About twice a year I see an ad for a men’s clothing online store, and I’m intrigued. Until I click.

You cannot look at the catalog unless you log in with Facebook. This is like being barred from entering a store unless you hand over your Rolodex and your diaries from the last ten years. This is like being unable to open a Sears catalog unless you call them up and tell them your best friend’s birthday.

People expect nowadays that if they sign up for something the result is endless pestering, so you have to create an adjunct email that will collect all the alerts and emails and offers and everything else that pours in the email inbox like seawater into the Titanic’s boiler room. I am not alone. I speak for millions, he said, warming to the topic, climbing up on the soapbox with the conviction he was about to thunder forth essential truths. No, really - daughter signs up for everything, and it goes to an email account that is utterly ignored. But a friend Snapchats an Etsy item? On it.

I was looking at portable generators the other day on Amazon, so Amazon tags long as I prowl through the web, popping up with offers of discounted generators like a peddler with whom I made eye contact 20 blocks away and follows me, making wheedling requests to look at this nice item. It’s so needy. Book a cruise? Weeks of ads for cruises. The web is full of thick-headed robots with no style or finesse, crude algorithms that spit out “custom” pitches we laugh at like someone who showed up the day after the party ended and told the punchline to a joke we’d already heard. Its language is banal and tired; even the people who program the ad boxes at the end of this entry know the formula is played out. I was offered the chance to see a video today that would shock me if I didn’t know how to speak French, and I was encouraged to see it before it was taken down, and promised that I would be amazed when it was over. Of course the carney barker trying to get you in the tent doesn’t remember that he used the same spiel about a video aimed at people who didn’t speak Spanish.

What does get my attention? Aggregating Twitter swarms that coalesce around certain positions. I may or may not agree, and while you can say they’re made up of individuals self-organizing around a particular point of view, you can say the same thing about insects drawn to a bug zapper. But at least there are humans involved. As Dick the Butcher might put it: first thing we do, let’s kill all the robots.

In the gazebo after dark; crickets are loud enough to make me think my tinnitus came back. Dog has the zooms and is running back and forth with mad glee, pouncing on his big stuffed toy. It’s one of daughter’s old plushes, and I believe is a minor character in the Sonic the Hedgehog character pantheon. Ugly damned thing; he can have it. The eyes are too big to chew off, but you hear this clacking sound in the other room and know he’s thrashing it up and down on the hardwood floor as he attempts to break its neck. Awww! Puppy.

The fortnight of redoubled efforts has begun; the Fair starts tomorrow, for me, and I will be doing ten (10) videos. About what I have no idea. I mean, the first one is due before the Fair opens, and I’m doing that just to get one under my belt. I hope to shoot at least two a day because as much as I love the Fair, going every day is like a belt-sander to the soul after a while. To wander into the grounds with a tripod, not knowing what I’ll get - it’s an adventure at first, a job in the middle and grinding despair at the end.

In a manner of speaking.

Happy despair. I love the Fair, but it always means another year has gone and taken summer with it. On a more cheerful note! Disassembled daughter’s table, which was replaced by a desk donated by relatives. Don’t know when I put it up, but it had been a while, and of course made me think of its predecessor, the bureau that served as a changing table. The new desk goes in the corner, so no longer when I walk past her room do I see her sitting by the window. It’s entirely apt for the teen years, I suppose. The Zone of Privacy extends ever outward and solidifies from a gas into a gel.

I walked into her room tonight and she said “can I help you?” and I said “just exercising my right to come in at any time and look around,” and she said “privacy is dead,” and I said “it was never alive in the first place,” and wandered out, whistling.

Took daughter & friends to a far-flung suburb for dog-training. Five girls, five dogs. (I had three.) I never get to this part of town, and as reminded why; it’s a charmless urban strip that seems to be uniformly grey-blue, as if the City Fathers decreed a mandatory hue and sent workers around with buckets of paint. I mean, everything is grey-blue. On the days the skies are grey-blue and people make the mistake of wearing the same color you’re just asking to be hit by a car - which you won’t see, because it’s grey-blue. The only splash of color was the awning for a drive-in burger chain that went out of business, and I was surprised: they entered the market with great fanfare a few years ago, the most hallowed & glorious arrival of Sonic (not the hedgehog) - and then this one died. Why? The one in my neighborhood thrives, with cruisers in old cars and classic motorcycles pulling up to the bays for the authentic drive-in experience, but I have to tell you this:

It’s . . . okay.

Which may have been the problem. People tried it, and thought . . . well, yes, that’s a hamburger, I guess. Okay. A hamburger. Fans of Sonic rave about the onion rings with their hint of vanilla, but to me they’re onion rings that have, for some reason, a hint of vanilla. The fries are nothing special. If it wasn’t for the drive-in part I wouldn’t go back much.

