How things work: since I finished the Bugliosi book on the Kennedy assassination I've had JFK on the brain. I turn on the radio this morning, and the comedy channel is playing Vaughn Meador doing his First Family bit, with JFK teaching his brothers how to pronouce "vigor" in a non-Kennedy fashion. Nine hours later I'm doing a radio bit with Dean Barnett, who has a great Boston accent, and I greet him by saying we will ah have ah chowdah with vigah. But there's more. As you'll see.
Ah, Friday. I did nothing whatsoever to earn the relief I feel. It hasn’t been a hard week or a long week, but no one turns down Friday. This week was spent living the exact dream I have in January: sitting outside in shorts typing in the gazebo. World’s best workspace. Like all manifestations of Paradise, it got boring after a while, and I started to miss . . . what’s the word? People. Fellow humans. Makes me wish I’d done a better job anthropomorphizing my dog. It’s no better at the office, since I’m in Siberia so far from the Throbbing Nexus of the newsroom that I can’t engage in that witty, wry, cynical banter for which journalists are justly famous.
Where was my child, you ask? In summer school. Not the horrible real summer school kids dread, where you’re in a real classroom learning real things, but imaginary summer school, a program concocted to give parents seven hours of free time. This week she had two classes: Pokemon in the morning, and a cooking class in the afternoon. The former was fun; she beat some kids in battles, and noted with disdain that one boy actually cried no really he did when he lost, because he didn’t have any powerful cards and he said it wasn’t fair. The cooking class, more or less, was “sugary crap you can make pliable in a microwave.” Both were taught by high schoolers. This is the third? fourth? Year we’ve done this, and I’ve become accustomed to the mad crush of moms and kids every morning and every afternoon. The first few years I was frankly terrified that I would never see my child again – surely some fiend would know this place was ripe for pickings, and wander in to pick up a kid or two. Maybe a spare for later. But every day, there she was, hot (the school has no air conditioning) and exhausted and happy to see me.
If it’s any measure of the economy around here, I saw fewer dads this year than before. It’s still a woman’s world. As I was walking back to the car today I realized that I’ve rarely had a conversation with a mom that felt like we were on equal footing. If I was a “stay at home Dad,” it meant I was unemployed, and send the kids off to school with peanut butter in their hair and mismatched socks, then sat around the house doing God knows what, waiting for my wife to come home and make supper and take these things off my hands.
You know how you can tell the laid-off Dad from the still-working-in-some-interesting 21st-century-job Dad? Footwear. Laid-off dads wear leather sandals. Working dads wear sneakers. This is unscientific and anecdotal, but probably correct. I don’t know why. Some guys just default back to their last year at college when things go wrong – the sandals, the band T-shirt, the artsy wisps of facial hair. They look like big lost kids, some do.
Says the guy in cargo shorts and a Marvel heroes T-shirt and the Chuck Taylors.
Today's ads from a 1938 Popular Mechanics: this healthful occupation can solve the problem of uncongenial labor:
The secret? Train chickens to rob banks for you.
Crosley made radios - I have one, and you can have one too - as well as TVs, fridges, and many other appliances. (The current Crosley company was formed in 1976, and resurrected the brand.) They made cars, for heaven's sake. Also hair-restoring machines that cleaned blocked head-pores with modern vacuum action. Behold the XERVAC:
What a fine name for a computer that would have been. Now they have to be round names that sound like discontinued 1960s Italian vibrators.
GPS, the early days. The text appears to have been written by someone who was straining words through a thick sheet of canvas:
Looks like the eyeball of a robot octopus. I love these ads. They had the faith in progress and science without the sort of proof we'd require today. Xervac hair-restorers, Globular Maps you couldn't use without driving into the ditch, appeals to investigate the exciting world of stenchtastic chicken crap in your own backyard, marimbas sold on EZ credit. The obvious question: will they look at us in 70 years with the same mixture of amusement, indulgence, respect and outright hiliarity? the obvious answer: that's how we regard webpages from 1997. Of course they will. Or rather some will. These ads and the magazines from which they're drawn deserve respect - all the other publications were pushing gossip and fashion, but these guys were dreaming of streamlined trains and moon shots and beautiful planes and guns that shot radium beams and also a nice end table with a lamp you could make out of Masonite.
The back of the mag always had a Chesterfield ad. Here's one. I think you have enough smokes, dear:
Like these ads? There's a website devoted to them, and more. Highly recommended.
And now to finish the movie of the night – “Man in the Vault,” a B&W crime drama of limited appeal. At one point I noted that the protagonist, “Tommy Dancer,” had a picture of Lincoln in his apartment. Why would someone have a picture of Lincoln? Should we get a dangerous vibe because the guy had a photo of an assassinated president on the wall? Was this foreshadowing? The more I watched the movie the more I wondered if I’d seen the lead actor before, and I became convinced he had bedeviled Captain Kirk at some point. I was right: he was the irritating supercreature in “Squire of Gothos,” and the Klingon in the “Tribbles” episode, and some great DS9 eps as well. William Campbell. Who was married to . . . whoa. Explains the picture. Somehow ties the vigah-chowdah-let-me-say-this-about-that day up quite neatly, too.
This being every-other-Friday Friday, there's a Diner. MP3 is here. (The iTunes site is being uploaded overnight, and may not be ready for the morn.) Fun stuff at buzz.mn as well. See you there!