Sunday night. Christmas Eve. I think my favorite time of the year is between the hours of 4 and 7 on Christmas Eve. After all these years you still remember the happiness and anticipation, naturally joined with spirit and history, message and meaning. Daughter was singing in the church choir, for the last time. Got a hug from my favorite pastor; headed up to the balcony, where we always sit. Wife got a little verklempt - last choir concert appearance at Christmas, and all that. I did not, since I’m tamping all this down all the time, and if I viewed this as The Last Christmas I would be a wreck.

We went home to Swedish Meatballs and then Daughter and I had a long conversation about the perils of Amazon controlling everything, and her conjectures about a dystopian future of regimented corporatism, after which I made Wassail. Then we all sat down to watch something I threw together that afternoon: a Highlight Reel of Christmas Past.

I am not unusual among modern parents in my habit of filming everything, but I made a point of editing everything and assembling each month into little movies. Of course it’s fallen off in the last few years, since your kids get self-conscious and demand that you STOP because it’s annoying, but for at least a decade I got it all, and I could pull together a selection of Christmases from various years. From Toddler to Tween, more or less.

One of the things that struck Daughter was how little the house had changed, how familiar it all looked to her as she regarded herself ten years ago. And then the differences, which brought back memories unbidden. Jasper Dog, alive and curious. The trees in the yard, a fifth their size. Herself at age 2, holding an ornament we put on the tree this year. Ancient history. Yesterday.

Not a dry eye in the house.

Back up a few days ago. At the solstice party the other night one of the Judges was describing how they dropped their daughter off at college, and she was like, you know, I have to be somewhere, so, like, by? And she said that they realized they’d succeeded, crafted and produced a well-adjusted kid ready to take on the world. So: no tears!

I get that. I remember my own impatience for my parents to dematerialize and let me get on with the terribly important business of being an independent person who could do what he wanted when he wanted, all paid for by some indistinct force in the sky that made things happen. I never thought about what they thought on the drive back to Fargo because I knew it would be a javelin to the heart and hey: who wants that.

So I didn’t say “has your child evinced any evidence of gratitude since then?” because I’m sure she has. But there was something about a happy gloss put on the moment that gave me pause. I’m grown. You’re gone. That’s how it works, right?

Scramsville, Daddy-O.

Wife left the party before I did - she thought I’d decamped, but I was inside talking movies with judges. When I got home Daughter was sitting by the fire working through the details of an early commitment for the college she wants to attend, and we had a conversation about what would happen if she got the Rotary Foreign Exchange Student gig. I mean, if you do the early commit, but defer, can they legally take you away? Do we have to pay? What?

Why Wife watched a legal show and Daughter did homework I put away the garbage and recycling, as I have done every Thursday since forever. Got the mail, which I do every other day. It’s mail. It doesn’t matter.

Letter from Rotary.


I waited until Wife’s TV program was over, then casually handed the letter to Daughter. She said this was her assignment.

What? When did you get accepted? She ripped it open. All eyes fell on the one word on the page printed in red.



Your face, she said.

I’m just - no, it’s . . . it’s Brazil.

Her other choices were European countries, and I imagined her walking the streets of Prague, soaking in Kafka vibes, grappling with existential matters, and now . . . Brazil? She called up the Instagram feed of someone she knew who had done the Brazil Rotary thing. Everyone’s in the sun having fun.

I thought you would be walking alongside cows in a village thinking about the Hanseatic League. BRAZIL?

Had a little chat with Wife: so, I don’t recognize Life anymore. You?

Daughter gets more and more excited about it. Calls up an app to see if she can learn Portugeuse. I imagine her in a warm place full of delights; I see how much this has gobsmacked her and she rolled with it and is stunned with possibilities.

"Europe? "Wife says. "You can always go to Europe."

“Alexa,” I say. “Play Brazil.”

“Playing ‘Brazil’ by Johnny Mathis,” Alexa says.

And then we danced.

And then stopped, because it was embarrassing.

