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Arts & Culture

Bumper Stickers Wax Philosophical in New Book

“Remember my name. You’ll be screaming it later.”

I’m stuck at a red light on India Street and Laurel, behind what appears to be a 1990’s Honda Civic. And I’m being subjected to one of the oldest (and most cringe-worthy) pick-up lines in the book. Via bumper sticker.

Do you kiss your wife with that mouth? I want to say, sticking it to him. Pun intended. After all, this is a story about bumper stickers, quite possibly the punniest bits of wisdom pre-Twitter.


Instead, I find myself thinking about how these one-sentence witticisms provide a raw glimpse into someone's otherwise-mysterious psyche. Would I be just as offended by this nondescript young gentleman if I ran into him at a bar?

What if we were all forced to decorate - or deface - our vehicles by slapping one on? And most importantly, what would yours say?

For those entranced by the cult of bumper stickers, author (and Coronado native) Jack Bowen has a book for you.

His “If You Can Read This: This Philosophy of Bumper Stickers” relies on Plato, pop culture, and decades worth of sticker stock to dissect the meaning behind those other highway billboards.

From “Free Tibet” to “Life is Just Like a Straw – It Sucks,” Bowen explores the symbolism and deeper philosophical meanings behind such credos, even providing a nifty visual glossary of Darwin vs. Creation fish.


And he’s not just another roadside prophet – his C.V. includes the best-selling “Journey Through The Landscape of Philosophy” and a documentary with Richard Dawkins and Leonard Susskind, The Nature of Existence.

He’ll also be in town this week for some book signing (and in the studio for a These Days interview). I thought it’d fun to find out some of the KPBS crew’s best and worst bumper sticker sightings.

Arts and Culture Producer Angela Carone was aghast when she spotted “If you keep riding my ass, you'll have to pull my hair" in traffic.

Meanwhile, Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce adores "Whirled Peas" and "Kill Your Television." His least favorite?

"Probably those “my kid made the (blah, blah school) honor roll," says Joyce. I agree (this one's covered extensively by Bowen in the book, by the way.)

As for Erik Anderson, Editor and ATC News Anchor:

“My Favorite: Tolerance."

A good philosophy to have, indeed, when sharing the road.

Author Jack Bowen will host book signings at Bay Books in Coronado this Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Warwick’s this Monday at 7:30 p.m.

Culture Lusters, what are some of your most memorable bumper stickers?