes really bad, so you have to use more toothpaste.

Guess which one I believe.

'Planned obsolescence', although a term of recent vintage, has been around for millenia. The vikings had it built into their mythology, the colonial American government had it built into their peace treaties, and the Italians have it built into pretty much all of their governments. It became particularly famous during government and media investigations into why American cars were inferior to Japanese cars during the late 70s and early 80s. And the answer was - they were designed to be! The consumer was supposed to buy a new car every two years, and if they were going to be uncooperative then by God the auto industry would force them to buy a new car when they were supposed to! Happily, the Japanese, having had to use their tiny, rocky home islands for millenia, had no such philosophy.

Well, it appears that although automobiles are no longer designed to roll off the assembly line already falling apart, our packaged goods manufacturers have taken up the slack. After just a brief period of brainstorming, I can list a whole slew of products designed to wear out faster than they should and need to be replaced:

As you can see, the attempt to turn what you buy into garbage and force you to buy more is gaining speed across a wide front. Luckily, there is a solution. The Japanese! Hey, sure they pay thirty dollars for a melon (no lie!), but as far as consumer packaged goods goes, they are conservative because they have to be. Plus, they are in a hilariously mis-managed decade long recession, with no signs of stopping! So let's send some people over to ask them to provide us with soap and windshield wipers. Although we should look elsewhere for toothpaste. I like sushi just fine, but I've had Japanese candy and their idea of fresh-tasting is bizarre. Dried salmon toothpaste? No thanks. But at any rate, we could certainly use them to slow down the 'product cycle' here in the US of A.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to clean out my mouse.

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra