From Shorpy



Walked around downtown today because it had been a while since I did so. Snuck into City Hall with my collar up because I think the Mayor is mad about something I wrote. Went up into the skyway, and headed towards the end of the system, taking pictures for the Mpls site, checking out some new construction. There are big, big luxury apartments going up in the long-abandoned Gateway area, and I’d just finished a scene in “Autumn Solitaire” where Harry - the reporter - lays out the big financial interests at play in post-war urban development.

Not an easy scene to make interesting, so I set it in Peter’s Grill and dropped in a waitress I dated once. <joepiscipovoice> Once. </joepiscipovoice> Wonder what happened to her. Wonder what happened to all of them. I suppose if they matter they come back around, like a comet in an inscrutable orbit. My father-in-law told me the other day he was golfing in AZ, and ran into the guy who pulled him out of Yemen after he was shot down.

The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways saith the Good Book, but sometimes I think “mysterious” was mistranslated, and it was really “mischeivious.”

Anyway. The City today:


And outside the office, the glacier whose slow dirty death with be the yardstick for spring’s conquest:


It was a good three-mile walk. I know the Skyway by heart, and love it; the people who rail against it as a leech that bleeds off the vitality of the street would have us walk around in the winter with the bitter wind excoriating our flesh, because, well, Vital Street Life. Eh. When it’s clement people flee to the streets from the tall glass towers, and bask as they can. Otherwise, people like to leave the office for lunch without putting on mufflers and mittens, and stroll through stores, down transparent corridors that leap across the streets. It’s one of the things that makes this place unique, and the new urbanists would have us give it up. Why? Because it’s not as good as the theoretical alternative whose antecedents are based on 15th century European cities. We invented a new way of making cities livable and walkable, but now it’s bad because it’s on the second floor instead of the first.

Work, home, nap, dinner, drive child to confirmation. Said I’d be back and headed south, because - well, because there’s an ale my wife likes. It’s on sale this month in a suburban package store. I could get it on Saturday, but the garage door repairman is coming on Saturday, and because we have archaic laws that prohibit you from buying a car or a six pack of Strong Beer on Sunday, you’d best arrange your hooch aforehand. So off I go on Wednesday night -

RING it’s the phone. It’s the daughter. There’s no one at Confirmation. No teacher no kids no signs of life. Either the Faith collapsed and was disbanded and no one sent an email alert, or something’s amiss. Whatever: I go back and get her and we drive to the grocery store to while away some time.

Because there’s really nothing I love more in life than just strolling around a grocery store in the evening with my daughter.

She has an objective: Arizona Tea. She finds it. Her shoulders slump. She hands me the can and points to the label.

The overused Papyrus font. That’s my girl.

On the way out she tells me I could have saved money if I was an Extreme Couponer. (There’s a show about that. She saw it on Hulu or something.) I explained:

Nay. For example. The store had 5 Lean Cuisines for 10$. I bought next week’s lunches. Normally the price is between $2.80 to $3.49. There’s no manufacturer’s coupon in the world that drops them to two bucks. The Masters English Toasting Bread was $1.99, way below the usual non-sale floor price of $3.29, and below the usual discount that puts it in the low two-buck range. The reduced-sugar jelly never has a coupon, because they know that people who buy that stuff are not swayed by price. Remember, it was $3.29 for 16 ounces. We passed a display of regular grape jelly, same brand, $1.99 for 32 ounces. I didn’t take advantage of it, because the sugar considerations trumped price considerations.

It’s strategy. It’s intrigue. As long as you don’t kid yourself that you beat them somehow, you’ll be happy.

We got the beer. She was intrigued by the graphics on the Stoli flavored vodka, and wanted to Instagram them. Had to explain: no. But it’s just graphics! No. You are not instagramming liquor labels. It’s. Just. Graphics. NO.

I remember trips to the grocery store with my dad; one of my favorite memories. Because he got all the fun stuff. I do not recall him telling me it was unacceptable to post interesting Russian graphics on a world-wide computer network because it was not age appropriate. But that is our world.

But dad, it’s a conscious throwback to a graphical style that emerged in a non-consumer-oriented society, but nevertheless reflected the implicit visual imperatives of the very system its producers rejected!