But ah, the drive-in part is what makes it worth the trip. To sit there in the winter is wrong, and feels as if time is out of joint. But to sit there facing the sunset, even if you’re looking across a weed-strewn lot awaiting development, it’s a necessary American thing, and throws me back decades to the A&W in Fargo. I can attest to its superiority, simply because the cold mugs of root beer were pure nectar, and it was the first time I’d ever been served a hamburger in a foil wrapper that had parent-specific nomenclature. (Dad burger, Mom burger, Teen burger - all those archaic remnants of the nuclear family.) I had that. The drive-in by the house with monster movies on the weekend. I had that. The night spent walking the neighborhood in twilight, feeling not grown-up but no longer a kid, enjoying the privacy, feeling connected and safe - I had that.

The other day my wife mentioned a TED talk by a writer who specializes on parenting issues, and the speaker’s point was the difficulty - no, the burden of providing your child with a happy life. It put too much pressure on everyone. She seemed to define “happiness” as having all the options, to let your kid explore being an oboe player or a gymnast or whatever they wanted, while simultaneously tearing through self-help books about how to raise your kid to be a good chess player and obsessing over whether you were doing the right thing. Seems an odd definition of happiness. I’d define it as security and stability more than anything else, the chance to become yourself in a world that gradually expands and relaxes.

The speaker said it’s better to push them to do something that has a positive effect on other people, and to do good work. Well. Yes. People derive happiness from doing things for other people, but there are many ways to define that. Creating something in your atelier that gives people aesthetic enjoyment ought to count. If there’s anything I try to impress upon my daughter, it’s the need to make something every day, to earn your space on the right side of the dirt, and that’s what lets you go to bed and think you spent your ration well.

How do you raise a happy child? It helps to start with a happy child, and for that I’m blessed, so I don’t know what possible information I could pass along. The kid got my dad’s character, for the most part. I got my Mom’s, and have spent most of my life tempering it with what I saw from my dad. It’s all veggies in the blender.


The weekly look at commercial images and logos and such from the middle of the previous century. We begin, as we do often, with the Weekly Borden.

Pretty good work for someone without an opposible thumb:


Kills you beamed Elsie! Kills you beamed Elsie! Kills you!

Interesting look at their always turbulent marital dynamic: "Couldn't you be wrong just once?" Elmer sighs, and her reply is somewhat chilling: the Borden inspectors wouldn't let her.

Elsie's bad dreams are always about the Borden Inspectors.

When she wakes she's choking her husband.

  Elmer looks through the book and makes a bandage, and does so with effortless competence, it would seem. Elsie is SURPRISED and compliments him; he goes all shucks t'aint much but she twists in the knife in, as usual. If you can do something without screwing up, it must be a testament to the ice cream. She really can be insufferable.



Someone saw a great market opening: hair remover that doesn’t make you weep or open the windows. Ah, but how to let customers know? Run an ad that addresses the situation as squarely as possible. It doesn’t stink.

Speaking of stinking:

I remember my mom getting a Permanent. I had no idea what this meant.

It had a high sharp chemical tang that made the process all the more mysterious. Why are you doing that? Another version:

Get 'em started young!



This is a full page ad from a 1939 Life mag, and sums up a time when the Near East was still seen in terms of dissolute Ottoman satraps, I guess.

What empire?
Everyone got the joke right away: Sinbad the Sailor was turned into Inbad the Ailer, a remarkably clumsy little name. He’s going to play . . . polo, of course, and he’s up against Akbar . . . the Cossack?

“I thought you were regular!” Meaning, a good ordinary trustworthy joe, but it has a double meaning: I thought you had emptied your bowels lately.

Not enough ethnic stereotypes, you say? Let’s bring in the most offensive of the day:

Once he’s voided his intestines thanks to Saraka, he’s light on his feet and saves the game. But how does Saraka work?

That’s really more than I want to know. But if you want the whole story in comic-book form:

What’s sad is this, because it's lost.


It was a cartoon shown at the World’s Fair, animated by Walter Lanz (whose name was later removed, as you see above; wonder why.) No copies are known to exist, but it’s not impossible to think a copy might exist at the company’s archives. Or the ad agency’s archives. Who would throw it out? And if someone did, what the hell was he thinking?

A frame:

Da-da-da, da da, you can safely assume, is the stand-in “Oriental-but-not-Chinese” music we associate now with snake charmers. Interesting definition of “slim.” And “Nautch” means a style of dance, something I don’t think anyone knew off the top of their heads. But it’s Northern Indian, which explains the polo, perhaps.

It’s all a mess. And this is all we have.


Richie Rich addition; Tumblr around noonish or so - see you then!


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