Archive for February, 2011

Mid-century fantasies, sea monkeys and spies: my domed life

February 10, 2011

Of course, it's an ad for an electric company.

Sometimes life in a bubble looks pretty good, which may or may not have anything to do with Plato.

Nashville’s on-again, off-again interactions with snowishness keep reminding me of this ad in my stash of ’60s ephemera.

“Future homes,” the ad says, “will be able to face in any direction, turned at will by your electricity.”

The optimistic copy goes on to describe the clear dome as a “climate-controlled extension” that allows, obviously, the largely unsung benefits of tending gardens and snowmen simultaneously.

The round walls, the floor-to-ceiling windows, the cheery colors … this dream house is oh-so mid-century, distinctly engineered but also attuned to nature.

Looking at the ad’s appealing mix of domedishness and openness, I started remembering similar images that enchanted me while growing up. Domed wonders through the years:

Cute monkeys? Yes.

Aquarium finery with sea monkeys.

When I was little, those little sea monkey families looked so happy in the pictures that I’m pretty sure I wanted to live with them. I settled for buying some with my allowance money instead, but I found that the creatures (or “brine shrimp,” for you scientists) were not so much adorable as they were unidentifiable.

Also, not huggable.

The carefree picture was, as they say, where it’s at. Do they still say “where it’s at?”


Undersea mod? Yes.

Underwater living with Tony Randall.

At some point in my formative years, the 1969 movie Hello, Down There made its way to television. You might want to ask me to sing the theme song for you sometime. In case you missed it, an architect moves his family to an undersea glass house full of appliances that appear at the push of a button. Plot points include a miniature submarine, dolphin visitors and, of course, kids who play in a band. (Spoiler alert: The dolphins love the band!)

Just yes.


Romantic escape pod with 007.

Then there’s the scene at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me, where Bond and Agent Triple X float away in a deluxe escape pod. This, too, made its way to television.

There was the Cold War, and there was the threat of XXX shooting 007, but then there was also a bar and the bed. It was a most companionable pod.

Telling, yes? Turns out I’m super into pod living. And this progression seems downright fairy tale-like, now that I see these three underwater longings of my childhood and an above-ground, modern one in my adulthood to round things off. Plus, I live in a place now with a totally ‘60s kitchen.

There’s something here in these bubbles about happiness and intimacy. About connecting with the outside world from a solid, comforting place. About wanting to find somewhere to nestle. About generating our own charming metaphoric pods that we can take with us wherever we go. About real vs. ideal. And maybe about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. I mean, if the cave had been really cool with a pop-up bar and maybe rotating walls or whatever. You know what I mean, though — the philosopher’s take on mistaking shadow for form, gaining understanding and recognizing goodness.

I’m not sure what it all means, but I think if I can harness the promise of the sea monkeys, the exuberance of ocean floor living, the sensuosity of secret agent escape pods and the innovation of the ‘60s fantasy house, I’ll be set.

Also, I should probably buy a submarine.

P.S. I don’t really want a submarine.