The boss sat down in a curious desk tucked in a niche in the back of the office. He mentioned how a previous editor had been known for jamming in desks everywhere, back when the paper was pressed for space. He leaned forward and said with portentious deliberation:

How were the Swedish Meatballs?

I said they were fine. The noodles were firm, the sauce was rich, and - well, it’s a small thing, but the meatballs were uniformly shaped and perfectly spherical, which suggested they were machine-made. Hand-made meatballs have contours and vary in dimension.

He nodded and wrote something down. Then he took two pieces of string and taped them to a low hanging beam, after which he ran the point of his pencil along each. He did this until I uttered some sort of sound, at which point he smiled and held up a sign that had a 4 over a 6. It seems that impatient employees get a 6 over a 6. Very patient employees got a one over a six.

Then the dog barked once and I let him out of the bedroom. Tried to get back into the dream, but it was no use. I think my standards for Swedish Meatball judging were pretty good, and I was curious why they mattered.

My Christmas shopping is done. This is not entirely surprising, since I’ve been living three weeks in the future for some time now, but its heartening. (By living in the future I mean this: I have a Fields Notes book open on my desk at all times, with lists of things to do, and the one dedicated to the website is open to the page for the first week of 2015) I did it all online for the most part, although I know I will go to the mall for the old-style experience where photons bounce off objects and ping into your eyeballs and your brain processes the information, directing your hands to manipulate and judge the object. I know: archaic.

Yesterday I got out the bag that contained items with seasonal hues, flavors, patterns, aromas, and iconography. Meaning: a bag into which I’d put stuff from Target runs. The Cheese-Its will be replaced by a box that has a snowflake on the cover. There’s a candle that smells like pine. Bounty towels with Festive designs, and napkins that commemorate the timeless depth and meaning of the season with pictures of penguins wearing tasseled hats. The fruit bars daughter has for breakfast will suddenly be Cranberry.

And so on. You see these things in the store, you see how you can shade all the aspects of normal domestic life, and you want to give your kid the Best Christmas Ever. That always includes dressing the set. I’ve always done this, and I hope it means something, if only a remnant memory of happy times.

My dad, when we were sitting up talking, was noting the things he wished he’d done as a father, and I was astonished that he had any doubts or remonstrations. What are you talking about? Well, more family trips, I was always busy with work. Huh. I reeled off the vacations I remembered: the Black Hills, where we stayed at the lodge I’d take my family to stay decades later; the trip to Itasca and Duluth, the trips down to Minneapolis as a little kid. The details are sketchy but each has their own potent memory, and besides, not many kids have a memory of flying to the Louisville to pick up a truck, and having the vehicle catch on fire 10 miles out of the dealership on the highway because the brake pad fell off.

More important: I told him he always came home for supper, and that was incalculably important. He may have been hot and grimy and smelling of the gas station but he came home for supper and we all ate around the same table every night, and that’s something I make sure my family does now. Because it was important and because it was what families did.

If I hadn’t been astonished I might have been mad. You have doubts about how good a dad you were? Are you out of your mind?

Makes me think I should have doubts about the subject, and lots of them.


You know, there’s an awful lot wrong with the first few minutes of Star Trek 6.

It begins with Sulu as captain of the beautiful Excelsior, which is nice. They’re mapping space. Why, they’ve completed an entire sector. Then they’re hit by an energy wave. This is not good. It turns out that the wave came from the explosion of Praxis, a moon of Chronos where the Klingons handle all their energy processing. Half the moon is blown away.

Okay. Well.

The wave is undetected until seconds before it hits them, which seems unlikely. Upon being told that a huge energy wave is heading their way, Sulu’s first reaction is “VISUAL.” This is regrettable. WARP NINE is the command you’re looking for here. Then he says “My God.” Then he barks “Shields. SHIELDS” Because the first time he said the word he kinda mumbled it.

If the wave hasn’t dissipated by the time it slams into the Excelsior, then they’re pretty close to Chronos, right? So they’re up against the Klingon border, which means that space was mapped long ago.

The wave hits the ship like this, because space is like the surface of the sea and everything’s in the same plane.

The wave hits the ship so hard it flips it, something that would have snapped the saucer right off.

Upon getting a message from Ba’hgd’ud Bohb of the High Council insisting that everything is under control, Communications Officer Janice Rand asks if they’re going to report this. So . . . the chief enemy of the Federation has one of its moons blown into pieces, and Sulu’s going to bury this in his log under the “Humor in Uniform” anecdote section? How do you get to be a bridge officer and ask questions like those?

Back in San Francisco, the Federation is meeting to discuss how the accident at Praxis might be a metaphor for 20th century geopolitical relations. Because Praxis is Chernobyl, you see. Also, it was damaging to their ozone layer. Also, because the Klingons spend too much on their military, they can’t do anything about losing their oxygen.

So Spock says. Seems likely that the Klingons would just find another world and kill everyone and go live there and chalk up the old homestead as a total loss. Especially since the loss of their moon would probably play holy hell with their tides and the like.

It’s still a lot of fun. And one of my favorites.


It's 1967 all over again for the rest of the year, as we see how the Youth Culture, such as it was, affected middle-American commercial imagery. It's December, but there aren't many holiday pictures . . . yet.

As before, our friends the Static-Charge Nuclear Family:

"Look at my beautiful wife! But why can't she choose a sofa cover that doesn't look like puked-up pizza?"

I've never found electrical heating to be cozy, but clean? Compared to coal, sure. And Coal was still the competitor in many parts, I'm sure. Then again, if coal had been the main enemy, wouldn't the ads have shown men all begrimed with soot and dust? Perhaps Fuel Oil was the prime foe here. That's what dad sold. It had its advantages, but you never ran out of electricity in the middle of the night and woke the Fuel man up and asked if he'd come over and fill you up.

They asked that of my dad, and he always went. A customer's a customer.



Gentlemen, after-shave is selling well. But we believe there's a new opportunity to be seized:

Looks like a tasty cocktail. Since a "pick-me--up" was used as a name for a drink, it might have been appealing to the Days of Wine and Roses demographic. And it probably has alcohol!

Look at how crude the ad looks compared to ads before and after. The way the green letters slant in was a recent innovation, but it worked at the time only because it was a new idea. Now it looks like a junior-high school paper layout.



Every week a new venue for the mythical beast whose synthetic hide was all the rage, if you believe the ads.

Telling assortment of partygoers: on the left, the old people standing in the back, disapproving; by his right paw, a woman of a certain age who was nonetheless interested in new things; in the white-and-black dress, a with-it young woman who thought the Nauga was swingin' - and she's next to a guy in a turban, which meant he was, like, Eastern and enlightened.

There's a chair for you.



What is this?

Why, it's a copier. And it's an early version of Photoshop.

Superimpose your own head on a football star, a comic character, a TV screen. Wonder if anyone did that. Surely they did, and often for naughty or devious purposes.



I remember the Pinwheels.

The chocolate didn't taste like normal chocolate. I don't know what it was. It was also slightly hard, but not too hard. The cookie-base was peculiar and the marshmallows were tough.

Minarets were the same, except they had a graham-cracker paver base.

More from 1967:


There's a Facebook page begging Nabisco to bring back the Ideal. It has been fallow for almost two years. I can't get on board - while I'm sure some people loved them, I can't get the taste of Nabisco cookie chocolate out of my head.

Maybe they were all just stale by the time they got to Fargo.



That concludes today's Bleat. Richie Rich awaits, as the feature winds down to its conclusion at the end of the year. Tumblr and work blog around 12:30 - have a fine day!




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