From Shorpy


The sun came out and melted much of the snow. This helps. The yard is still snowier than it was two weeks ago, and the yard should not be snowy at all, but a few more days of this and we’ll have turned a corner. But we’re always turning corners. You turn four corners, you’re heading in the same direction you were when you began. Four corners, four seasons. Life is a walk around the block.

Is it better for your walk around your block to be against the traffic, or with it? People are more engaged when walking down a street where the traffic flows in the opposite direction. It invigorates you. When the traffic is going past you in the same direction you feel as though you’re being tugged along by a wind you can’t quite detect, left behind at the same time you’re impelled forward.

What else is around the corner? Prosperity, in the old Depression adage. Just around the corner. Never has an empty phrase been skewered by an image like this. (Note: googling for the cartoon, I found a page by someone who was also influenced by the New Yorker 1925 - 1950 collection of cartoons as a kid, and studied every image. Give it a read; she found something in a cartoon i’d seen a hundred times, but never noticed.)

Anyway. We think of corner-turning as good, right? No one ever speaks of a reversal of fortune by saying “man, he really turned a corner there, hard.” Another thought: most people would visualize “turning a corner” as a 90 degree turn, unless they’re left handed. Or not? I’ve no idea. If you’re left handed, do your intuitions and preconceptions favor the left, and if so, does that mean you’re more aware of the biases built into a world made by right-handers? It does? Freak.


Something I noted at Target on Saturday. Brace yourself people because TRISCUIT REDESIGNED THE BOX.

Again. They did this just three years ago. The old version was sedate and stately compared to the 2010 version. The new version makes the 2010 version look like the ones it replaced. I like it. I was with Gnat at Target, coming back from a rare Saturday piano lesson - she was dragooned to accompany me on errands - and we had a conversation about the box, and why it was different. This was slightly embarrassing for her but not that much, because she was interested.

The other stuff I did in the store was embarrassing, such as talking out loud about menu plans for the week. This may get back to her friends by some secret underground network adults cannot discern, like the vibrations of galactic strings of dark matter. HA HA YOUR DAD MUTTER SOMETHING ABOUT TACOS or such. I understand that it is my role as a parent to be transparent in public, but the more I get the sense I should be quiet and dull and refrain from exhibiting manifestations of personality, the more I amp up the chatter.

I note with interest that this does not apply to interactions with Dale, the Heart and Soul of Target, and one of my favorite people on the planet. Dale has cerebral palsy, which constrains the purity of his utterances, but he is smart and funny and one of the happiest people I have ever met; his job at Target may not be the entirety of his life, but it’s a wonderful part. We have this schtick where I pretend to almost run into his wheelchair with my shopping cart and say “get out of the way, man, c’mon” just to horrify everyone in earshot. Daughter gets it. Dale’s like any friend you bump into at the store and make a joke. His wheelchair and disability are irrelevant to the essential nature of Dale.

We found some items in the frozen aisle - Jimmy Dean - that were caught between brand-wide redesigns, and compared and contrasted. We discussed how you use the “stroke” function in Photoshop to make the lettering pop. I have a deeeevious plan here.

I want her to go into advertising.

Which is to say, I want her to have an artistic career, and pay the rent.

Is that so bad?

Mind you, I don’t say this to her. Just laying some foundations.






You know, it's not like I have a lot of material for this subject.

I'm adding more pages for the 1970s Sears catalog site, which was severly underpopulated. Usually I get 100 pages out of one of those things. I don't know how I missed this the first time around:



I had no idea Princess Leia was a Sears model in 1973.

No, I'm afraid I have to go back to the Mary Tyler Moore show, but not for the show itself, and not for anything that was good about the things I'm going to show you. On the contrary. But the "redeemable" part comes from the fact that the show had good pictures of something awful. Which was, and is:



Behold, the future of City Living. This was Cedar Square West, an enormous project I've discussed here before. It was derided for its Mondrian facade; some people hated the colored squares, but it was probably the only thing that gave it personality. Mary Richards moved to the complex in the last few seasons, and they shot some footage which captured the place when it was fresh and new and the fountains worked.



Perhaps you've noted the problem with the place: barren, abstract, brutalist, and so oppresive in spirit that the fountains shoot down.

It had nice views . . .



But only inasmuch as you could glimpse the part of town that did not have Cedar Square West. If they'd had their way, though, this view would ahve been more of the same. The original plan blundered through the neighborhood for blocks, leveling everything, replacing it with the latest in human storage-boxes:



The developers imagined a cosmopolitan village filled with young professionals and Section 8 housing and student flats and old-folks homes, all living in a modern megalopolis of comfort and urban amenities. In the end it became almost entirely Somali.

The panels were redone a few years ago.



When it rains it looks like the cover of "Who's Next." Its revitalization of the surround neighborhood has been slow. At best.



The MTM show has some other architectural notes:



This is from the later seasons as well, and it was a rather sloppy choice. The trees obscure the framework of the IDS Center, which is under construction - hence the enclosed sidewalks. The buses: that's the old paint scheme, long forgotten. The streetlights - barely visible - are the ur-60s embellishments of the Nicollet Mall, which was in the news again today. It's due for another refresh, and this means taking into account the way it will be used in the future. Because of global warming.

"We are going to be wetter and colder and hotter and drier 20 and 50 years from now and this mall's going to have to accommodate that," said committee member Betsy Hodges.



Note the City Council member - Sandy Colvin Roy - who says, at the end "Get 'Mall' out of the name. It's just so . . . retro."

The entire concept is just so . . . retro, of course - cities stopped blocking off downtown streets for pedestrian /bus paths long ago. That was another brilliant idea by the Grand Idea Consortium that periodically deigns to redesign our cities on our behalf. As it happens I love the Mall. I like Denver's version; I think Copenhagen's version is barren deathstrip; I'm glad Fargo ripped up their take. It depends. But the term "Mall" means something else here; it's what the street is called, and I fear it will be relabled something like "Promenade" or "Plaisance" or something equally banal. I'm not saying "Nicollet Mall" is a great name, because it's not.

But it's the name it's had for forty years.

Not a reason to keep it, I suppose, but I just get the shivvers when I hear a public official with no small amount of pull tell the planners to drop the name because she thinks it's retro. I mean, watch that clip: do you think anyone who has to face that panel again will come to her with "mall" in the title of anything?

Anyway. That's Friday's column.

Since the opening credits showed the IDS center fully built and occupied by Mary on the escalator, Mary on the balcony restaurant, and Mary windowshopping, this might mean the episodes existed in a previous year, except of course that would be nonsense. In the same season, this:



The Farnham office supply store. Which was demolished for the scaffolding and framework of an earlier shot.

It's like you can't trust TV for anything.




Er . . . yes? you ask. so? Night time. Don't tell me it's actually daytime and this was taken during the great Tar Flood During an Eclipse of 1967, and they're passing it off as nighttime. No, it's the night. But it's what you see. The neon signs for the Curtis on the left, and the Leamington on the right. (Both links go to the new & improved versions of the sites, by the way. I particularly recommend the Leamington site to mid-century enthusiasts, who will find an enormous brochure scanned in its entirety.)


All of which brings us back to a lovely, peculiar structure that shouldn't have survived, but did. It awaits you now as today's update.













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