Little to report today, although in a sense there’s a great deal – but that’s for next week. Woke a little later, and got to have breakfast with the family for once; no more trotting out in the early AM while everyone slumbers. No coffee in a take-out container. For a while I went with a ceramic cup we were given last summer for our participation the Secret Project; it was fine, but coffee got cold, and the silicone lip made it seem like you were suckling from a grown-up sippy cup. Which of course you were. I also have a metal one with plastic innards; keeps it hot, but makes coffee taste like robot plasma. The only thing that worked for me were these Dixie cups made of some odd furry plastic-type paper, with a tiny aperture through which one sucked the precious ichor, like an astronaut.

This morning I put her on the bus and went up to the computer and drank coffee out of a cup in my sweats, the way writers should do it. By cracky.

Did a little blog entry on tiny bar I found in a picture from the late 50s. It was also a “cafe” and a “restaurant” and no doubt smelled of Winstons and Hamm’s all day and all night; given the neighborhood – in decline at the time – you’d find a few professional boozers there in the AM hours hunched over a shot, the sort of guys who spent their entire day at the end of the bar, ending up a muttering ruin by the end of the evening. I wouldn’t want to spend much time in these places, but I mourn their loss, because a neighborhood needs a splash of neon and a place where music spills out the door when someone enters or leaves. But that’s nostalgic nonsense, I suppose. More likely these were places were old guys spent day after day putting a pillow over the face of their own troubles until it stopped kicking, and started snoring. They’re not all “Cheers.”

1400-tap-room

Not often you get this: side-by-side package design.

kix

The new, the old. I like the new. But isn’t that how it always is? Oooh, new look, ergo I must remind myself I am an up-to-the-moment type of person by approving it! No, not always. I think the last ten years have been somewhat wretched for product design, with a forced ebullience throwing graphic elements all over hell. I mean, look at that Kix box. It’s just yelling at you.

Of course, cereal should have a certain energy, since that’s what it’s there for: processed corn fragments infused with sucrose to give you a temporary energy burst and the commensurate illusion of well-being. So naturally you’d want Phil Silvers, crazed, dressed up as a mailman.

I think if we could go back in time to a grocery store, we’d spend most of our time in cereal aisle. I would. Certainly not the meat aisle; nothing much has changed there. Red then and red now. Less rabbit, but otherwise the same. The music would be different, though – if I went back, I’d take a tape recorder to get the Muzak. In fact if I managed a store today I’d play the old Muzak; some could enjoy it Ironically, others could enjoy it for what it was, cool and distant, a soundtrack of idle consumerism.

Fans of this sort of stuff can find an example here, and it’s oddly haunting.


Dropped off
the taxes today. Felt poorer. Went to get my hair cut; got one of those stylists who talks a lot, talks slowly, and frequently stops cutting to wave around the scissors to make a point. Maybe it’s just me, but I want the cutting to be constant. Ongoing. I want there to be a regular process of cutting. When it’s slow and tentative I don’t know what’s happening, because I can’t see, and it’s like having a stranger dress you in a dark closet. Went to Walgreens to buy popcorn because I didn’t stop there Saturday, and it’s the only place I buy microwave popcorn: two boxes for three dollars, All-Natural No Gunk Added Mini-Bags. Got in a long line; eventually they opened up two more, and of course the people at the end of the line went to the head of the line of the newly opened counters. What is the matter with people? Of course, part of the blame rests with people in the original line, who either think they’re committed to this line and there’s no sense in shaking things up now, or don’t notice. I always wave the person ahead of me to go first, because I’m just a fine and wonderful person, aren’t I? Well, no; it’s just the thing to do. Today the woman in front of me told me to go ahead, because she just had so many things I had two boxes.

She did indeed have so many things: a dozen boxes of Peeps, assorted Easter candy.

“The bunny is stocking up early,” I said.

“Well I have to get them in the mail.”

“Sending Peeps? Who doesn’t have Peeps?”

“It’s these.” She held up something called a Chocolate-covered Coconut Nest. “My grandpa used to love these, but now they don’t have them where he is, and so I send him some.”

