Did the Minnesota Youth Symphony final concert on Sunday - didn't mention it yesterday because I had written all that in advance, knowing I'd have no time for a Bleat because of the concert and a column obligation. I have to say: I get a thrill when I walk on stage, and that's not because it's a new experience. I've been doing this so long the kids in the Symphony Orchestra were not yet born when I began.

Gah. Sobering, that - and makes me realize what a teacher realizes. Not that I'm teaching anyone anything. It's the unceasing waves of youth, never ending, one after the other, crashing around your own personal Gibraltar.

What I enjoy - aside from the music, and the sight of all these kids in their formal finery, bringing to life the great gift of Western Civilization - is the backstage experience. The stage manager is an absolute pro, as you'd expect for Orchestra Hall, and I am the malleable Talking Unit who is the least of his concerns. The problem is always changing the stage, getting the chairs on and off, rolling out the piano, and doing it FAST FAST because the audience is just sitting there. This always bugs me, so I go out and say a few things if there's a big reset. I was so terrified when I first did this I nearly heaved, and now I just amble out and talk - because I don't matter. No one's there to hear me. That's just liberating.

Anyway: backstage is eternal, unchanging; it's always got heaps of stuff, chairs, music stands, risers, buckets of flowers, a xylophone, monitors, banks of readouts. It always comes down to the moment when the orchestra is seated; the stage manager is looking at the clock and the monitor; then he opens the door, and that's the great division between the backstage atmosphere (chatty for some, intense for others) and the stage. You are who you are on one side of the door, an you're your best idea of your best self on the other. And you know what you do the moment the door swings open?

You check your fly, that's what you do.



I think what fascinates me about this picture . . .


. . . is how much I remember about it, and impact it made at the time. First, the horror; those creatures were terrifying ugly things that made ooky squelchy noises. Second, everything about the ep reminds me not of the days when I first saw Star Trek on its initial run, but afterwards. As I have often noted, tiresomely, I watched the very first Trek ep on my grandparent's color TV at the farm, and watched the show in its initial run. I remember nothing. It's possible and likely tha I became space-crazy during the first run of Star Trek - I became aware of sci-fi at the same time the space program was ramping up, and it was all of a piece. Tom Swift, the pictures on my writing tablet, Trek, comics - everything all at once, presenting a wonderful future I would see and experience.

Only on reruns did I get it. Star Trek ran after school in the early 70s, over and over. Must have seen each one three times, and I got a sense of the three seasons and their different styles. The way the first season began with a vague idea (often shot in soft focus) that coalesced into hard iron bars by the end; the brilliant second season that nailed down Trek for all time; the messy, disappointing third season that was still Trek, because there was still Kirk and Spock (and McCoy and Scotty) (And Uhuru and Sulu) (and Chekov and Chapel) but most of all the Enterprise, without which there wasn't any Trek. I had absorbed all the music cues, and their familiarity did not diminish their impact. I knew all the plots, but this meant nothing; it was a matter of hearing the music and seeing the faces and watching the machines - fiction, yes, but we knew it was a preview of coming attractions.


Was this so for sci-fi pulp fans in the 40s? I've written before about the proto-dork period, when they had only magazines and Buck Rogers, how their space operas were precursors of Star Wars, and how they toiled and groaned in the Trenches of Opprobrium, being the lowest of the genres, dreaming of a day when their technocratic ideals would inhabit the sleek forms of the World's Fair buildings, and a rational era would begin. It would have HOT CHICKS.

That's the art for the "Vizigraph," the letters column for Planet Stories. The future would have - must have - haughty Science Sirens who would stride from home-cube to lab, and might possibly breed with you because yours was a superior intellect. We shall now commence to mate.


The reality? The letters came from guys in houses and apartments built in 1907, and the only thing that looked like this future was the Post Office, maybe. There were no rockets; there were no ray guns; there were no brilliant women in pants suits who barked orders about Uranium.

