The warm days have proved the adage about April’s cruelty. We believe spring is here. It would be odd to pretend otherwise; the flowering trees are starting to bloom at the end of the block. The lawns are greening and the tips of the branches sprout commas. We have made the shift without really questioning it. There were a few tentative days - hey, this is nice! - but it only took three consecutive nice warm days after a week with three consecutive nice warm days, and we slapped our silver dollars on the barrelhead and said SPRING! I’LL TAKE IT! WHERE DO I SIGN? and we scrawled our X and headed out to our claim to start mining the precious ore to smelt into metal to build not just a bridge to summer but pen nibs to write crap like I just did.
Never even occurs to anyone it could snow again. The minute you remember other Aprils - ice on the sidewalk, dead black snirt-lumps on the boulevard - you shake it off. That was one of those Aprils. This is one of these Aprils. When the weather’s crap in April you check your weather app with hope for the future. When it’s great you check it with fear.
Friday! Not one of the good Fridays. Daughter leaves for a choir trip to Seattle; they’re going to pay a visit to the original Starbucks, and perhaps dip a sleeve in the foam as a relic to take back to the provinces and work miracles. So the Friday assemblage - all the family together, pizza for supper, nothing to post on the web the next day, stay up late and watch movies - is lessened by one, since there will be an empty room at the end of the hall. Get used to that you must says my inner Yoda, but he’s not as wise as he’s advertised. Really, “There is no try”? There is only “do”? Way to guide an apprentice to the necessary preparation for accomplishment, Master Cackle.
I watched half of the Star Wars trailer today and had to stop. Not because it was bad but because it was great; there is nothing in the original Lucas-infested movies like the Star Destroyer crashed in the distance. Amazing. I don’t want any more. I’m hooked, I’m there, I’m good, I’m in the worst possible state you can be for Star Wars: hopeful. No more peeks, no more spoilers, no more Exclusive Leaks. Come Christmas I will be sitting in the theater and the great bright chord will crash on the screen and I will smile in the dark.
I expect the audience will cheer, and I expect I will cheer along with them.
For some reason I feel compelled to defend this.
It's not a commercial, as some have called it. Obviously it's not a commercial; it's four minutes long, and no one put four minutes worth of meat hawking on TV. It's intended to woo potential franchise owners, giving them an emotional reason to pony up a lot of money and plop down a Sizzler in their town. Nowadays they ask for $3 million net worth and $750K in liquid assets as well as some franchise experience, so this isn't aimed at the rubes.
Here's the company's current website history lesson:
It all began on January 27, 1958. With fifty dollars in the cash register, Del and Helen Johnson opened "Sizzler Family Steak House" in Culver City, California.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his second term as the 34th President of the United States. A 14-year-old Bobby Fischer took the United States Chess Championship. “Gigi” won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The American girl group The Shirelles began.
And finally, everyone could enjoy a great steak dinner at an affordable price. ($0.99 back then).
You know, it's never bad things happening simultaneously. Fourteen thousand Chinese were re at the Battle of Red Canyon, Charlie Speck took eight nurses hostage for 48 hours of torture, and "Skinless Death Fiends from Mars" played at the drive-ins across the land. And finally, everyone could enjoy a great steak!
What I find almost sweet is the absolutely shameless use of every national cliche possible - and while the audience no doubt thought "jeez, they're laying it on heavy here" I don't think anyone questioned the choices. Little girl with bat. Cowboy! With his best gal. Old salt-seaman with obligatory cap-and-snow-white beard. A sailor home on leave! With his best gal. Hurr hurr or a hooker No.
To most of the world for most of human history, this would look like the greatest promise ever. You would claw over barbed wire on your belly, snagging unspooled intestines to get to a place like this. But we can laugh, because
I just ate; but I'm going to induce vomiting to due my Patriotic duty and join you.
I'd like an order of steak, with an order of freedom on the side.
Would you like to go to Sizzler for dinner tonight, or are you a dirty Communist?
I have sport with these things as well, but there's something about the Standard Internet Reaction that seems a bit tired. For one thing, sconsider everything you can get at a Sizzler, including the Infinite Never-ending Cornucopia Eternal Salad Bar, and then imagine how many thousands of men you had to kill in the 14th century to be assured of such bounty any time you wanted it - because you'd have to be King, more or less - and then imagine yourself hungry on a long road trip, looking for a place to eat before you find the motel, and it's a small town without Thai or Vietnamese and oh, jeez, just a Sizzler. Shame on you.
Menu item: Steak and Endless Shrimp. Got that? You get a steak. A. STEAK. And as a side dish, as many shrimp as you can eat until you have to poke the last one down your throat with a pencil. The shrimp arrives in an unceasing stream until you hold up a hand and say "no more shrimp," and even then the waitress says "are you sure?"
But enough of that. Listen to the text. People are busier now. Both parents often work. When they eat out, they want quality. In other words, it's true. And that's the other reason, I think, this went "viral" - not so much the production values or the sodden plodding earnestness, but the truth. Is this really so bad? How hard do you want to work to find a reason to sneer?
I know, I know, I should talk. You can have fun with these things if you approach them with some affection and a sense of history. It's the "everything was dumb before a few years ago / lol 2:17 that guys a pedophile" that makes you want to slap a few folk with a wet rag, the kind they use to wipe off a Sizzler table. What have you built, exactly? What's your contribution to the culture? What did you sell to someone today that made them go away with a smile?
BTW: the date may be very early 90s, but that thing is pure late 80s. It just is.
In lieu of Pupdate and DTE construction update, a preview of a site to come. This was the original frame grab from a degrated old 1939 film on the virtues of DelMonte peas:
Restoration once took all sorts of tools and skills. But now I can do it at home.
So can you! Send away for free details about our study-at-home course. Earn money in your spare time color-correcting the past and assuming you've got the hues right! No one will know if you don't!
What I can't do is sharpen them to my satisfaction. The information just isn't there.
What's the site, you ask? The kitchens of yore? Mother-daughter dress coordination strategies of the Depression? You'll see. When I get a hundred pages under my belt I'll start rolling it out.
As usual for Friday, the Music Cues. Of course we begin with the Couple Next Door, with its cheerful soundtrack of the mid-century domestic scene.
CND Cue #536 Listen to the way it gathers itself into that last chord. Nifty.
CND Cue #537 Romantic themes in the show always sounded . . . different.
Moving along with the innumerable Gunsmoke cues:
Gunsmoke #74 It's like low-budget Herrmann scored for the West.
Gunsmoke #75 Man, drag it out a little longer, why don't you?
The late-season Johnny Dollar cues, drawn from the library of big bad boss sounds:
YTJD #24 Mandel Cramer was the kind of JD for whom this fit well.
YTJD #25 And then? BOOM and the band went Jetson-noir.
To round out the radio offerings, here's the ad from the golden age of cigarette commercials.
Newports: menthol satisfaction.
Some Slatkin for a Friday. The package design on this one is lavish, with the space on the front cut out to reveal the inner sleeve. They dropped a few bucks on this one; it was high-class Easy Listening.
"Never on Sunday." A song so good they have to change keys nine times to keep your interest!
It's a song about a Greek hooker.
That brings the week's labors to a close. Many tales to come on Monday, I hope; I'm giving a speech on Sunday and I have no idea whatsoever I'm going to be talking about. But that's usually the way it goes. Have a grand weekend!