From Shorpy


Wrote a long blog post on the end of Posterous and Star Wars cameos and animation and bad app logo design; threw up a tumblr post with William Bendix - well, containing William Bendix; he’s dead and not much use. Ran to the office, finished a column, did a video segment on the head of the Downtown Council, filed the column. A full day and a good one. I hate Thursdays. Wednesday more, but Thursdays just a bit.

Everything packs up into a spiky wad of things that need to be done on different platforms for different media. Talk for the camera! Write for the web! Write for print! It’s what I love, and come the end of the day I can look back and say “oh, shut up already. If I’m tired of myself I can only imagine everyone else.”

So now it’s Friday, huzzah, and all the pleasures that entails at the end of the day. Including, of course, pizza. And therein hangs a tale.

Doesn’t it always.

I’ve been using online ordering for my favorite pizza restaurant. Arrival at 7 PM. I hate to get there at 6:58 and find the pizza’s done, because that means I will not take possession at peak pizza moment. Who knows how long it’s been there! Who knows!

Well. Last Friday the clerk picked it up from the bottom shelf, which is not heated. I felt the box: not hot. I put my hand under the pizza itself. Not hot. Warmish, but not hot. He insisted it had just come out. I left. Daughter held it in her lap on the way home, and said it was hardly warm at all. When we commenced t’eatin’ the vittles, it was cool.

So I wrote a letter.

A kind letter; a friendly letter. I mean, if I ran a business and the new online ordering system had some timing problems, I’d like to know. I said I would continue to patronize them, but would use the old-style “phone ahead” method that has served America well for decades.

The letter I got back was quite astonishing. It’s either a “send the SOB the bedbug letter” or a great piece of managerial outreach. The manager said he recognized my name, because I always order on Friday, and have for years. Correct. He said he made sure to tell the staff to bring it out at the time specified, because I’d mentioned before that it was often early. Correct. He said the pie came out too early anyway, and he told them to put it on the bottom shelf and make another one, but the guy who gave it to me wasn’t in the loop about that.

He remembered my pizza.

You can imagine that my daughter suffers a certain amount of mortification when Dad Speaks Up; anything that draws attention or steps outside the most narrowly defined borders of acceptable public interaction is cause for pain. I am, for example, permitted to wax expansive with clerks while the ringing up is going on, but if I continue to engage on a subject after the commercial transaction has concluded, then I’m one of those weird guys who doesn’t get out much and just goes on and on and on. I do not want to be that guy. I want all interactions with clerks to be as jolly as the situation requires or permits.

There’s a clerk at Target, for example, whose line I will seek out just because her mood is so cheerful and constant. Naturally happy, but I’m sure it still takes work.

Anyway. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: Complain. Not with anger. Not at the person who has no power. Not in a fashion you would like directed at you. But complain. I had a billing issue with my home security company last week; complaining to the manager on the phone did nothing. Taking to twitter and complaining: the phone rang an hour later, and a very nice conversation with a very nice lady resulted in the charges wiped out.

Today in the mail from the pizza place: coupons good for TWO free pizzas.

It’s going to be a great Friday.







You may ask: why does a feature called “Listen” - dedicated to old radio oddities - have pictures from a cartoon? Oh, there’s a very good reason.

These are from a 17-minute film designed to inform the public of a new change en route, something wonderful that will revolutionize the way people communicate. It will be easier to have more of these:



(That color! They really were that red.)

People will be able to phone from their car:


And doctors who are fishing will get anoying alerts on their BellBoy paging system, telling them Mrs. Coswaddle is having a fainting spell again.



This wasn’t the future at the time of the ad; the Bellboy network was rolled out at the 1962 World's Fair.

The innovation? All numeric dialing. The old-style telephone exchanges, relying on alphabetical prefixes, were on their way out, and this would free up countless new numbers to meet America’s ravenous demand for new telephones. Explaining it all was a helpful little animated man created by the UPA cartoon studio, Mr. Digit.



His explanation helps a nice couple understand why their phone number is changing, even though they’re initially resistant.



The annotation notes that Alan Sherman wrote a song about the change. Protesting it. This does not surprise me; I’m not an Alan Sherman fan, and he seemed rather square-headed about things like “Change.” Here’s the song, which gives me hives.


You may have guessed why I bring this up. The woman who has the conversation with Mr. Digit:



It’s Peg Lynch, writer and star of “The Couple Next Door,” the show whose music cues I've been playing for a few weeks. Co-star Alan Bunce is the husband.



They’re older than they act on the radio show, much more middle-aged. Doesn’t matter. It’s remarkable to see them on film, even in short bursts. They had a TV show as well, using the original "Ethel and Albert" name of the show. (Due to ownership problems, it was called "The Couple Next Door" when revived for radio in 1958.) We only have the opening credits.



On to the music cues! There are so many; each week I hear something new. This was unusual: most shows had a theme, and that was it. Organ music in and out of spots, or some specially-written transitional music to set the mood. (The baleful woodwinds of "Dragnet" will be a post in the near future, along with the noir library music of "Johnny Dollar." "Gunsmoke" had about five cues, if that. There's an entire site coming along on this subject.)

These are different: it's the soundtrack of the postwar pre-counterculture American domestic subconscious. It's Housewife Music. It was never meant to be studied or collected; it's there to get you out of a scene and into a commercial. I've no idea who did it. These are little summations of emotional states, sometimes pithy, sometimes a parody, sometimes a happy swirl of delight over the boon and bounty of life, the view from the kitchen window. Four more follow - with a kicker.


Hard to figure out the mood on this; another of those “all’s well that ends well” pieces, with some comically rueful sounds that indicate husbandly comeuppance, then the glorious fanfare that always ended a segment of popular entertainment. You can just hear "Brought to you by Clairol!" or some such important piece of information.


This one sounds hesitant as it begins; it’s like a dancer making the first few steps before the routine gets going. You suspect the composer used it for housewife-to-the-market situations, adding an element of grace to the fast-paced rigors of modern life. And then: fanfare!


They used this one frequently to end a scene or the show. Does the job. Interesting syncopation.


Boilerplate with fanfare!


Hey, Frank, this one’s about piano lessons. Look in the index and see if there’s anything, y’know, highbrow. Classical.



Finally, something caught by an open mic at the start of an episode. I’ve boosted it waaay up.

Ouch. Something of an edge there, no? Waiting for her to get down from the room. Gone a whole week and can’t get here in five minutes. She’s really not happy about that. At all.

But it was her show, you know.


The entire AT&T spot is here, uploaded by AT&T. It's worth 17 minutes of your time.



Ralph at 1:13 is what I love about the guy. Did I say I'd do that? Guess I didn't. Heh heh heh heh. Not many husbands could get away with that. A

nd yes, of course Mr. Digit is Floyd the Barber - or rather, for some of us, Doc from "Gunsmoke." Howard McNair.


What a week. We end with the return of the Permanent Collection of Impermanent Art, aka Advertising Art put into faux frames and recontextualized as Important Art. There are no audio commentaries in this sequence. The entire site has been cleaned up and quietly tweaked, including the removal of the video on the main page.

Because it was hosted somewhere else that does not exist anymore.

Eighteen backups of everything, that's what I have. Eighteen. Except that file.

Who do I complain to?










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