There were three people in the office today, and we had a conversation! This marks the first time I have experienced, or observed, such a crowd at the office. For one moment it seemed normal, as we talked about work at work, or what was work.
Huh - I had forgotten how “work” was a place. “I’m going in to work.” When you said that, you were heading to the office in order to perform work, but somehow the meaning shifted until the place where you did work was also regarded as Work.
“Where are you?”
“I’m at work.”
So it possible to go to work, be at work, and not work, if you’re a slacker, or take naps in the lounge. (As one co-worker famously used to do.) It is also possible for something to malfunction, which means it is not working at work. So you could say “I’m not working at work because the keyboard isn’t working.”
Yes, I’ve lots to say today, don’t I! I’d say more, but I have to get to work. (At home.) Spent all day casting around for a column idea, through the line in the water, waiting for the tug, but the bobber lies on the surface in repose. Not that I expect ideas to come to me; you have to make them happen. And it’s entirely a function of mood. In the right frame of mind, everything is a column. That’s when you’re feeling expansive, connected to the wide world beyond. Me, today:
I watched the first episode of WandaVision. I have no idea what’s going on. I barely remember Wanda from the Marvel movies, which means I should go back from the start and watch the entire series - it is, after all, our Ring cycle. Vision I remember as remote, all-powerful, somewhat troubled, but that’s about it. BAD FAN BOY!
Look, I’m a grown man. If I had the same enthusiasm for this stuff at my age now as I had at 14, it would not reflect well. I think it’s a mistake to reject it on that basis, and yes, some things you like at 14 are important and you’re better for hanging on to them the rest of your life. I’m glad the Marvel movies were good. I enjoyed them. I liked explaining stuff to my kid when she was younger and we saw them together, and she was nervous about seeing the Red Skull because he was terrifying. Yes, he is. It’s okay. I’m right here.
Whatever is going on I can’t say, except that Wanda and Vision are living in sitcom Trope-land, and man, did they nail it. The theme is a bit off; the voices didn’t sound like that. But the set - well.
You can tell the age and TV-savvy of the reviewer by their ability to place that set in its exact context. It’s different, but it’s the same place, and it’s meant to evoke the hallowed lyrical land of New Rochelle. There’s even the wooden divider between kitchen and dining area. All it lacks is Little Richie, which is good, because that kid was awful.
They got many things right, but aside from the set and the rightness of the B&W image - hard to describe, but when you see pristine copies of the Dick Van Dyke show, you know what I mean - they nailed two tropes of the genre. The first was the worst: a Misunderstanding Arises because no one communicates in complete sentences and operates from assumptions. I hated this when I was younger, watching these shows: JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER! It’s a reminder how good Peg Lynch was at the domestic misunderstanding plot; all of her examples are utterly plausible, without artifice, because they all revolve around the same thing: the husband forgot something.
The second trope set up an expectation of adulthood I did not want to experience: the boss, at some point, will expect to come to your house and eat your food. The boss was always imperious and mercurial, harried but in control, and prone to barking. To have him for dinner was fraught with peril, because it things went wrong, you could be FIRED - or, more likely, not get the PROMOTION.
The PROMOTION was a big thing. More money, yes, but more status. More responsibility, yes, but elevation above your previous condition, validating your striving, your agita, your clever, insightful observations on the job. Why, with a PROMOTION, you might be a BOSS one day!
The Wandavision Boss is like a bearded ursine Larry Tate:
The BOSS usually had a wife in her fifties, which meant she was a sexless matron, either dotty or haughty. If she was dotty, then she could be counted upon to smooth things over with blithe disregard for her husband’s sturm-and-drang; if she was haughty, then the BOSS would be humanized when we saw he was, essentially, her employee.
The meal would never go smoothly; there were always complications in the kitchen, because the WIFE was prone to misadventure, even though her basic competency was a given. She might rely on a MILLIE, who would be the less-attractive friend whose marriage was a down-market echo of the main characters’s relationship. In the end the dinner would be successful, though, and great relief! Whew! I won’t get fired because you burned the roast!
Wandavision ran through this with practiced ease, and I had to wonder whether the majority of viewers got all the references, or just assumed this sorta meant something because it kinda seems to mean something? I’ve no idea where it’s going. But it’s worth the price of admission for me, and when we’re talking about Disney+, there is literally a price of admission.
Sue? Sue Storm? No; they didn't have a June. At least as I recall.
I'd enjoy this more if I got all the details, but I'm more interested in the take on the media of the era than whether this is a clue to that.
More next week.
You want rosy kids? Feed ‘em phosphate of potash.
I guess children were forbidden to address the servants directly, as it would suggest they were on the same social plane.
It might just be the magazines from which I take these things, the educated class at which they were aimed, but man, I get tired of all these piano ads. The name for this one suggests a famous writer teamed up with an explorer:
You can read about Clark here, but I get no flavor of the fellow.
“It’s the Process.”
That’s our old friend the Catsup Maker, seen elsewhere on this site. T. A. Snider. Birds Eye bought them in the 40s, and the brand waned and perished.
Ah! Great. I’m tired of dirty Kalsomine.
No, it wasn’t something you ate.
Also referred to as kalsomine or distemper paint, it was a dried calcium carbonate product that, mixed with water and sometimes pigments and glue, formed an opaque, easy to use and fast-drying coating for walls and ceilings.
When disease is everywhere, yoi want to make sure your wallpaper glue was hygienic.
They could sell anything with that word in 1910.
The Wanamaker brand was quality all the way:
The name and the man:
John Wanamaker (July 11, 1838 – December 12, 1922) was an American merchant and religious, civic and political figure, considered by some to be a proponent of advertising and a "pioneer in marketing."
This, my friends, was a store, and we are damned fools for not demanding that the world look like this sometimes, somewhere.
What would be verboten today was expected then.
What was it? “Stove black (or stove polish) is the equivalent of high-temp paint. There are a number of different formulations, but in its simplest form, it seems to be charcoal and graphite.” It was applied to prevent corrosion.
Still for sale in 1937 - with the same logo.
They’d been working on electric cars since 1870?
No, they’d been building buggies, since 1875. They’d been making electric cars since 1903.
I’d completely forgotten - if I ever really knew - that “Rexall” came from Rx. Of course!
Bonus: it was 50 proof.
That will do today, I hope.