Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions, and Lore that Shaped Modern America

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9780060535322: Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions, and Lore that Shaped Modern America

Pop culture meets pop reference in this irreverent tour of twenty unlikely events, innovations, and individuals that forever changed how we live today -- the food we eat, the places we live, the love we make, the fads we follow, the clothes we wear, the products we buy, and much more.

Veteran journalists Martin J. Smith and Patrick J. Kiger make the offbeat their beat, revealing the odd, surprising, and amusing origins of inexplicable cultural phenomena. From slam dunks to rock 'n' roll punks, permanent press to pantyhose, black velvet painting to point-click culture, high-tech diapers to low-brow entertainment -- they cover sports, business, music, media, film, fashion, and science, and explain a lot about why life today is so weird:

  • If homeowners hate yardwork, why do most suburban homes have lawns?
  • In the best-fed country on earth, how did thin become "in"?
  • When did the "convenience" of convenience food become more important than the food?
  • Was the sexual revolution really sparked by the disastrous honeymoon of a science geek?
  • Why are today's multimillion-dollar design and marketing plans for cars based on the biggest failure in automotive history?
  • How did the invention of air conditioning radically rebalance political power and affect the paths of presidents?

The untold, unexpected, sometimes unholy stories are here, providing instant inside knowledge and richly entertaining insights into how and why we live as we do.

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About the Author:

Martin J. Smith is a journalist and magazine editor and winner of more than forty newspaper and magazine writing awards. He is a senior editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine and is the author of three critically acclaimed suspense thrillers, including Straw Men, a 2002 Edgar Award nominee. He lives with his family in southern California.

From Publishers Weekly:

Who'd have thought that Willis Carrier's "Apparatus for Treating Air," an early air conditioner patented in 1906, would set the stage for the Republican domination of Washington that started with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 (by allowing for a population shift to the hotter Southern states)? Or that 260 tons of leftover turkey would help usher in a profound change in the way Americans eat and socialize with their families (by stuffing the first TV dinners)? Smith (a Los Angeles Times Magazine editor) and Kiger (a freelancer and regular contributor to Discovery.com) share 20 similarly significant milestones in this "Cliff Notes of contemporary culture" chronicling some overlooked but strangely influential moments in American history. A melange of strange occurrences, the book is brisk and frisky, addressing everything from the extracurricular exploits of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey to the way in which former first lady Betty Ford's public struggle with addiction presaged an era that would finally accept drug and alcohol abuse as a disease and not a moral failing. Though its yuckity-yuck style approaches the cornball at times, the book succeeds in placing into context the chosen developments in a breezy, compulsively readable fashion. Thanks to these two research-happy authors, readers may decide it's okay to restore that velvet Elvis to its honored place above the mantle, where it can enjoy a second life as a treasured piece of ironic Americana. All history should be this much fun.
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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