According to recent news, everything is over. Apps are over. Facebook is over. Games are over because sales are soft. Reader’s Digest is over. They’ve declared bankruptcy and are reorganizing, much to the dismay of journalists eager to write the magazine’s final obit. What better proof that the old boring generation has fallen to the scythe of Hip?
For the boomers it was their parents’ mag, a middlebrow chapbook with kitschy illustrations on the back and the same parade of stories every month: I Am Joe’s Liver-Bile Duct. The Promise of Thalodomyde. Saigon, the Paris of Southeast Asia. A 600 page novel would be boiled down to 14 pages, which was quite a feat, and it was always something by Leon Uris. Somehow, within minutes of its arrival, the magazine migrated to the top of the toilet tank, as if borne to its inevitable destination by invisible sprites. Non-union, anti-communist sprites.
The print version will perish eventually. An app version would be nice, but such things exist already, albeit without the trademark comedy features like “Humor in Uniform,” “Laughter, the Best Medicine,” and the recently-added attempt for relevance, “LOL Tales from the Information Superhighway,” which consists entirely of emails from your mother that start out re:re:re:re:re:re:re Just kidding about that, but: if there was Reader’s Digest in app form with a share button, that’s what you’d get.
Wait a minute, is there RD in app form? Checking . . . there is. Well, good for them, but good luck. The entire web is the Reader’s Digest, in a way.
At least it was a piece of shared culture: I read it because I liked the pillar features, liked to test my Word Power. Because you know, it Paid to Increase Your Word Power. That was the name of the vocabulary feature, written by - altogether now - Peter Funk. He inherited it from his father, WIllard, of the Funk and Wagnalls Funks. I suppose as a kid I imagined Mr. Funk going to his office at the Reader’s Digest building, and spending all month on 20 questions. Tall fellow, black glasses. He’d put on his hat and take the train to New Rochelle at 5 PM. G’night, Miss Anderson.
“Good night, sir. Did you finally find a word for the 14th position?”
“I did indeed. Perspicacious.”
It came month after month, year after year, and one year I saw a letter from RD that said we had been gifted a sub from Victor Monson. Grandpa. It was his annual Christmas gift. He died and Grandma died and the magazine stopped coming. I was off to college by then. One trip home I went downstairs to the bathroom, and there wasn’t any Reader’s Digests.
A cultural institution. Deep nostalgic appeal, deep roots in the post-war middlebrow culture. Part of my childhood, friend to many idle hours.
Never bought an issue. Never even considered it.
Setting up an interview today, I went to a trade association’s website. It’s well-designed, full of pertinent info and press releases, easy to navigate. And, on the right, where there should be some news or perhaps a Commitment to a Statement of Principles, there’s this:
Turpis nisi adipiscing integer scelerisque, ac lundium lacus ultricies hac adipiscing cursus, quis dignissim elementum porttitor scelerisque lundium! Vut, mattis, et duis pid sit ac scelerisque nascetur? Auctor diam pid? Est scelerisque aliquam sit ultricies dapibus mid porttitor, vel, amet. Elit, sit, dis, nisi? Et nisi hac habitasse cursus magna vel sit dictumst et pulvinar?
Heading only base storage, and Lund's this storage tank running, any investment element feasible pollutants Lund! Vut, comprehensive, and it's pid and pollutants will be born? Pid author platform? Joomla is a fast ferry mid protein, or, really. Environment, it is the gods, except? And unless this information or information and is used?
Note: this website has to do with petroleum products. Base storage, storage tanks, feasible pollutants, Environment - what are the odds that a scrap of Latin boilerplate would fit so well?
Unless it doesn't. Another translation engine comes up with something quite different:
Unseemly if not to come up to whole crime , and lundium a hollow ultricies this side to come up to a race , anyone dignissim first principle porttitor crime lundium! Vut mattis , and duis pid he is and crime nascetur? Person responsible diam pid? Is crime some he is ultricies seneschal mid porttitor , or amet. Elit , he is , rich , if not? And if not this side habitasse a race magna or he is word and dust?
Is the rich man a race magma, or word and dust? It’s almost haunting. Probably had no children. Hollow ultrcies, you know.