If she’d said that, I would have let her take the picture.

Almost midnight. The dog just wandered over to the back door, wanting out. The day bores him. The day is for sleeping. He hopped sideways down the stairs and I thought he would wander out into the deep, deep snow. Two years ago every inch of the backyard had paw tracks. Last year, the farthest reaches remained pristine. This year, the tracks extend a yard or two beyond the gazebo. I see the evidence of diminishment, and sigh - then I look out the window and see paw-tracks to the end of the backyard, and wonder what compelled him to light out for the territories.

Almost midnight. Time to finish the column and make some popcorn and watch some TV. Catching up on last season’s Office. James Spader is marvelous and there has to be some reason Andy doesn’t marry Erin. I was outside having a ceegar with a friend who covers TV, and he was at a party with the woman who plays Erin. Just as adorable IRL and smart and funny, too. Give that woman a sitcom. Mary Tyler Moore + Molly Dodd, except she’s well-adjusted. There must have been something wrong with Mary Richards.







Let me run contrary to my own stated ideas and deeply-held beliefs, and suggest that the 1970s were not entirely a ruin from start to finish. Indeed, let me develop an entire website around that idea.

It’s been my goal for a while to make the below-the-fold section of the Bleat a nested update for sites - Product will have its own site soon, and tomorrow you’ll see the previously mentioned site no one wants or will find of particular interest. This will be a regular feature until I tire of it:



There’s a lot to say for the Seventies, once we’re agreed that they were generally and specifically awful in a way few decades ever were. Dispirited, garish, cheap, ugly, expensive, depressed, banal, with a glittering overlay of the most exhausted, noisy, insincere celebrity culture you can imagine. The decade did not last ten years; it was spent by 1977, blown into a million pieces by the opening crash of brass in the Star Wars credits and the howling guitars of punk across the channel. The period between 1977 and 1982, when the 80s started to feel like the 80s, was almost a settling of scores, as the people who grew up in the shadow of boomer culture asserted themselves and found it was okay to regard the hippie-times with a Billy-Idol lipcurl.

But that’s yet to come. Herewith, 1973:



You probably don’t know the guy in the suit. That’s Neil Innes, a parody songwriter I’ve mentioned before. As I said, he had the same gift Tom Lehrer had: his parodies also sounded like the best thing in the genre he was spoofing. This comes from the Lost Monty Python TV show, “Rutland Weekend Television.” Lost in the sense that it’s not available on DVD, as far as I can tell; Monty Python in the sense that Eric Idle was the main creative force. Separated from some of the other egos in the Python crew, he did some of his best work. You can’t always tell whether the concepts were distinctly his, or whether he was reusing what he’d learned in collaboration with the others. But you can tell when he wrote a sketch, because there wasn’t anyone else in the cast (four actors, including Idle) capable of his distinctive wordplay. There are low moments. Not everything works. (The example below almost holds up.) There were about 14 episodes, I think, and if you boiled them down to 10 you’d have Python-level quality.

Now then. Idle takes on Ken Russell in this sequence, so we have the 70s commenting on the 70s. He’s making fun of “Tommy,” and has his character watching a movie of a song performed by a platform-soled rock idol. Innes straight-up steals a Who riff, adds the trademark Townsend guitar strum, and comes up with . . . well, not his best song. But it’s the visuals that make the gag here, as Idle sends up all the Russell cliches.

If it seems a bit much today, it's because we don't have to deal with Ken Russell movies anymore. And Idle's Roger Daltrey wig and "Tommy" expression - well. This is the 70s making fun of the 70s, which is why I love it.




The fellow above in the pirate suit, by the way?



Not one of the regular cast. It’s the Christmas special, and he’s trying to get a pirate themed sketch into the show. Eventually he relents, and sings another song, and the Christmas special ends.

And oh! The font! Tomito flashbacks.


I think that’s how Idle got the Beeb to pony up 50 quid for the second season. “Of course I can get him on the show. He’s a mate. We’re even going to a movie. Honest we are.”


Texas in the motel postcards today! The usual places elsewhere. Click the buttons and see what you find.










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