There was a lady with a clipboard standing by a card table heaped with bathroom tissue. What, you say, Kleenex? No. But Kleenix is often in the bathroom, and it's tissue. Don't be obtuse; you know what I mean. Toilet paper. Although the second T is usually silent. Toilapaper or Toilepaper is how it's usually pronounced. She was a reader of the column and had very nice things to say, and I asked if I could be surveyed. I love being surveyed.

How often do you buy a 12-roll pack?

Oh, we've had a hell of a bout of dysentery. About once a week, I'd say. And so on. I had to palpate several rolls and issue judgments on thickness, quiltability, and so on. I graded one roll harshly; too little on the roll, and it was packed loosely to obscure the fact. The obvious ringer. When I was done judging the TP she turned over the rolls to tell their secrets: number of sheets, and price. The one I had dismissed as completely unacceptable had the highest number of sheets and the lowest price. AND it was durable and not too thick. Why, knock me over with a Q-tip, or any other common object you're not supposed to stick in your ear although everyone does.

"What's the brand?" I said. "I'll buy some."

"I . . . I can't tell you that," she said.

Aw c'mon. You liked my column.

"And it's only going to be available at first in the South."

Well, this was just cruel. They set up a table in MINNESOTA, hundreds of miles away from where it'll be sold, and get our hopes up. Reset our expectations. Ruin all the other TP for us forever until this brand migrates, and even then I won't know if it's the stuff I tried.

While I was out having my tissue assumptions upended, Daughter was home getting over her fear of robots. I bought the Amazon Echo, and she was determined NOT TO TALK TO IT, or treat it like an intelligent object. Then I said "Alexa, play 'Uptown Funk,'" and it did. She did. Whoa - just like that? Just like that.

"Alexa, what is love?"

The machine responded with a Hemingway quote.

She was sold. But the wife, ah, how will my wife respond? She's not a gadget person. She's used to pushing the button on the radio. Well, she took to it right away; she loves telling it what to do. And telling it to stop and it stops.

Only question: why didn't Apple make one of these?

Over the weekend I tried out a batch of new software, and discarded most of it. I keep looking for ways to improve my "workflow," as we used to call "way of doing things," and it's rare I find an "app," as we used to call "programs," that improves the situation. Went through six, and discarded them all.

A program for organizing all my pictures and giving them tags - cool! Great interface! But I have a program for organizing pictures, and it's called "Putting them into folders with names." As for tagging all my pictures, I'd rather count individual grains of rice in a five-pound bag.

One of the programs in the bundle was Typed, which I'm using now. It does everything I want a word processor program to do, and less. There's one size font, and five choices. Three choices for the color combo of the page. A little note at the top tells you how many words you've written. The only silly filigree is Zen mode, where it goes full screen and plays unobtrusive ambient music. I used it once and was hooked right away. Maybe this will be the thing that changes my workflow, and hence my life.

I find myself wanting to change all my habitual modes, and find myself rejecting the additions or substitutions. Either because I am stuck in my ways, or my ways are correct for me. It's what I want. Or do I want it because it's familiar?


Okay, I silenced it. Now: a few of these apps are image enhancement programs, with hundreds of useless, garish presets. They all boil down to the same thing: sharpen, blur, saturate, desaturate. No, you say! My program has a detail enhancer! Right: sharpen. Any of these things can be done manually, with greater control. Of course your phone has an app that can make any photo look like it was taken in 1975, and allowed to fade and lose its grip on the colors of which it was originally so certain. These are useful for Selfies, and for sending the filtered pictures to friends who will judge you or envy you or both, for a few seconds anyway - then the next picture rolls in and you have to have an opinion about that.

When I was a kid, company would come over (that's what relatives or friends were called: company) and sit through a slide-show; it was projected by a hot-smelling machine on a shimmery screen, and it was boring. People sat through it because they probably expected to inflict the same experience on their hosts at some point, or because that's just what one did. Spending your entire day dipping in and out of that experience is something I'll never understand, and that's fine; it's not mandatory, and you can't help but find the legions of selfie-snappers with some amusement. Ah youth.

