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Last week I was ruminating the advent of fads as I observed a duo of baggy britches cross Cedar Street at half mast. One had at least four inches of candy striped boxers exposed above the belt loops, the other apparently possessed an anti-gravity device as there were so many polka dots showing above his ‘tree line’ that I made an imaginary wager with the driver next to me as to the likelihood of nublear fallout. The expression on my face probably looked much the same as that worn by my dad somewheres around forty years ago when I was tryin’ to look cool in my bells, boots and rawhide fringe. History repeats itself constantly, with slight variations.

So, how long have fads been such a key part of our social demeanor anyways? Surely it’s not just a 20th century phenomenon. 

Was Genghis Khan actually just an elaborate Mongol fad? The Roman Empire? How about the pyramids? Napoleon? The Crusades or the Salem Witch Trials, communism, democracy, space exploration, environmentalism, peace, or even religion? Fads and movements can be difficult to distinguish. Maybe they’re both the same. My Webster defines a fad as a transitory fashion adopted with wide enthusiasm.

Simply put, they’re a very popular yet fleeting opinion on any one subject. Much like a wave in a loaded grandstand, they ripple through our loaded society and make life interesting if nothin’ else.

The subject matter can be an object or an idea or even both at once like Sarah Palin, or baggy pants and just how serious either one should be taken.

So I’ve come to the conclusion the fad itself may go back to the dawn of jealousy in our collective consciousness, as each begets the other if you think about it. And I’ve got a feelin’ it goes back a looong, long ways.

I can picture a big campfire near the inlet of a very prehistoric (and not yet popular) Lake Pend Oreille, out on the yet-to-be-named Samowen Peninsula, after an all-u-can-eat buffet of mastodon and huckleberry sauce. Sun goin’ down on another beeuteeful day. The kids are all runnin’ around hypered up on bone marrow as the leftovers are being processed into clothing and simple tools, while Uncle Bob rearranges the fire with his walkin’ stick. 

Using a huge hairy foot for a ‘sit-upon’, he settles into a task he’s done all his life which happens to be a major source of pride for ol’ Bob. He goes into a trance on a full belly while licking his huckleberry lips in the cross light of sunset. Bob is blissfully ignorant and colorful at the same time and forgets what he has in his hand. Even when a fly lands on his face for a buffet of its own…THWACK! 

Bob is painfully aware of only one thing; that was a really hot stick! He is not aware of  the charcoal design on his nose and forehead or that his hair is smoldering in a visually stunning way. Maxfield Parrish or Charlie Russell would have painted this scene had either one been there for the inspiration.

The rest of the clan notice how cool he looks with his new forehead and ‘live-action’ hairdo and as Bob contentedly nods off, half immediately fight over his stick and the rest ramble off to find their own. When he comes to, everyone around him is sporting facial embellishments of charcoal and “smoldering socially.” The fad is invented. Way to go Bob! 

It’s been one thing after another ever since. 

Sociologists have studied their cause and effect for generations and will undoubtedly continue to do so for many more as fads are as absurdly hard to predict as earthquakes. They know where the fault lines are but what happens next is anyone’s guess. 

Fads are extremely good for the economy though and are thusly taxed but unregulated by our government, who are secure in the knowledge that they’d probably ruin the whole thing if they messed with it anyway. The sales tax alone keeps us going as a constant source of windfall revenue that should only be regulated by Madison Avenue and Wall Street where the real brains are hanging’ out.

It all seems to be some elaborate intelligence test anyways. Maybe it’s a combination of ‘intelligent design’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ strugglin’ like two pigs in a burlap sack.

The human brain, being spongy and reasonably absorbent, can be used to justify literally any over (or under) indulgence it or other brains introduce into the system; most of the time without any further consideration of the consequences.

But as I was sayin’, kids tend to determine most fads as they have all the required spare time to devote purely to dinkin’ around aimlessly. Well, other’n Congress that is. Grownups tend to stay busy trying to either pay for or make a profit off of the new sh#t these kids conjure up to adore with all of their allowances and/or available credit cards.

Fads are extensions of our feelings, our outlook at the outside world. Whether we admit it or not they’re part of our politics and our hearts.

Your political philosophy can be read in the billowing of your boxer shorts as they make their way across the streets of life. 

I don’t mind fads in that they keep a lot of people busy that would otherwise be useless.

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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