A lovely day in the mid-sixties, and a foot of snow due in two days. There’s a reason most houses in Minnesota aren’t built with visible rafters anymore. There’s also a reason there’ s a two-day waiting period for stout rope. But since it was nice, I walked around downtown looking for staircases. (Upcoming architecture piece.)

The mall, while spare and bare and bleak, had lots of that pedestrian traffic everyone loves. Final Four tourists. Hope they enjoyed it, and found the people nice. I know, we’re supposed to believe that “Minnesota Nice” is just passive-aggressive smiley-faced hypocritical behavior that masks judgment instead of expressing it, but A) would you rather people scowled at you and called you a jackwipe because you bumped into them by accident? Also B) it’s not true. There are more people here who are nice. Meaning, civil and friendly.

This bothers people who regard some sort of rude livin’-large behavior as authentic, and good manners as a sign of unearned superiority.

The scene at mid-afternoon. I do love this place.

I mentioned there was something else related to RAWK, specifically the great power pop of the late 70s and early 80s. I got an email because I’d used the phrase “switchin’ to glide” in a column, and a fellow had a Google Alert for it.

He happened to be the guitarist for the Kings. He wanted to note that it had popped up in his alerts, and I gathered he hoped the phrase from the song had stuck me in my head. Which it had! Absolutely. I wrote back that it was a pleasure to hear from him, because that song - well, those two - were radio classics, and had led me and my friends to argue whether it was really New Wave, though. The phrase “hey ladies / me and Zero request your presence / in the Mercedes” was not in keeping with the punk or New Wave ethos.

Turns out the Kings are still around and still recording. This is their latest. You could have put this on the radio in 1980.

And now, the kicker! They also have a documentary about the making of their one-hit wonder song, and there is . . . a picture of Zero. And his Mercedes.

It's not at all what I expected.








The appetite for British crime dramas ought to be the subject of some ponderous essay, somewhere; Slate, Salon, Slaton, whichever. I’m sure it has to do with Fear.

Fear of decline, fear of the end of white civilization, and no doubt nostalgia for a rigid social order born of Fear over demographic and sociopolitical change.

Or maybe people just like the decency of a British murder mystery. Everyone seems to behave, even when they're being so beastly. You can get away with a lot if you call everyone "old man" in an upper-class public school sense.

I’ve been watching Endeavour, which is a reboot of Inspector Morse. Never watched Morse. I gather there are 367 eps available in gauzy VHS-quality shows, and he solves crimes in Oxford with civility and piercing intellect. There are many of those shows, and I’m afraid I’m put off by the aspect ratio. I know, I know - it’s like a modern kid not wanting to watch Black and White. But a 4:3 ratio with 480 resolution seems to suggest a type of show that might be fine, no doubt has its fans, but looks less convincing to modern eyes, and seems oddly inauthentic. Not wrong, just not right enough.

Endeavour is about Morse as a young man, and I’m sure it’s full of fan service - oh, that’s why he does that! Oh, of course, that’s where that one thing comes from. Ah, there’s that guy, only younger. I don’t know any of that. I’m enjoying the show immensely, because they’re long - four seasons, four eps, each 90 minutes, a movie - and because they’re smart, well acted, and don’t beat you over the head with the fact that it’s 1965 or 1966. The odd period song, bric-a-brac on the mantle, narrow lapels, smoking everywhere - that'll do.

What draws me to the scene is the looming, omnipresent, oppressive atmosphere of accumulated history, this grave world built by whiskered men now inhabited by people who are trying to keep up appearances while finding a way out from under, trying to be themselves in a stage set that imposes rules and expectations just by its existence.

Even the least of the examples of the British Mystery hew to the script:

At Brysly House, Beryl was behaving dreadfully with the groundskeeper, but we never thought Clive would object because he was carrying on shamelessly with that chorus girl from the Picadilly, but no one thought it would come to this. I mean, murder. It’s not done.