The things you remember. I recall my Grandfather always had a sack of those pink Peppermint Lozenges, which he would dole out as prizes for a game of Hide the Thimble. Grandma was partial to Brach’s, which could be purchased in bulk at better drug stores everywhere; caramels around a chemical-flavored center, often hard as knuckle-bones if they’d been out for a while. I have no idea if this was their favorite candy – who can know such a thing? – but if I was heading back in time I’d fill my pockets with each. That was the genius of those schmaltzy Werther’s Originals ads – you were either instructed to remember an imaginary Gepetto who theoretically could have given you these rock-hard candies, or encouraged to become one yourself. This kept you from wondering about the plague of Werther’s Copycats that must have spoiled the brand for a while, leading them to append ORIGINALS to the name. Even so it’s a strange name: BRAND NAME CHRONOLOGICAL STATUS, in other words. Werther’s Original what?

Went to the grocery store I used to go to all the time but don’t go to anymore. They have good pre-made meals, and I was on my oddy-knocky tonight; almost went for the herb-turkey thing with mashed pertaters and stuffing, but was seduced by the possibilities of a tandoori chicken sandwich on bread with an Italian name. The Muzak wasn’t; it was an 80s selection with pop songs you’ve heard a million times, and leaves you with the haunting image of an old woman, elegantly dressed, studying a row of pickles while Michael Jackson insists that he’s bad. God help me if I’m an old man and some wretched thump-crunk booms from the speakers while I’m shopping for supper, but it’ll happen; pop-wise, we’ve eaten our seed corn.

LATER today: Comic sins. See you around.

 

86 Responses to Tuesday, March 23

  1. Borderman says:

    Mark E. Hurling: Hamms, oh gosh…Hamms the beer refreshing. Do they still play those commercials with that jingle, or at least the Hamms bear in the Midwest?

    The log-rolling bear and singing duck pitching for the beer that captures the wonderful refreshment of the enchanted Northland does indeed still live: here, of course, and in the hearts and minds of boomer-era media freaks everywhere, but can’t say about TV in the Midwest.

    And please put me in the loves Peeps column.

  2. Funny about retail shops violating ASCAP licensing. I worked at local a toy store that had two locations, one in metro San Jose, CA and the store I worked in smaller Capitola, CA. The San Jose store had a proper Musak set up and the smaller town store used the radio.

    I assumed the “ASCAP police” only patrolled the big cities.

  3. Kurt says:

    I must fly too much; I looked that cereal box and pictured Kansai airport in Osaka.

  4. Thanks Borderman. Those commercials are forever associated with the long suffering Cubs (or Sox for that matter) fans who watched their teams wither every July for decades. You could hear and see them on TV or radio no matter where you were. Ubiquitous R’ Us.

  5. The new, the old. I like the new. But isn’t that how it always is? Oooh, new look, ergo I must remind myself I am an up-to-the-moment type of person by approving it! No, not always.

    This “old” is “new” paradox could explain the “newer entries” “older entries” mix up on the page template.

  6. bgbear (roger h):
    March 23, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Funny about retail shops violating ASCAP licensing. I worked at local a toy store that had two locations, one in metro San Jose, CA and the store I worked in smaller Capitola, CA. The San Jose store had a proper Musak set up and the smaller town store used the radio.

    I assumed the “ASCAP police” only patrolled the big cities.

    I figure, if you’re going to violate ASCAP, go all out and use a “Pirate” Internet Radio Feed. After a song by, say, The Who, break in with an announcement that “The Who, buy, use, and endorse our products! Be like the Who, and buy our stuff now! – and next up, Wall of Voodoo with Mexican Radio”

    And I love visiting Capitola. After my folks got rid of the way-too-small-for-seven-kids beach house our family had in Carmel, we used to stay at The Venetian. They also own a pretty small, simple, property in Rio Del Mar, The Rio Sands. Small, simple, and dirt cheap. But only two blocks from the beach and the kids have a great time.

  7. Borderman says:

    Those commercials are forever associated with the long suffering Cubs (or Sox for that matter) fans

    I’d heard this about the Hamm’s bear and Chicago baseball. My condolences, although the Sox finally hit the big time against Houston in ’05 as I recall.

    I knew the Hamm’s commercials because they sponsored the news on WOW-TV Channel 6 in Omaha, circa 1960. I used to get a huge kick out of that bear and his various misadventures, not to mention the duck, and her female voice answering, “Wah-ah-ters!.” Was so easily amused at that age.

