Isn’t that the loveliest little thing you’ve seen today? It brings a smile to my face. The iPod of the day, space-age tech, an amazing device that plucked news and music from the ether - and it fit in your shirt pocket. I’m sure all the people who collect transistor radios are my age, and have the same warm regard for early 60s tech. That’s the Sony TRW-621, which some online descriptions say was the first radio with a clock. Er, no. But the first to have a watch embedded right in it. A Seiko, too!
Yes, it gives you renewed appreciation for a period of tech that doesn’t get a lot of love, perhaps because the shirts put everyone off studying anything from the period.
So. The storm. How did we do? Fine. There wasn’t a storm. It snowed about three, four inches - wet snow that seemed almost wistful it couldn’t be rain. So close. Everything was mushy and melted today, and the ice dams grew - I winced to think what I spent to remove them, then reminded myself they’d be twice the size, and the chance of damage would be worse.
But there’s still so damned much of the stuff.
The snow, piled up against the wall of the local hooch shop, looks like a spume of soap suds . . .
When people are content they close their eyes, you know.
So: it’s ten below. It’s dark. We’re on the shoulder. The car is fubared.
I was looking forward to Friday pizza, too.
Wife not happy, and frankly quite nervous; she imagines we’re going to be hit from behind by someone who sees a stationary green object below a streetlight with its blinkers on, and says “I’ll just drive into that at top speed.” (Apparently, as she later explained, she’d learned on a police ride along that drunks do just that.)
Not much to report for the weekend, except for a snappy encounter with a product demonstrator at Lunds. She had asked two gentleman waiting at the meat counter if they wished to try the salmon. They did not. I wandered over, and studied the salmon intently. Finally I looked up and said “you haven’t asked me if I wanted any.”
“You didn’t make eye contact,” she said.
“I have to make eye contact? Isn’t that a bit intimate? Wasn’t it apparent that I was looking at the salmon?”
“You don’t look at me, how am I supposed to know?” She’s enjoying this.
“It’s not about you,” I said. “Besides, this is a dance. A process. I show a little interest, you offer some salmon, I take it, say it’s good and figure out a way to leave without buying someone.”
“You don’t have to buy it.
“I know. I - can I just have some salmon?”
It was Antarctic salmon, responsibly caught or something, and man, was it delicious. So I bought some.
“You still could have asked,” I said.
“You could have looked.”
She had a point.
Last week I mentioned that I walked around the skyways in the afternoon. You must have just fallen off your chair, the way I just casually drop these little details of a life so rich and fascinating. Dude what’s next, motoring around Monaco in an Italian convertible? Eh, it’s been done.
The walks are good exercise, a boring thing, and keep me appraised of the town old and new. For example. I went here.
Yes, I stepped right into an illustration; it was like being in an A-Hah video. The picture is on the skyway wall of the Young-Quinlan building, a defunct department store that was one of the four great stores downtown. It always had a Helen H. Hokinson vibe to me. A genteel place where ladies of means shopped. Couldn’t keep up with the times, suffered extra hard from the decline of downtown retail, and perished - replaced for a while by a Ralph Lauren store. The staircase is still intact; it’s part of a jewelry store now. The rest of the building is offices. The skyways have display cases and pictures to remind everyone of the store’s old glories.
I ducked into the elevator, which I’ve never done before. All these years, and this was waiting for me.
For decades a steady hand held that black knob, rode the car up and down; I imagine it smelled of powder and perfume. An old gent in a maroon uniform. I’d like to think he wore a cap. I’d like to think he called off the floors, even though everyone knew what they held.
When he retired there was a party, and he went back to a small room where he lived and watched TV and ate Swanson’s for four years, and never shook the faint resentment that they’d kept his cap.
A block over, the newly remodeled Mary Tyler Moore building. I used to work here. It’s been given the Modern Collaborative Interesting Workspace for People Staring at their Goddamn Phones All Day treatment.
What did the client say to the designer? “I’m thinking . . . brobdignagian pincushions.”
“We are on it”
The alcoves are for people to sit and collaborate and there are small tables for your coffee.
It is a charmless space, I’m afraid. It’ll be better when it’s full of people, but I don’t think it will ever be full of people. It’s chilly and barren. The view from the escalators:
There used to be a Barnes and Noble upstairs. This space was full of books and shelves and people sitting in chairs reading, their backs to the window, the great world spinning on outside behind them:
I used to go there with Daughter when we went downtown. It was a great place. But the chain’s having issues. Now the space is empty, waiting for retail - it’ll happen, the building’s location is prime. I used to work there, when I toiled briefly for TV Guide. The ground floor was a bank that blew up in the S&L crisis and evaporated. Everything felt grown-up. The new style looks like a day-care for war orphans.
Nice elevator area - the original marble you see in the opening sequence when Mary’s in the elevator holding a conspicuous Star newspaper.
I wandered over to the IDS, always home, and thought, as always, of being here in 1975 on a trip to The Cities with my friend Kent. I’ve no idea why we went. We stayed at the Imperial 400: Aye, Thrifty Rates. (It is gone.) I was taking a picture of the space and two girls waved below.
Minneapolis was going to be awesome.
Wound my way back to the office, had to dip through the Northstar Center. The skyway connection is odd - you have to go to the ground floor to the food court, then back up around the corner. There’s a piece of “art” that has the symbol for the building. It’s on the facade. It’s on a mast on the roof. It looks like something from a 1955 sci-fi movie.
That’s where I saw the photos I zoomed in on last week.
Black & White World takes a turn to TV, where we encounter . . .
I had a lot of fun with the early Tales of Tomorrow shows - the low-tech FX, the ridiculously cheerful commercials, the errors and missed cues and knocked-over chairs.
This is still one my favorite moments in the history of TV. The director’s hand, the sudden gas attack that makes the announcer stroke out for a half-second, and then the off-stage crash - followed by an inability to cut away as quickly as intended.
I love that.
When I decided to take a look at another one, I was surprised. This is really, really good - and it’s a great example of people realizing the potential of the medium from the very start.
First, a brief commercial!
We begin with a shot of a Future City . . .
And a Learned Scientist who tells his daughter that the Earth is about to be destroyed by a cosmic event.
Everyone was used to this. Go bang on the set or fiddle with the rabbit ears. Hey - what’s this?
It’s a Honeymooner Tenement, with three unhappy people. The guy on the left is pretty hammered, and it’s obvious he treats his wife horribly. STATIC, and back to . . .
Then it's live to the studio.
They can’t figure out what happened. Where the picture came from. And then it happens again. We go back and forth, from the tenement and its squabbling occupants, to the TV studio.
That’s the account exec talking about the need to get the ad done. The set from the ad is visible. We see the inside of a 1952 ABC TV studio:
Back and forth, and a plot emerges in the tenement as everyone watches in the studio, and perhaps all over town. I won’t spoil it, because you can watch it. Note the end credits where we see that everyone in the studio was played by actual studio personnel.
Two other things.
One: this name.
A decade from Rudolph.
And then there’s this.
Unrecognizable, but it helps if you know ahead of time.
If you don’t watch, enjoy this little ident:
Here’s the whole ep. For 1952, this is ingenious.Just because it was 1952 doesn’t mean people didn’t get the medium right out of the gate, because obviously, they did.
If you made it this far: Bleat+ is done and up, and emails going out today and tomorrow. Thanks! See you around.