4 Infomercials You Need to See (for Products You Don't Need to Buy)

Infomercials -- as close as you can get to intentionally-produced visual white noise -- are great to fall asleep to. But as charmingly weird and hokey as they can be, there are very, very few that I would ever subject you, dear reader, to watching on purpose. Consider these products the sideshow freaks of infomercial sales items; gee-gaws and gimcracks so bizarre that one could only imagine buying them as a joke. But if we don't confront our mistakes face-to-face (Hawaii chair, I'm looking at you), then we're doomed forever to repeat them. In other words, let's get this party started.

The Hawaii Chair
This now-famous "hula chair" was featured on the Ellen DeGeneres show a few weeks ago, and since then has gone a good ways toward proving it deserves a place along other immortalized bits of weird junk like the Flow-Bee and the Pocket Fisherman. "If you can sit, you can get fit ..." It's the American dream! Here's how it works:

Rejuvenique Electric Facial Mask
Oh, you thought the Hawaii chair was weird? Well, you'll really look like a freak when you start using the Rejuvenique mask and the Hawaii chair at the same time ... no, it's not some Kafkaesque form of torture; it's like "doing 8 crunches every second ... with your face!" Intrigued?

Dr. Hos's Electric Impulse Massager
Somewhat akin to the Rejuvenique in concept, the fun part of this ad is less the product (quackery though it may be) and more the shill who's talking about it. Enjoy!

Almighty Cleanse
This amazing -- nay, holy -- cleanse is so effective, users never know what they'll excrete! Hilarious -- and definitely NSFW!

Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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