In a way, I think it helps. Going off to college is such a cliche. It has all the usual emotional fault lines - dropping off the kids the campus, standing there in all your naked irrelevance, the trip back home at winter break when everyone pretends that nothing’s really changed, really. That was, like, just one long school day! What do you accomplish that first semester,, anyway? The illusion of adulthood with all the latent insecurites of adolescence. She was going to spend a gap year anyway, and this will be productive, broadening, and exciting. She already knows someone who's done this very program in Brazil, and is ready to go. I'm proud of her adventurousness!

(inside) shrieking



There was a vogue for "funny" books that put captions on photos, and made people say things they didn't say. It was inevitable someone would do a parody of Helen Gurley Brown's book, and this was it.

Every page hurts.


Dogs would not -

They -

Oh, I don't care. As for the photographer:

More than 50 years ago, freelance photographer, Mary Eleanor Browning, made photographic and medical history at the Kew Gardens General Hospital when she became the first patient ever to photograph her own surgery. Using a Rolleiflex camera and overhead mirror, Browning took 72 shots during the 90 minute hysterectomy.

She also did a picture book about Washington DC.

Phil's another matter.


This song, and this book, is all I can find on the internet . . . so far.




"Dirty old men" were funny in the 60s because ha ha grey-haired geezers who wanted sex were funny!





It’s 1921 - but it doesn't really look much like it. Looks like 1917. Four years should have made more of a difference.

Perhaps it's because these ads are from MacClean's, a Canadian magazine. Also, it's early in the 20s.

Okay, enough excuses. Kodak:

Color. Color pictures! Did they really need a slogan at all? It reminds you that Kodak was, in the vernacular, a verb: Kodak that pretty girl. Come here and Kodak us in front of the fireplace! And so on.


Short pants. Poor boys. Short pants.



There's a reason, all right, and it's called "pooping." Of course, that's just part of it. Grape-Nuts also steels you for the inevitable disappointments of life - altthough to be fair, there's nothing about Grape-Nuts that promises anything close to breakfast pleasure. It's just hard medicine.

She was a Vamp, although in this shot she looks more like a Gimp:



Louise Glaum (September 4, 1888 – November 25, 1970) was an American actress. Known for her role as a femme fatale in  silent era  dramas, she was credited with giving one of the best characterizations of a in her early career.

Her film career ended in lawsuits against the studios, which always endears you to the producers. In the 30s she opened theaters in New York, and that's where she spent the rest of her career. Happily, one hopes.

She has a star on Hollywood Boulevard, and it's here.

Outside the El Capitan theater, which opened in 1926 - a year after her last movie.

What sells a fountain pen like the idea of breathing wine-like ozone?


Tell the folk about it; Letter every day.

Tell the folk about it; Letter every day.

You wouldn't want to be an undiscriminating smoker, would you?



One of those smokers who runs out of his own, then really wants a smoke, and waves off an offer of a different smoker because he's discriminating - that's who you want to be. Players or nothing! Only 42 mg of tar per puff.


Same issue, different scenario: would Madam like me to prepare the toilet?



"There's a reason" was the same slogan used by Postum; in that case the reason was "your inability to sleep or stop twitching because you had a second cup of actual coffee. Good, rich, satisfying real coffee. Don't you want another cup now? Well, you can't. Hear. Drink this hot grain crap."


The worst toilet paper in the world:



The dispenser was nickle-plated, and frankly, so was the paper. Damn nearl laquered, it was - at least in its mid-20th century version, when the Pleated Sheets were the bane of the gas station bathroom.

E. B Eddy was Ezra Butler.

Although born in the United States, Ezra Butler Eddy who was one of Canada's most progressive manufacturers, became one of its most loyal citizens and few men of his time were more devoted to his Sovereigns institutions and more imbued with the National traditions and aspirations than was he. 

One of your more subjective Wikipedia entries.


If this did everything it said it would, why, it was a miracle:


By telling you what it doesn’t require, it reminds you how even the simplest things were pains in the keister. Just writing was a pain.

Still around!


That'll do; see you around.


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