Topical Guide 65
Reason versus Passion; Lust; Desire; Acquisitiveness
AS SOON AS I HAD LISTENED to Gumma’s Motorola, I wanted—no, I needed—a more sophisticated radio. It was a familiar sequence: seeing the lack of something, one feels the need for it.
Even now, when I have reached an age when, I tell myself, I should be beyond such feelings, I find myself in the grip, now and then, of an irresistible desire to replace a perfectly good turntable, amplifier, or tuner with a newer and more complicated one. I consider myself, on the whole, a mature and sensible fellow, and I expend no little effort in trying to talk myself out of these periodic attacks of electronic lust, but—as Porky White has said to me so often—“Look, it’s like a fight. One guy comes into the ring in a gray pin-striped robe and across the back in small black letters it says REASON. He’s wearing glasses, and his hair is thinning. Into the opposite corner leaps a guy in a robe of scarlet satin, and across the back in orange and purple letters it says THE IRRESISTIBLE URGE. He looks like a bull, and there’s foam at the corners of his mouth. Where you gonna put your money, kid?”
Little Follies, “The Static of the Spheres”
So it was that we recognized our new needs as fresh invaders of the upper levels of the social system, and set ourselves quite consciously to the acquisition of Style and Savoir Faire. We became part of what is nowadays quite an important element in the confusion of our world, that multitude of economically ascendent people who are learning how to spend money. . . .
They discover suddenly indulgences their moral code never foresaw and has no provision for, elaborations, ornaments, possessions beyond their wildest dreams. With an immense astonished zest they begin shopping, begin a systematic adaptation to a new life crowded and brilliant with things shopped, with jewels, maids, butlers, coachmen, electric broughams, hired town and country houses. They plunge into it as one plunges into a career; as a class, they talk, think, and dream possessions. Their literature, their Press, turns on all that; immense illustrated weeklies of unsurpassed magnificence guide them in domestic architecture, in the art of owning a garden, in the achievement of sumptuous motor-cars, in an elaborate sporting equipment, in the purchase and control of their estates, in travel and stupendous hotels. Once they begin to move they go far and fast. Acquisition becomes the substance of their lives. They find a world organised to gratify that passion. In a brief year or so they are connoisseurs. They join in the plunder of the eighteenth century, buy rare old books, fine old pictures, good old furniture.
H. G. Wells, Tono-Bungay (1908)
I think, based on my research and my conversations with Kraft, that Peter’s audio-equipment lust may have been aroused (“inspired”?) by Kraft’s fascination with his maternal grandparents’ console radio-phonograph, which was a Philco Model 41-610P, not a Motorola. They acquired the set before he was born, probably in 1941. It had several features that were far ahead of their time and would still have had the power to dazzle a boy even ten years or more later, including a “beam of light” pickup system that eliminated a needle or stylus.
[more to come on Thursday, August 12, 2021]
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