  8. lindal says:

    Aged peeps are an Easter delicacy in my family. Also known as “marshmallow jerky”. I have two packages at home right now in the pantry with the plastic over wrap removed. Mmmm.
    Fresh peeps however, seem worthy of being shot at, that’s why I hide them in the pantry :)

  9. Capitola is nice and peaceful good food and stuff. It used to have a really inexpensive theater taken back from pron, really fun place to see a movie, primitive.

    When I first arrive in the county for college, there were people running around Capitola in red pajamas, followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who lived and worked there until he called them all up to Oregon which IIRC was to increase his local political power.

  10. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – for those of you who can’t get enough music to buy toasters by…

    http://www.ultraswank.net/compilation/retro-shopping-volume-1-music-to-buy-toasters-by/

    it’s downloadable!

  11. swschrad says:

    the Hamm’s Bear and his critters died when Heublein bought the company in the early 80s. there is a very active bunch of Hamms collectors in the twin cities area. it was fed by a brewery employee who was ordered to “clean out all that stuff, toss it, get rid of it” after the ownership change.

    why, of course, he rented a U-haul and stuffed his garage full. and the basement. and the locker.

  12. swschrad says:

    curiously, the Hamm’s menagerie is owned by the ad agency, Campbell-Mithun iirc, but you’d have to get a use license from the successors to Heublein to replicate the stuff.

    naturally, there are some folks who don’t follow the rules out there.

  13. Jennifridge says:

    I loved being able to hear the Kresge music. Still listening to it, in fact. The waltzes and lullabies are lovely, though some of the peppier stuff grates a bit. I’m too young, I think, to have ever heard this kind of Muzak, but some of it reminds me a great deal of the kind of music one would hear in old cartoons.

    If my druthers were a reality, stores would play the happy little tunes from the Hal Roach shorts. Hope the Lala popup is okay.

    http://popup.lala.com/popup/1657606157035864786

  14. Borderman says:

    the Hamm’s Bear and his critters died when Heublein bought the company in the early 80s.

    In the words of Chief Dan George in Little Big Man, “The white eyes do not know where the center of the earth is.” Ain’t that the truth.

    you’d have to get a use license from the successors to Heublein to replicate the stuff.

    naturally, there are some folks who don’t follow the rules out there.

    God bless ‘em. If you ever encounter that ex-Hamm’s brewery guy, tell him Wakan Tankan sends his blessing to the enchanted Northland.

  15. Paul in NJ says:

    So, it looks like the optimal way to distribute spots in the new line is for every other person (starting with the first one who is not currently being served) to go to the new line.

    Perhaps, if you’re an engineer with a curled-up tie. But, hey, I’d like to see you try and explain that system to the impatient people on line.

  16. I expected the Kresge muzak would make me feel all warm-fuzzy nostalgic. But O, the horror! The horror! It served to remind me of why as a youth I used to rail against such stuff. That was one of the few things about which I was right. I suspect they played it just to drive riff-raff like me off premises — making for a pleasanter shopping experience for the target market.

  17. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – there’s a volume two for that shopping music…

    http://www.ultraswank.net/compilation/retro-shopping-volume-2-shopping-spree/

    best of all it contains the classic shopping tune “happy-go-lucky” by laurie johnson!

    the site has loads more compilations!

  18. What I believe is called the “snake” line or queue (the other is parallel?)is the only fair thing for the customer. This is where you all line up together and wait for the next available cashier. This way you don’t get stuck behind the customer with a big order or problems or get dogged when the new cashier opens.

    I assume retailers only do this if they have the store space to lay out snake lines since from their point of view the set up serve the same number of customers.

  19. Borderman says:

    shesnailie:…best of all it contains the classic shopping tune “happy-go-lucky” by laurie johnson!

    You do mean the Laurie Johnson, a subject of Her Majesty and composer of The Avengers theme, don’t you? Wowser. Of all the names I never thought I’d hear today. Sherman, set the Way-Back Machine for 1965!

  20. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – yeah bay-bee!

  21. Borderman says:

    Apologies for previous. Unclosed tags. This corrects it. YEAH, BAY-BEE!

    best of all it contains the classic shopping tune “happy-go-lucky” by laurie johnson!

