All the things I needed to write were written, if you were worried. They always are. Never missed a deadline. Rah, me. After I’d filed I went off to shoot video for a work project, and that was nice; I’ve missed that. I remembered how to storyboard the thing in my head and group the shots, plan the transitions, etc. Still won’t have enough footage. But that’s tomorrow’s worry.

Also tomorrow’s worry: something is going on in the Middle East. Granted, that’s a rather evergreen line; you can say it upon wakening to be sure you’ve said one correct thing for the day. I used to get my chatter news from blogs, but they’ve dried up after the great winnowing, and a lot of the interesting collators are on Twitter, reporting things from open-source info dumps. We have a lot of ships in the region. Spain withdrew its support, either to look high and noble, or because they didn’t want to get into a scrap. Huge amount of IAF flights yesterday, reported from all sorts of twitter accounts - observers, data gatherers, citizens wondering what’s up. Four attacks on Saudi tankers, which the US said maaaaybe was the work of Iran.

Can’t find a comment thread that isn’t 70/30 wag-the-dog / blood for oil / Jews. I’m sure there’s a moderate site where it’s 50/50.








I got HBO so I can watch the Deadwood movie, which I expect will be the most bittersweet thing on TV this year. At least it’s not a prequel. They’re making a Sopranos prequel; pictures are leaking out. Oh, I’ll watch it, even though it’s like Star Wars 1-3 - you know where it’s headed.

It’s a shock to learn the Sopranos is 20 years old. My TV-critic pal at the paper loves the show, says the pilot upended his perception of TV and its possibilities, but it’s not one of the top-10 all-time shows. I’d agree. Gandolfini is exceptional, and he’s the reason you stay with these guys. Also the goomba whaddya-gonna-do Madonn! Gimme some-a dat gravy type sitchation there. I enjoyed the rewatch, and recommend the binge: when you can cruise through 2 or 3 eps in a sitting, they don’t have the heavy weight of expectations people hung around the show when it aired weekly and was gone for three-quarters of a year for a stretch.

NOT A REVIEW, so what’s my point here?

The late 90s, the early oughts, do not seem as remote as they should. In 1999 a TV show set in 1979 would have looked different; it would have felt like it belonged to another time, if only because the fridge was avocado. Aside from the phones, which are RAZRs, nothing looks that remote. Okay ha ha computer screens are 640 X 480, and websites have animated gifs, but you get the sense that the culture just stopped its outward superficial innovations and directed the entirety of its energies on the world contained in the slab in our hands.

I stand by my remarks that Boardwalk Empire is a superior work of art. It lacks a Tony. But as we learned towards the end, all the things that made Tony empathetic were sociopathic manipulations - something the viewer didn’t want to accept. There is good in you, Tony! Search your feelings! You know it to be true! Perhaps, but it didn’t matter. Yes, his conflicts and depression and all the rest of the Symbolic Problems of America and Specifically American Manhood gave his character weight and depth, but in the end we spent six years listening to a guy whine and lie and hate himself and then do something cheap to feel better, for a moment.

The main character of Boardwalk isn’t as compelling. Steve Buscemi is great, but he’s not charismatic. Every secondary character, though, is richer and more interesting than the second- and third-tier Sopranos characters. Richard Harrow and Chalky White have no analogues in The Sopranos. Because the Sopranos, in the end, is pulp with pretense, and it works. But Boardwalk is a novel.

Atlantic City is 1920 is simply more interesting than New Jersey in 1999.

Here’s my final point. Now and then I dip into some 20s music, just to remind myself what their everyday culture was like. Listening to this it struck me that the music of the 20s is on cusp of becoming unintelligible to modern ears. Some of us grew up hearing echoes of this in the public domain cartoons that ran on the cheap TV station that had no budget, so the instrumentation is familiar. Parents of any age who bought their kids Mickey DVDs were acquainted with the oompa-banjo stuff. But I fear that songs like this are just going to be undecipherable.



Whether “Don’t Stop Believing” suffers the same fate isn’t up for debate.




It’s 1922.

Our ads come from the ever-popular Paint, Oil, and Chemical Review magazine.

Well that’s certainly a relief

That’s a huge weight off my shoulders

Look at that place! It’s like poison city!

They started out making milk separators. They still make milk separators.


Erythrosine does not sound like a healthful thing to inhale.

They had a nice sideline between the wars:

An illegal alcohol distillery was raided by Federal agents at the Heller & Merz plant in 1931.  The unit was valued at $500,000 of which $240,000 represented equipment and supplies.  It had been operating for seven months, producing 12,000 gallons of alcohol , valued at $35,000, daily.  The distillery had been receiving carloads of molasses from Puerto Rico, delivered to the rail siding adjoining the plant.  A pipeline was used to pump the high grade alcohol into railroad tank cars.  No arrests could be made since the plant siren was sounded with five blasts as soon as the Federal agents walked through the main gate.

Dye production was gradually transferred to the large Calco Chemical plant in Bound Brook, New Jersey and the Newark plant closed sometime after 1949.


But where was it? Here's a map.

It’s a FedEx center now. The old map says “Hamburg Place,” but it was renamed during WW1, what with all the anti-German sentiment. New name: “Wilson street."


Back in the days when New Jersey had a rep for zinc:


Let everyone unite to make the year the best year ever for paint! Coordinated ads and contests will help.

You wonder how much work was required to make 1923 even Greater.

Nice little mascot for Sealerine.

You get the impression that the industrial districts in all the major cities were saturated with the absolutely worse chemicals ever made.


Accept only pure varnish:


I’m getting a headache from these ads. It’s getting a bit difficult to breath.

Now we know why they changed their name, and went with the little guy.


National Lead would eventually look like "Continental Poison."

A straight pull to the right angle cannot dislodge the bristles.

Great, but whoever did this?



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.



blog comments powered by Disqus