Sic Transit Gloria Mundi


It’s right over there…

I was walking on Park Avenue yesterday when a tourist with a map in their hands asked me how to get to Grand Central Station.

I pointed up the street and said, “just walk through the Pan Am Building and there you are”.

As they walked away, I realized that the Pan Am building had not been that for a very long time. It is the Met Life Building, and it has been Met Life for maybe 20 years.

Unfortunately, to me it will always be Pan Am, even if Pan Am is gone.

As is TWA.

As is Polaroid.

As is Lehman Brothers.

As no doubt soon will be Chrysler, The New York Times, Ford, Kodak and someday in the not too distant future, CBS.

What were once seemingly immutable and eternal icons of our culture, the anchors, in a society known more for its mobility and lack of cultural roots, are rapidly being swept away before our eyes.

Gone in the blink of an eye.

Pan Am once seemed so indestructable that Stanley Kubrick made the shuttle to the space station a Pan Am Clipper.

displayimage In the future, we would all be rocketing off to Jupiter on board Pan Am Clipperships.  Kubrick had Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester)  arrive on Space Station 5 (there were four other ones!), and then place a videophone call to his daughter in earth via a Bell Telephone videophone. (Ma Bell!)

Dr. Floyd then heads off to the moon, where the great mystery of the black monolith is revealed. (or sort of revealed. In those days, this film, accompanied by a hit of Mr. Natural went a long long way).

In any event, the premise behind the film (I think) is all about mankind taking another evolutionary leap.  But Kubrick, ironically, does not apply the same rules of evolution to technology or corporations.

(And these were the days before product placement)

Here are in 2009, 8 years after 2001.  We don’t have trips to Jupiter.  The ISS doesn’t look too much like Space Station 5, skype has replaced videophones for free, and eaten Ma Bell along the way, and Pan Am is gone.

2001 was filmed in 1968, 40 years ago.

One can, I think, safely predict that 40years from now, if not less, seemingly immutable instutions such as CBS or IBM or Microsoft may all go the way of Pan Am.

As I look east out of my livingroom as I write this, I am staring directly at the Citicorp Building.  I have little doubt that in a few years, that too will carry a different name.

The only thing you can count on for sure is change.


4 responses to “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

  1. To add to the names, and perhaps more iconic historically Wedgeford Waterford collapses in Britain.

    These alone started in the 18th century. Moving from artist pursuits to international businesses. They have moved with the times and reinvented themselves numerously.

    This but shows a craft and business at its pinnacle can suffer. One hopes that such brands will live on, albeit under a new regime.

    The power of the consumer wins.

    The comparision between media production is all to easy…..perhaps the vaulted brands of media need to take a good look at where they are heading. Social media, Web 2 has changed the landscape quickly, are todays teens going to consume information the same way in another 10 years.

    I think not…who knows what the next reincarnation of youtube will bring.

  2. CBS owns the web address

    They bought C.Net which owned it.

    Perhaps they could develop that into the next news hub on the internet? I haven’t heard anything in the trade publications, but it would be a good web address to have, if developed creatively. Who knows.

    They do have some good network programming and appear to be doing better than other networks currently. Moonves hasn’t hinted at any crisis… So there is no talk yet or rumblings in the press or on the street about networks shutting down operations. Networks still have the biggest brand names in media…

    ….so I would like to hear more of your predictions about network television’s demise…before buying into that prediction.

  3. Dear Eb
    I think the answer to your question is in your question itself. CBS bought, but they have not done anything with it.
    They could.
    They have all the resources they need to become THE dominant online news power in the world.
    But they won’t go there because they can’t.
    They can’t because no matter how smart they are, (and they are), the are incapable of seeing the world beyond broadcasting, much as they try.
    Just as Kodak (also very smart) could not see digital cameras, try though they did.
    You can imagine that if Google decided to become the dominant force for news online, they would not build another CBS News. There is simply too much to take down to make it work properly.
    It’s like when you clean out your closets, and then your wife does, if you know what I mean.
    You just can’t throw out those golf socks. She could not care less.
    Same with the networks.

  4. I totally agree with Michael

    That also sounds like a discription that would fit cultures, countries, and other industries . Just switch the names. Just one level up from war ?
    Problem is the casualties as this happens. depending on the which level , lives lost,careers lost, Social discord, Hell, this might be the reason for the rising divorce rate!

    Maybe what is needed is a way to adjust to Change.

    To understand that change can be positive and it doesn’t need to hurt.


    a THEM against US mentality.

    Its not a intelligent issue.

    Its a emotional issue its about survival instinct.

    Problem is we are the best survivalist on the Planet! and I might add off of it too!

    All the people of the planet and their leaders have to decide.

    In parts of africa village elders decide how many people can live according to the resources available

    I hope we have better answers

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