Monday, August 15, 2005

Changing context: Burn, baby, burn!

The 1960s seem to be always with us. Rarely do you hear or see a television ad that doesn't have some sixties rock hit as its theme or background music. Now there's going to be a hot sauce that uses a phrase that was anything but benign in that decade: Burn, baby, burn. For those of us who lived through the sixties, the phrase conjures up images of Watts, Detroit and a dozen other places whose conflagrations had deep political meanings. Leonard Pitts, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Miami Herald, has written an elegant piece about the way the context of this phrase has changed.

Your first thought is to wonder what's next. Power to the People Electric Company? Off the Pig pork rinds?

Your second thought is to marvel at how that which was once dangerous and intimidating has become safe and unthreatening enough to sit on a supermarket shelf. Maybe you remember the title of that old Doobie Brothers album: What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. To that you can now add a corollary: What were once threats are now marketing slogans.

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