Full-strength October in its officious, indifferent form. Rain and low skies. A weekend of much cleaning, and there’s a reason: several months ago, a young girl in Japan told her parents she’d like to take advantage of a program that sent students to the fabled land of America for a week, and they said yes. So I bought a steam cleaner for the rugs on Sunday.

The student arrives Wednesday. I found her house on Google Earth - strange, quasi-Western structures on winding streets with yards that are, literally, a yard. She will like Minneapolis.

The steam cleaner, by the way, came with instructions warning me that it was not a toy, and should not be used in a volcano, or on grass, or any other stupid thing directly related to a previous lawsuit. I was encouraged to register it online and sign up for Bissell Rewards!

I cannot tell you how much I do not want to think about having Bissell Rewards, let along keeping track of them.

But I think of the team that put this together. They didn’t ask for it. They were tasked by management to come up with some online component that would Engage Consumers and reinforce brand solidarity. They had a meeting. Ideas were scribbled on the whiteboard and everyone left the meeting thinking they’d made progress, and this felt modern and exciting. They could interact with customers with social media! People could get product updates by liking Bissell on Facebook! (Great idea, Bob.) Someone said: how about a program that rewards people for buying Bissell products? They could enter the product name on their customizable Bissell page, where they also chat with other Bissell fans, and talk to Bissell reps, and eventually they get a coupon for ten percent off cleaning fluids?

What would we call that?

I don’t know, Bissell Rewards?

And so after a year the idea was presented to middle management, which changed it enough to make sure it fit the company’s mission statements, then sent it up the chain, where it was approved, and handed off to a company that set up websites like this, staffed by bored coders who had complete contempt for this stuff and used half the machines in the office to mine Bitcoins, and some designers who ached for the chance to reinvent a brand, juice it up, maybe give it a hip twist that winked at the audience while playing off the brand’s, you know, iconicness.

The designers thought maybe a video would be good for the main page, something Buzzfeed-ready, can’t you see it? 9 Reasons You Should Be Watching This Dog Use a Bissell Steam-Cleaner Right Now. The steam-cleaner is marketed at people with pets, right? It’s a natural fit. “Because dogs sometimes forget how to dog, there’s Bissell.” No, how about “Accidents Will Happen” by Elvis Costello and we’re in a punk club circa 1983 and then it flashes forward to the same woman, older but still, y’know, rocking the whole New Wave thing, listening to Elvis on earbuds while she uses the Bissell to clean up the dog’s mess?

Slap that up in HTML5 so it’s mobile ready, put a carousel on the front page so there’s an option to see the video, or submit your Bissell-mess on Instagram, or check your rewards - oh! Oh! I got an idea, there’s someone who keeps track of your rewards, a real anal-retentive clean-freak, you know like Roz from Toy Story

“Monsters Inc, Jason”

“Whatever, you know what I mean, a gatekeeper figure. She has that Flo from Progressive vibe. She’s proud of you when you submit points and gives you encouragement. She can have her own Twitter account. Bess! Bess Bissell!”

So they mock everything up and it’s awesome and they send it to corporate, and eventually they hear back: it’s off-brand and doesn’t fit the marketing strategy.

The web designers look at each other. Faces darken; shoulders slump.



As ever: not a review. It's a look at the things one might glean from the images of old movies in the days before color was absolutely required to hold an audience's attention. Today:

Heck of a way to start a movie that takes place almost entirely in San Francisco, but it was one of the ways you could start with Institutional Authority. And brother, this is about Authority:

It's not enough to know that the highways teem with Commies; the red bastards are on the byways as well. This movie was one of the sort-of-documentaries they made in the late 40s and early 50s - a new style of "realism" that had a solemn voice-over and earnest G-men on the job against counterfeiters, bank robbers, heretics, et cetera. In this case we begin in the town of Phictionel, California:

It's "Lakeview," which exists, but as far as I can tell looks nothing like this. It's the location of a top-secret atomic agency! Well, it was top-secret.

A noir moment early on:

Unusual for the time, there's a visible head-wound, and blood. The killing of the Federal Agent leads to a manhunt in San Francisco, a city that's difficult to photograph poorly:

I looked at this, and wondered: could I find it?

I'm rather proud of myself right now.

Well, okay, they did say Clay Street, which helped. When they leave by the back steps, there's a scene I can't find or place, but I wonder if there's anyone in SF named Mahoney who has no idea granddad's dealership showed up in the movie.

That's probably a Coke ad in the middle, and if there was a complete searchable image databank provided by Coke in the name of history, I could tell you what it looked like.

Can't do SF without getting the docks in somewhere. This ship's easy to identify:

The Matsonia, as you might well imagine, was part of the Matson line. There's just one problem: the Matsonia was sold to another line in 1937, and was subsequently sold to the Army. So says Wikipedia, anyway. Poking around various cruise-ship history sites I note that there was another Matsonia. Wikipedia needs to catch up here. Anyway, here's the forerunner of UPS:

Rather rough bunch of customers; they look like they're lining up to take turns beating you. The Railway Express Agency began in 1917 as a government monopoly:

During World War I, the United States Railway Administration (USRA) took over the nation's railroads. Under the USRA, the four major and three minor express companies were consolidated as American Railway Express, Inc., save the portion of Southern Express that operated over the Southern Railway and the Mobile & Ohio.

Did you know that the railroads were nationalized for a while? They were returned to private control after the war. Well, 1920. The REA continued on until competition from the highways and skyways - to say nothing of the byways - did them in. The end was ignominious:

REA Express became embroiled in extensive litigation with the railroads and the United Parcel Service as well as with the Brotherhood of Railway Workers' Union. In November 1975, REA Express terminated operations and filed for bankruptcy. As a result, the first Altair 8800 microcomputer was lost, as it had been shipped a few weeks earlier via REA and never arrived.

Good work, lads.

Among the Red Villains, who meet in dark rooms and have vague accents, there's the fellow witht the devilish beard:

As with so many of his early movies, he gets beat up and / or shot.You can understand why he was happy to move to the other side of the law.

The movie itself? Yawn.

Work blog around 12:30 and Tumblr as well. See you around!





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