Today I learned that cell phone towers are being disguised as trees. Fake trees! Seriously. No word on the cost of a cell phone tower (and they are going up in droves) but several news articles suggest that a “tree disguise” adds $100,000 to the price tag, per tower! Sigh…. the strangeness reminds me of Jean Baudrillard’s ideas about America, and our strange desire for the hyper-real. Think: Barbie Dolls, Disneyland, “Reality” television, and Martha Stewart Living. I once read a special holiday issue of the Martha Stewart magazine in which Martha claimed she sprinkled a light dusting of snow over her sidewalk just before guests arrived, to give them the (simulated) pleasure of making footsteps in the fresh-fallen powder! I first learned of Baudrillard as a student of Kinji Akagawa, at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design — I remember being stunned by Baudrillard’s definition of simulacrum as “a copy without an original.”
Where was I? Oh yes: cell phone trees. While the pines here in Upper Michigan seem to be real, I have discovered myriad examples of invasive faux-species through online news articles. The very best explanation is given by Wayne P. Armstrong, Professor in the Life Sciences Department at Palomar College, California: “Fake Trees Are Springing Up Across America.” To briefly quote from Armstrong’s article:
Cell phone trees appear to survive very well with living trees, although they have a definite competitive advantage. Unlike living trees, cell phone trees do not require water or mineral nutrients. In fact, they do well in just about any type of soil. They even flourish in solid concrete.