The Official Beer of NASA?

I walked through a room in which a television flickered and babbled. I heard an announcer say, "the official beer of NASA." I stopped and stepped back into the room."NASA?" I asked. "The official beer of NASA?""NASCAR," my brother laughed at me. "The official beer of NASCAR."Oh. Of course. While lawmakers get tougher and tougher with drunk drivers, the car racing business has an official beer. I suppose it won't be long before the lung association has an official cigarette and the suicide prevention hotline has an official razor blade or sleeping pill. Everybody needs a sponsor.But to get back to NASA, it hit me later that what I thought I heard is no longer far-fetched. The National Aeronautic and Space Administration is headed for privatization, and America's space effort will soon resemble Russia's, where rockets began to sport commercial logos after the Soviet Union came unstitched and money got tight. Space shuttles will look like vertical formula race cars with corporate decals plastered all over them. You can see the advantage spacecraft have over cars when it comes to advertising - decals all burn off during re-entry, leaving the tiles clear for new logos.Shuttle commanders will do ads for snuff and beer. "You'll feel as light headed as I did in zero G's!"Former astronauts have touted cold remedies for years, future astronauts will play the field."I dreamed I circled the world in my Maidenform.""Craftsmen tools like the ones that built America's space station."And so on. We'll probably see semi-clad, vaguely teen-age astronauts of ambiguous gender touting Calvin Klein. Hey, I've already spotted one in dishabille in a magazine underwear ad."Five-four-three-two-one-take off. Take it all off."Of course, there's no reason why it will end with NASA. The post office currently prints advertising on address change and parcel post forms. Why not sell ad space on the federal vehicles that zoom back and forth all day on official errands? Government employees could wear badges announcing, "Hi, I'm John Doe, Jr. and my work this week is brought to you by Zest which never leaves soap scum on your glasses!" Soldiers could wear insignia that say "I'm a Pillsbury dough boy!" or "The few, the tough, the Mercruiser Marines, inboard/outboard engines for fishing, skiing and fun!"Government forms could have perforated tear-off coupons, DUI tickets could advertise bondsmen and attorneys, tax forms will be sponsored by H&R Block.And if government is destined to be more businesslike, why should it stop there? Advertising is what keeps businesses doing business, but in the '90s it's downsizing that makes them profitable. Maybe we need to spin off some subsidiaries and use the cash to pay down the national debt.When Hawaii goes on the block hotel chains will queue up with cash. We can probably find buyers for most of the other states too if we get a good real estate outfit to write the ads. No more freebies for logging, mining and cattle companies either. It's time for hard, cold cash.Residents of Washington, D.C. will feel a little nervous about all this divestiture, leaving their longtime dream of statehood somewhat dimmed by the likelihood of being the only state left. But there are a lot of nice buildings in that little parcel of real estate, and tourists won't be stopped by a few dozen new international borders. If money's still a little tight, there's a lesson to be learned from the Berlin Wall. The Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial may be worth a lot more sawed into one inch cubes and sold for knick-knacks. That's downsizing you can take all the way to the bank!


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