But when I came along, there was a connection to the inevitable future. We were heading out there, on our way. Here's the thing: the Star Trek episode was filmed on a real place. Space Park. They designed spacecraft here.


This was the future, yes - but it was also the the second floor of Elim Lutheran Church's school / office wing.


But it was still the future, because the future was a logical continuance of the present. They would drink brandy, but it would be Saurian brandy; they would be from Iowa; they would be like us but better because they had better tools and smarter machines and faster ships, and lived in an era that recognized the inevitable logic of a common planetary effort. That is, after all, the staple of Sci-Fi. Planets get their act together before they head out. Politically, intellectually, sociologically, planets are monocultures. Let's cut to the chase and agree to be young eager curious science-people who want to board fast ships and explore the cosmos in color-coded garments. I mean, what's the alternative? Stick around here and do this forever?

Progress was doled out at a predictable rate as I was growing up: two-man capsules, three-man ships, Moon landings, Space Station (Skylab, alas) then Shuttlecraft. Never as much as I would have liked or as big as I would have liked. Then private enterprise got into it, and now we have a new sense of the possible; dreamers seem to be in the business again.

Anyway: I watched the episode because I wanted to see that place where they shot it, and because I remembered that room where the horrible thing latched on to Spock's back. It reminded me of the past, which reminded me of the future. More than the future ever will.



She's got spunk! I hate spunk.



As you can tell, we're developing a theme here: these cigarettes help you break down and metabolize food. As for Dot, she's no one you should have to google, right? Trail-blazer, ground-breaker, syndicated in 150 papers, a regular on "What's my Line," feuded with Sinatra, and then dead from barbituates and the bottle.

Here's two minutes of "What's My Line" panelists saying goodbye, prefaced by sweaty, paranoid nonsense:





For some reason I have been fascinated by 50s detergent ads lately.

Somehow it doesn't seem like a good sign when you have to add something else, like a dish or a glass or . . . gloriosky Gladiolus:


WHITE FOR LIFE! An entirely new kind of whiteness.

If ever there was a decade that could come up with that, it's the 50s.

Bathroom vinyl for floors and ceilings and walls and everywhere else. Put it on! Marvel at how easy it is! Curse the heavens a few years later when the corners peel off!


Congowall's "Marine Garden" was an echo of a swirly pattern common to the era; we had it in ur 1962 bathroom, but it was tile. How they ever thought that floor would look good with the walls, and why the towels should look as if they'd mopped up a murder scene, I can't say.

Let's look at some more:


Better. It foretells the 70s, in an odd way, but without any of the regrettable connotations.

She looks like a Lilliputian:



Bluevine. She matches! Her shirt matches. Do you ever worry about matching your walls in your house? Of course not.

A tad . . . busy.


Congowall! It's wipeable.

If you had a kid who threw stuff out of the high chair, you would appreciate Congowall.

If you're worried about being captured as a spy and forced to do something that proves you're a real citizen, and not someone trained in the ways of the country but unable to know every possible detail:


How are they doing now? Wikipedia, and looks like I can't find the link but who cares:

The Rockwood Chocolate Factory Historic District is a historic industrial complex and national historic district in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York, New York. The complex consists of 16 contributing buildings built between 1891 and 1928. The largest and oldest building dates to 1891 and is located at the corner of Washington and Park avenues. It is a five story, Romanesque Revival style building. Much of the complex has been converted to loft apartments.

  Here's how you can name it blindfolded. NO OTHER chocolate was so imbued with ineffable flavors.

So very appetizing, these towers of noodles arrayed on a white plain studded with pea jots denuded of nutrition:

I include this because it's what Product originally was about, Not that I'll ever change the name. But whenever I can find an old package or - even better, a STORE DISPLAY! - I have to pass it along, for history's sake.

So, history: here you go.

You're welcome, history.

New Sci-fi covers, and other stuff hither / thither / yon; Tumblr and Work Blog, for ex. See you around.



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