I bring it up because the WSJ had an article about a beach vacation spoiled by the selfie-takers, and it included this phrase:

“The future,” I mused to her, “will be all about finding better ways to shoot photos and videos that nobody will ever want to look at.”

Yes. If you have one photo of something, you will look at it a hundred times. If you have a hundred photos of something, you will look at none of them, ever.

That said, I will now inflict 20 seconds of beautiful foliage and parkway driving on you. It looks like this for about three weeks here, and some of the bare trees suggest we're reaching the end of the lush time of fall. There are days when the leaves are still supple; a week later, they look as if they'd fall if you sneezed. Everything is brittle and ready to be blown away.





Remember last year, when Finn was a pirate? Or was that two years ago?


He's a straw-filled scarecrow now, his ability to fly through the ether a cruel rebuke to the creature in the field who is nailed to a plank of wood.



Let us return to the 1920s, for reasons I can't remember, and look at some ads from a magazine whose name and exact date I can't remember either. I'm pretty sure it's "Shadowland," which means the early 20s, if not the tail end of the teens. There wasn't much difference. Things didn't get that 20s vibe until the middle of the decade.

An art designer who was paying attention would have sacked the artist on the spot, or perhaps the layout artist. It's one thing to get the pretty lady's eyes wrong, but it's quite another thing to fuse her thighs together and form on horrible foot-claw.

By the way, this Violet Powder? It's borated.

Early food ads lacked a certain aspect. Like food:

The national dish, eh? Then why are we ceding control to some joe who was celebrated in PARIS?



By the later 20s the ads were much more sophisticated; it's remarkable how fast the style changed.

Good Lord, they were verbose.


That was the equivalent of the graphic equalizer we had to have back in the 80s and 90s. Wonder if anyone ever realy bothered. Who wouldn't want Full Tone?

Makes more sense when you consider that they had no volume controls.

Kicking myself for not buying those postcards I saw at the last show. They were expensive, though. Perhaps best to leave them for someone fascinated by this vessel:

The Main Cabin, aka the Grand Salon. The Library of Congress obliges with a photo:


She plied the lakes, not the sea. As Historic Detroit puts it:

One of the most popular lines was the Detroit & Cleveland (D&C) Navigation Co., the greatest of the so-called night lines, a sort of maritime “red eye” on which passengers boarded in the evening, slept the night away and awoke the next morning at their destinations. D&C passengers took overnight trips from spring through fall, enjoying dinner and drinks as the ship steamed onward east to Cleveland or Buffalo, New York, or north to the Straits of Mackinac.

It's an odd space - narrow and perhaps a bit claustrophobic at night, but I can't say. The ship docked in 1950 and was scrapped a few years later, and the big luxurious vessels no longer run the routes. Pity; seems like an elegant and civilized way to travel.

Imported Orchestrions, too:

There's always someone who wants to write but never does anything as good as he likes, and believes that lessons are the answer.

Esenwein wasn't an European-looking-guy invented for the ads. He was an actual editor and writer. Did any graduates of the Home Correspondence School ever place a story in Lippincott Mag?


If you couldn't paint and you couldn't write, well, at least you could smoke.



The top ad is startling: they were fleecing people with the old "Song poem" racket long before I thought. People sent in lyrics, and they "set them to music" - which meant plugging them into a preexisting number. They didn't even have to record them, as they did in the 60s.





Sent on approval, in this case, meant that they weren't worth the cost of the stamps.

No exercize, no starving, no medicine - just apply this wonder cream, and it goes to work immediately, in the sense that a guy who gets a featherbedding job at a construction project because his brother is connected "goes to work.



That's it, but man, that's enough. Except there's Frank! See you around.



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