Worked at home today. Daughter ill with unspecified complaints, but she rallied after a long evening nap. Now wide awake, feeling better, and making cookies for friends. They're the Pillsbury pre-made holiday cookies that have seasonal-hue daubs of food-coloring in the middle, indicating some shape commensurate with the nearest celebration. In this case it's misshapen red blobs to indicate Valentine's Day. The ones intended to show a turkey were always the greatest disappointment.

We used to get these for every holiday, and I was delighted when we were at the store last week, and she noted that we hadn't done this since forever. You're always pleased when they remember a tradition you were certain they'd forgotten.


Something I read linked to the Observer, which I hadn't visited. Top story:


I recognize one of those things; as for the others, I assume "Netflix" is some sort of visual entertainment company.

My favorite internet headline style, the Unearned Bossy Demand:



What? No. Please don't say that. I don't want to date any of those New Yorkers.

One link leads to another, and before you know it you're actually reading a long interview with Robert Crumb. It's called "Robert Crumb Hates You." Yet we manage to wake every day and get on with our lives. Let's take four sentences and jam them together and hope it's a compelling opening paragraph:

With this generation of overfed, spoiled-brat writers, every long, arduous journey into uncharted territories is called a Heart of Darkness—GPS and lack of war notwithstanding. The man that I’m looking for in the bowels of France is thankfully deprived of any irony. Robert Crumb has been living in a godforsaken medieval village, where cars are banned and spotty Wi-Fi has only been recently discovered. This true American has been locked up in self-exile—in an unlocked house—for the last 20 years.

The piece calls Crumb "the world's greatest cartoonist," which is a bold assertion, and also nonsense. We continue:

There’s a direct line of salt-of-the-earth, irony-free, all-American icons, passing from the painters Thomas Hart Benton and Reginald Marsh, the musicians Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, all the way to Crumb. America, for them, wasn’t its flag, but its dirt.

Which, of course, makes their critiques much more credible, just like a historian of weather is more believable if he looked at the ground all day instead of the sky.

They eluded political and religious affiliations and labels: Guthrie liked the K.K.K. in his youth and Dylan became an evangelical Christian, for instance, yet they all fought against the oppressive American conformist machine. The Kennedys slept with Marilyn Monroe; Crumb did Janis Joplin’s friend Pattycakes.

Woody Guthrie eluded political affiliations and labels, eh. Really? He literally stuck a label on his guitar, for heaven's sake.

Anyway, it's all about sex, in case anyone is curious. Mostly about sex. And how the bankers are bad and Crumb wished the Weather Underground had blown up a few more banks, although he wasn't too keen on blowing up people, so if we coudl just have a a revolution without killing a middle-aged woman who was making a Christmas Club deposit that would be great.

Crumb was influential, but I preferred the artists whose work wasn't soaked in dank self-loathing and misogyny. So many quotes. Loved this one:

“This guy I know counted the number of times I decapitated women in my stories. I forget the number. I was kinda horrified at myself,” Mr. Crumb said.

Yeah. It doesn't matter, because he was tangentially connected to an era and movement the Boomers regard as the equivalent of the Renaissance, so never mind. And he created Mr. Natural! Who encouraged all to Keep on Trucking! I'll bet that guy smelled horrible.

As for Guthrie, I thought of him the other day while listening to a campaign rally; two singers were croaking out miserable version of "This Land is Your Land," because it's always fargin' 1960-whatever and we're always wishing we had a hammer so we could hammer out justice. This line in his bio stuck out:

Guthrie’s leftist politics alienated many during the 1950s when America was in the throes of the Red Scare. But with the revival of folk music in the 1960s, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, and others acknowledged Guthrie’s influence on their life’s work. **Today school children all over the country** sing a non-political version of “This Land is Your Land”—the verse questioning private property rights is left out—and the song continues to be an appealing celebration of America.

The verse in question:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

Maybe it's left out because it's a lousy stanza.

You can find the lyric here, on the site, which notes: All works by Woody Guthrie are held under U.S. Copyright Law.

There's no rock and roll, because it's Sinatra's label. There's the antithesis of rock 'n' roll.

Who'd have guessed the Ol' Calliope Man would have visited a German hofbrau, eh? Let's all sing along to the popular strains of KUHGLOCKENGELAUTE and watch the maidens swoon.

As you might suspect, the Ol' Calliope Man wasn't one guy, but two: Bob Sande and Larry Greene and their "Fun-Time Band." They were jingle-writers and producers whose style for the "Color Radio" idea was extraodinarily influential, but you had to be an industry insider to know their names.

This they did in their spare time, I guess.



Main Streets goes to . . .

Back for another look at an elegant street in the process of renovaton. It was once rich and ornate, devoted to a specific purpose. I hinted at it last week; Chicagoans probably knew right away. If you haven't figured out which industry this street, this ouught to do it.

  Wikipedia: "The Premier Motor Manufacturing Company was organized in 1903 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The company built automobiles with air-cooled engines." They ceased operations in 1926/

Yes, this was Automobile Row. Every town of a certain size had one downtown, and while I know next to nothing about the history of Chicago's urban core, aside from a certain fire, I could tell right away this was an Auto Row. The showroom windows, the driveways, the logos. Sure enough: Wikipedia says it's the Motor Row Historic District.

At its peak, as many as 116 different makes of automobiles were sold and repaired on Motor Row. Current-day marques that formerly had showrooms on Motor Row included Ford, Buick, Fiat, and Cadillac. Other marques with showrooms there that have since dissolved include Hudson, Locomobile, Marmon, and Pierce-Arrow.

P is for Packard:

Or perhaps some other brand that sprang up, struggled, and died. There were so many.

Something doesn't necessarily have to be pretty to be interesting.

The Twenties really was an come-on-come-all era for styles - which goes a long way towards explaining the stylistic uniformity of the 30s.

Oh, there's money around. Lots of it.

It's interesting to consider how the most modern thing in the world - automobiles, speed, travel, personal transportation for all who could raise the greenbacks - had to be presented in the trappings of the civilization;s most ancient decorative forms.

The structure was more modest than the details above might suggest.


The area is being converted into clubs and bars; I expect this is a restaurant by now, or will be soon.

Not everything hails from the glory days.


It's like a clinic that treats only the nastiest STDs.

I can't figure this out.


Unless the blank spaces are where the name once went, but it seems unlikely anyone would go to the trouble of taking it off. They just seemed to ignore the old lives of these buildings as time went on, and plaster a new identity on the lower floor.

This is somewhat haunting. Or haunted:


It looks like a church, but it's not churchy enough. It was the home of the Chicago Defender newspaper, and Wikipedia says they moved here in 1920. Obviously that's wrong. This building was buit in 1936 as the Illinois Automobile Club.

There were plans to turn it into a "Cheap Trick-themed nightclub." Didn't pan out, possibly because it was a Cheap-Trick themed nightclub. And I say that as a fan, too. There just aren't enough of us any more.

Now, in Japan, it would be a huge hit.

Who was the winner? Ford, of course. And they're still on the street, selling cars.


Everyone else is gone.

The Chicago Tribune's website has a special section from a Motor Row gala; it's here. Worth a look.



Bob Elliot died, and the great radio duo is getting some fresh attention today. Another link to the mid-century medium snipped. I went back to find a link to something I'd posted, and to my surprise the entire day was blank. It was there the last time I posted it. If for some reason you missed that day last month, here it is. It's a Friday, so lots of very short audio. Recommended! But I would say that, wouldn't I.


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