Cloudy all day and cold and my brain said “you want something out of me today? Really? Sorry. I’m at Roatan in the sun with the ship moored in the distance, awaiting to celebrate your return with lobster and champagne." But I soldiered on. Wrote. Did more mass-scanning on the Strib Archive Reclamation Project. Tried to find daughter’s set of keys, which she couldn’t find, and realized to my horror she probably left them in the lock of the garage door LAST THURSDAY - if anyone has them, well, that’s the whole house right there, and it would mean replacing 8 locks. Had an email exchange with a Personage of Import setting up a phone call. Handed phone to daughter so she could take a picture for Instagram, because my phone’s better than hers, and when she handed it back she said “there was a phone call.”

Wha - did you -

“Sorry! I panicked and pressed decline.”


Called him right back and all was fine. This plus the matter of the Missing Keys had her feeling like she was a bit of a screw-up, and while you have empathy for the emotion, well, YES, the general parameters apply to these specific instances, so let’s find those keys. She looked through her backpack for the ninth time. I looked through her backpack for the fourth time. Scoured the garage. Retraced her steps last Thursday. Nothing.

“Well, look at this,” said my wife. Holding up the keys. Which she found in daughter’s backpack. On the first try.

“I looked,” I said.

“I looked,” my daughter said.

I’ve no explanation, other than my wife took them and planted them to make her look good.

Later, some tech support with a relative over the phone, which is like defusing a bomb that doesn’t know it’s a bomb and insists it is a cantaloupe.

If the following looks familiar, jump down here.

Matt Novak’s Paleofuture blog - not his own, or the Smithsonian one, but the Gawker one; the man gets around, as well he should; the fellow does tremenous work - has a piece on something I’ve managed to avoid reading about.

The "Internet of Things" is shaping up to be the buzzphrase of the year as more and more of our machines take off their dunce caps. But as history has shown us, a smarter gadget doesn't necessarily mean an easier life.

If our modern soothsayers can be believed, soon your refrigerator will be snapchatting your garbage disposal raunchy pics of your microwave, while your thermostat consults your lawnmower for stock picks. Or something like that.
But when all our devices are communicating and making plans behind our back to pre-order laundry detergent because the hamper says it’s full and the washer says it’s low on Tide, will this mean life is easier? Matt cites domestic sociologists who said that the standards of “clean” changed along with the machinery - if you can get something cleaner, faster, more often, then you should. Instead of doing the floors once a week, you were expected to do them every other day.

Interesting idea. I don’t buy it. The idea that the ease of doing laundry with automatic machines meant you were obligated to do them more often forgets the fact that “doing laundry” now consists of putting them in and taking them out, as opposed to standing over a scrub board for six hours. There’s no way dishwashers have increased household chore-time.

But will any of this make us happier? Not in the sense promised by the advertising, but that’s never realistic. For example: This is a woman dreaming of an electric coil heating element that can be replaced, and gives constant heat at the touch of a button.


Also a deep-fry component built into the oven itself:




But she has come to believe that things will ever be out of reach, and her disappointment is profound.


Until she realizes that the new Imperial line from Frigidaire - sold, I might add, by Frigidarians - has all this, and more. These pictures are from a 1956 Frigidaire film shown to retailers, telling them how the new line changes everything. It has Freedom Giving Features like the Brain Center. Everything has a name. Everything is new. Everything is a miracle of modern technology. Everything that came before was suddenly obsolete. Did it make anyone happier? That really wasn’t the point. The point was to sell stoves.


PS: Since Gawker sites let you annotate the photo, there are the usual observations: the housewife is an alcoholic, the container on the shelf is for her pills, and so on. This is what happens when your knowledge of the past is drawn mostly from fridge magnets that run bitchy sentiments alongside old ad pictures.  

That’s what I posted at the Strib blog, and I put it here just to remind you that Bleat-like things happen there. To expand on the idea, since I write those things in the morning when I’m in a different mood (I write the bottom part of the Bleat in the afternoon and the top part at night): I think the cumulative effect of having Nice Things does enhance your happiness, and it’s odd to pretend otherwise. A life spent among well-designed objects that make mundane tasks easier, or at least provide a more appealing aesthetic experience while you do them, is happier than than one spent around ugly things.

That said, those are ugly appliances to modern eyes - we don't see how the hard straight lines broke with the rounded profiles of previous design era. This was the future; this was a fridge that was indistinguishable from an IBM computer.

The ones that really stand out for me are the washer and drier, with those starkly minimalistic controls. Like eyes on stalks. The ads:



The names of these units says everything you really need to know about the era: the Pulsamatic and the Unimatic.

They also made a Super-Pulsamatic.



Some more bits and pieces to tantalize; more excerpts will be coming on Thursday at the Strib blog, where such things logically belong. First of all:

This was Google in 1971.


That’s how you found things in the back numbers of the paper. By the way, when did we stop saying “number” and substitute “issue”? I’ve never in my life heard anyone call for back number, or read that a magazine is putting out its annual Fiction Number. Except for the New Yorker, perhaps. But that’s what they were.

Anyway, the page above was computer generated. That's just a tiny selection of tiny type - I've forgotten the header; all those are grouped under something, but it's hard to tell what. The general theme seems to be H.

I used Modern Google to see what came up for some of the names - Paul Helm was a local radio guy; Don Morrison was a critic at the paper. What of the firebrand Deborah Hedlund, jailed by Judge Sykora? I don't know what that case was about, but: ha.

Anti-welf? Anti-Welfare, perhaps.

Now, a preview of something coming up on the work blog: the 1949 Employee handbook. It's a masterpiece of calm reassurance.



It's rather basic, but I can't imagine an employee handbook today that showed the employee throttling his boss. With one hand, no less.

That's it, alas - as I said, my brain checked out, and I've novel to write. See you around! No update because I forgot to lay it out and write it. As I said. My brain.





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