(flashback to children in period clothes laughing on the lawn of an estate)

I love it. And because I don’t want to watch a 90 minute movie every night, I dip into things like the ABC Mysteries or some BBCPBS Masterpiece adaptation of an Agatha Christie story, and what draws me in, to be honest is this:

3 Episodes
Ep 1: 55 Minutes

So I’m vouchsafed three nights of a story. The alternatives, on Netflix, is an endless array of shows whose display pane shows an attractive dark-haired woman under thirty staring over her shoulder, a hint of a smile perhaps, but usually not; she is marvelously difficult, because she is a vampire, or recently came back from the dead, or space, or she is investigating a series of murders that might be caused by someone who is a vampire, or recently back from space, where they were dead. Two seasons. 2015.

Meaning, they never finished it. Netflix is like a graveyard of 20-something’s abandoned novels. So when you see "Agatha Christie" as the source, you're relieved: this will end. Poorly for some, but good for me, because it will end. Everyone will enunciate. There will be rotters and brittle young women and compromised patriarchs but if we’re lucky - an inspector calls.

Which is the name of another British mystery, and I recommend it, even though it's a socialist play wearing the clothes of a British Mystery.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go watch S03E02, old man.




It’s 1956. Newspaper ads today.

That’s cheerier than we usually saw him. He looks like a different guy. Like a 1950s TV dad.

Instant shave! Believe me, it was a boon. Beats the cream! Lathers up in a second! Basically whipped cream! Plenty o’ nicks!


“We’re waiting on the ad agency for the slogan for the campaign, but they’re taking a while longer than anticipated.”

(Three weeks later)

Ad account exec: oh boy they are going to love this so much


Perk dog food comes up often in privacy law cases; seems they used a photo of someone without her permission. From a case: “The advertisement depicted plaintiff, a blind girl, as a prospective donee of a ‘Master Eye Dog,’ although plaintiff was also owner of such a dog and had no need of another.” Ms. Eick claims this caused people to lose respect for her, and she was humiliated.

From the sound of it, this was the basis in law for the concept of the right to privacy.

I think I found her.

The entire ad can be found here.


People of a certain age recognize the design on the side of this, and can distinguish from the Toastmaster design.


A grand name for a specific object.



Straight out of the Orphanage of Cast-Off Mascots, it’s Scuffy:

But who is EG?

I don’t believe it.

If it was true, then why doesn’t dishwashing soap work like this today?

Because they took out the good useful chemicals, that's why.


Of course there’s as much celery in this stuff as prunes. That’s only natural. Why, you might want to change the recipe to fit your family’s tastes, and double the amount of celery!

Everyone's always saying "why doesn't this laxative goop have more celery?"


As kids we only knew him as the Takes A Lickin’ guy.



Wiki, in case you need to know:

John Cameron Swayze (April 4, 1906 – August 15, 1995) was an American news commentator and game show panelist during the 1940s and 1950s who later became best known as a product spokesman.

I like this:

Swayze was chosen in 1949 to host NBC's first television newscast, the 15-minute Camel News Caravan. He read items from the news wires and periodically interviewed newsmakers, but he is remembered best for reporting on the Korean War nightly and for his two catchphrases: "Let's go hopscotching the world for headlines" and his signoff: "That's the story, folks—glad we could get together. And now, this is John Cameron Swayze saying good night." Veteran broadcaster David Brinkley wrote in a memoir that Swayze got the job because of his ability to memorize scripts, which allowed him to recite the news when the primitive teleprompters of the time failed to work properly.


Oh boy, the Avalon.


Built on the site of the 1909 Royal Theatre (later Seventh Ward Theatre/Rosebud Theatre, Reno Theatre). It was given a makeover in 1924 to the plans of architectural firm Ekman, Holm & Company and renamed Avalon Theatre. Seating was provided for 300. In 1937, the theatre was enlarged to the plans of architect Perry E. Crosier and given an Streamline Moderne style. The facade features an interesting hulking corner tower with neon light boxes.

It became the Fine Arts Theater from 1955. By 1982 and until 1985 it operated as an adult porn movie theatre, known as the Avalon Fine Arts Theater.

It’s a performing theater now. Love the old interior.

They're not kidding about the hulking tower.

In retrospect, if any theater was born to be a porn house, it was this one.



Let's drop in on the far-away yet oh-so-relatable world of 1916, as seen through the work of Clare Briggs. See you around.



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