    You do mean the Laurie Johnson, a subject of Her Majesty and composer of The Avengers theme? Of all the names I never thought I’d hear today. Sherman, set the Way-Back Machine for 1965!

  22. Borderman says:

    I give up. Just click on The Avengers if you want to hear it.

  23. hpoulter says:

    Is it Happy-Go-Lucky, or -Lively? Google turns up hits for both.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdLYUdlF8kc

  24. Borderman, I got so disgusted by the Chicago BB teams I gave up on the sport entirely by the age of 12. Like watching paint dry as far as I’m concerned.

  25. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – ultraswank is listing it as ‘happy-go-lucky’ but wikipedia calls the song ‘happy-go-lively’ found a lo-res linkable version online as ‘lucky’

    http://home.roadrunner.com/~dasimperator/happy_go_lucky.mp3

  26. JerseyAmy says:

    Re: Inappropriate music in stores, last year my local A&P played Britney Spears’ “If You Seek Amy.” Not the sort of thing I usually listen to closely enough to hear the lyrics, but say the song title out loud and you’ll understand my surprise at an establishment playing it.

  27. Borderman says:

    the classic shopping tune “happy-go-lucky” by laurie johnson!

    The very sound of it makes me feel like————putting on my bowler, sending Mrs. Peel a message that we’re needed, and getting a few things for supper all at the same time! Not an easy thing to do. That Laurie Johnson is something.

    Thanks for the link.

  28. Borderman says:

    I got so disgusted by the Chicago BB teams I gave up on the sport entirely by the age of 12. Like watching paint dry as far as I’m concerned.

    The balance of skill and luck in baseball fascinate me to this day. There is no other game like it, and so for me there is no other game. I ignore giant egos and steroid shooters watch it for the game. I do know several folks who share your opinion about the excitement of watching paint dry, however.

  29. It’s funny you should mention skill, Borderman. I never really thought about that. High school got me hooked on sports where brute force and determination could overcome skill. Football, and throwing the discus, or trying to punch a hole in the sky with the shot put. In college I discovered judo relies on skill at some level, but I always went with speed and neanderthal intensity to win.

    Hope I didn’t offend with the paint remark. I need to think before I type sometimes.

  30. Borderman says:

    Hope I didn’t offend with the paint remark.

    No way, Jose—uh, Mark. I think here on the Bleat you can just write what you think, within reason, and let the chips fall. No offense taken, anyway.

    I realize baseball is not for everyone and I really do know several folks who share your opinion. Now that I think about it, the particular balance of skill and luck in baseball probably is what kept me interested all these years, and caused me to lose interest in the magnum force sports. I don’t know of anything else where the outcome hinges on such a delicate balance of luck and skill. Too much or too little of either one and defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory. Or so I’ve come to think.

    I’m not a particular fan of all his work but the late George Carlin had a terrific bit of stand-up about the differences between baseball and football. Nails it smack dab on the head.

  31. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – i know drying paint – from the sherwyn tribe – and he’s is an easy-going sorta dude. takes a lot to offend him…

  32. xrayguy says:

    Alpha-bits Silvers eventually morphed into another postal carrier name Lovable Truly, a tall, gangly Howdy Doody clone who could have been played by Sterling Hollaway in the live version; or Lumpy Barnam, he seemed to have more energy.

  33. Borderman says:

    i know drying paint – from the sherwyn tribe – and he’s is an easy-going sorta dude. takes a lot to offend him…

    Yes, Drying Paint is easy-going. And slow to anger. Like his uncle, Covers the Earth. They are the pride of the Sherwyn nation. And they drink Hamm’s.

  34. Baby M says:

    Snailie, thank you for the Laurie Johnson download. I feel strangely compelled to buy my wife a ’62 Rambler in stunning pastel turquiose for trips to the supermarket.

  35. Baby M says:

    When i was growing up, the stores that were too cheap for Muzak played Stereo 99, whose playlist stretched the vast distance from Mantovanti to 101 Strings.

    Most of the establishments around me now play oldies rock, which leads to hearing things like “Radar Love” and “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” in the pasta aisle.

  36. Thanks Borderman. I’ve heard that George Carlin routine and like almost all his work, his insight into the use and absurdities of how we use language is funny and yet thought provoking at the same time.

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