Needing Mouse Milk to soak the rusted nuts and threads of 3/4" threaded steel rod, I visited our local hardware store which has a reputation for having everything that can't be found at a Home Depot. But even this store had never heard of Mouse Milk, an obscure brand of penetrating oil we aviation technicians swear by. Time being of the essence, I bought a can each of two other brands of penetrating oil, one called Rust Buster, and the other an "improved" formulation of Liquid Wrench. The Rust Buster can labeling was a dense tabloid of self-promotion, a third of which were detailed illustrated instructions on how to demonstrate its superiority to other brands. Put Rust Buster into a styrofoam cup and the other brands to be compared into other styrofoam cups and watch as within a few seconds the Rust Buster completely dissolves its cup while the other brands sit dormant as water in theirs. Later, having exhausted the Rust Buster can saturating the heavily rusted threaded rod ends and nuts, I began applying the Liquid Wrench. The Liquid Wrench can labeling was not as densely flamboyant and the Rust Buster's, but the Liquid Wrench company has at least as active a marketing department as Rust Buster's, because as soon as the Liquid Wrench hit the rusted metal it fizzed and boiled furiously for a few seconds before settling down. Here, I thought, is proof positive we have degraded from a culture of intellect to a culture impressed only by gaudy image, that the makers of a product so mundane as penetrating oil felt compelled to add spectacular visual "proof" their product works, one by pretending that dissolving plastic styrofoam equates to dissolving rust, the other by pretending that adding an agent to make the oil "fizz" on contact makes it penetrate faster or more deeply. The operative word in all that is "pretend", because that's all that image is, a pretense. That our culture is saturated by this kind of pretense right down to something so prosaic and workaday as penetrating oil is evidence of a deep and disturbing corrosion in our regard for common sense. If we can be impressed and persuaded by such juvenile circus tricks, we're easy pickings for the most ruthless among us. And that can't be healthy.