A big lesson today, including something by an illustrator whose work you've seen but name might be new. Let's begin with nasty diet food.
I suspect that some people may have accepted substitutes, just because they didn’t like The Man telling them what to do.
Or in this case, the Woman.
Tillie appears to be looking off camera towards someone she didn’t want to see here during this photo shoot. But appearances, appearances. Tillie was a real person, as you might suspect; this seems to indicate people should be familiar with her, or at least have heard her name. Well: Tillie Lewis introduced the pomodoro tomato to America, started a cannery, and expanded her business until it was the fifth-largest cannery in America. She started the diet line in 1952, and I’ll bet that stuff was about 82% saccharine. A Time magazine profile, which I can’t read beyond two grafs because I’m not a subscriber, said:
In Manhattan's elegant St. Regis Hotel last week, a waiter carried two tomatoes on a tray into the suite of Mrs. Tillie Lewis of Stockton, Calif. She was aghast at the bill ($1). "You tell Vincent Astor,"* said Mrs. Lewis as she signed the check, "that these tomatoes cost him no more than 5¢ apiece, that's 1,000% profit." Said the waiter: "I guess you know your tomatoes."
The waiter didn't know it, but he was indulging in an understatement.
Oh, it had Sucaryl, too?
Concerning that wonder chemical, wikipedia says:
Some people find it to have an unpleasant aftertaste, but, in general, less so than saccharin or acesulfame potassium. It is often used synergistically with other artificial sweeteners, especially saccharin; the mixture of 10 parts cyclamate to 1 part saccharin is common and masks the off-tastes of both sweeteners.
Win-win for lose-lose, I guess. People used to complain about the taste of “dietetic” foods, and that’s why. The aftertang. Like a new filling. Priceless all-American discovery-by-accident story:
Cyclamate was discovered in 1937 at the University of Illinois by graduate student Michael Sveda. Sveda was working in the lab on the synthesis of anti-fever medication. He put his cigarette down on the lab bench, and, when he put it back in his mouth, he discovered the sweet taste of cyclamate.
It’s been banned in the US, as well as the Philippines, where it was known as “Magic Sugar.”
Some more delites:
“Diet Pudding.” Not Diet Chocolate Pudding, but Diet Pudding. Just to tell you which attribute they worked on the most.
Doesn’t matter what it tastes like. It’s Dressing. That’s all you need to know.
Stare into the eyes of the Carter Ink Cat, and ask yourself why the Japanese understand “cute” in a way that eluded America:
I mean, that’s the pet for the Karo Kid. Some nice products in the ad:
Midnight Blue Black. Hunting Red. Gosh, I wonder if there’s any company records that would yield more examples of packaging from the company’s long, rich past. This fellow has the bad news:
"Richard Carter died in 1949 and the company went into decline. It was sold in 1975 to Dennison Manufacturing Company. The new Dennison management looked over their acquisition with the hard, beady eye of the accountant and determined that the company records dating back to the 1860's, those meticulous records of ink experiments and contracts for house brands of ink, were more a liability than an asset. When they could not be foisted off on any library as a tax write-off, the records were dumped in a landfill.:
Augh. We do have this nice image of a 1920s bottle for “Ryto” (Write / Right-to?) ink. Quite religious.
Lots more here: beautiful.
BEANIE. I'D LIKE TO THINK HE WAS CALLED BEANIE
Coffee used to have a mascot. Everyone had a mascot. Except perhaps the American Association of Product Mascots. Notice how Beanie swings wildly from varieties of coffee to fear and mortality.
People think the government is overly regulatory and intrusive these days? At least they’re not banning tinted margarine.
Yes, in some states you had to buy it white and knead it to spread a color packet so it looked like butter. The dairy lobby hated that.
But they’d have to adjust to a new world:
Who lost to Reddi Whip? Qwip.
I googled around for more Qwip ads, and found this:
Looks . . . like early 50s Disney? Signature: Kelsey + Justice.
Dick Kelsey? Google . . . ah. Bill Justice. Disney guys both. Here's some more:
Don't you wish Qwippy was still around? He is. On the other side of the planet.
That word. I do not think it means what you think it does.
Usual stuff in the usual places - there will be a Strib Blog, even though it's Presidents' Day. See you around!