Walking to work this morning, I noticd that the decorations were up at the 333, our rival building. The lamp, alas, is askew.

No big thing. Of course, I reported it to the guy at the security desk. I think we first met a few years ago when I insisted that the sayings on the Burma-Shave-type skyway flags were out of order. We stood there and tried to piece the poem together, wondering if we just didn't get it. Ever since then we give each other the nod or the wave from time to time. In the bad days when there was no one around, some days he'd be the only person I'd see.

He was, of course, aware of the problem, and we joked that we should walk around down there with our heads tilted to the side so people thought it was a message of some sort, or sign that you belonged to a secret society HQ'd in this building.

The question: how long before it's fixed? In normal days, I'd say right away. Now . . . now you shrug if it's the same way in a week. Because all the small things seem not to matter anymore, or at least as much. The graffiti that stays up. The store that stays closed. The sudden loss of your credit card because someone stole your number. (Hey, you'll get a replacement in two days, if the mail comes, except that the mail didn't come for two days. Why? Who knows.)

But! Online, everything is fine. Everything is horrible, of course, because of all the things and people that are horrible - need I enumerate? What's that? Your list is completely different? - but in the world of online advertising, it’s 2019 and techtopia is all around us, and we’re all so happy.

He DID IT! He GOT A TV! He’s showin’ all the haters!


The last time I saw a face like this was a pan of extras in Braveheart.

He’s not just happy he got a TV, though - he has SAME DAY MOUNTING, and this has kindled animal spirits one normally associates with the victory of your sporting team.

  She’s happy too, caught up in his infectious joy, and she’s also happy because she’s part of the puls.com team that’s going to mount that sucker, today, and then everyone will say “Awesome” and he’ll get an email asking for a review and they’ll never leave him alone after that because he signed up for offers

In another sense, you could say he’s entered a delirious state because he has upped his TV game, and now has a better screen for sitting home, hour upon hour upon hour, scrolling through choices.

Remember that ad from a week or two ago? The woman who’s skydiving, surrounded by heads of people who are helping her purchasing decisions? I saw the whole ad on Spotify, about nineteen times, and she has that smug oh-yeah-I-got-this smile as she pokes and pecks at her phone. Just like the people in the ads who poke and peck at their phones and lower their insurance rates, and smile like they just held their newborn for the first time. No - that's not it. They look at their phones like newborns, but the smile is for themselves, because they used an app and it made them feel better about themselves because they boosted their credit score by three points.

Everything is fine! Everything is fantastic!

Inside the box, that is. Under the glass. But why would you want to be anywhere else? 












Sometimes you listen to TV, and sometimes you have to watch.

I watched some of the 146-hour Beatles documentary, and was mildly interested. Very interested, in parts; very bored, in others. Works out to mildly. Haven’t gotten to the part where Paul pretends to invent “Get Back” on the spot, even though he’s had it in his pocket for a month and wants to make it look like he conjured it out of the chilly air. (Kidding; that is a nifty scene.) I’m interested in the details of the era more than the noodling and jamming, and also I’m not one of those who holds the Beatles in celestial regard. Don’t get me wrong: they were great. I don’t think there’s a better run of pop songs than the work they did in their first few years, something the documentary proves with its opening sequence. Hit after hit, all still clean and fresh and inventive. The later stuff interests me less, and because I wasn’t present at the time, it doesn’t activate a twinge in the marrow.

I’d be more interested seeing a documentary about Elvis Costello in the studio with Nick Lowe, to cite another music group with a run of melodies that matches the Beatles. (Squeeze comes close, but had half as much as EC.)

After 45 minutes I realized I was listening to the doc more than watching, and time was growing short. Must watch something. Perhaps it will be a rewatch, which is like a half-watch, because you know what’s coming.

My streaming services panes are littered with abandoned shows, and they are bothersome. Everyone said this was fantastic! Didn’t like it. Did you give it a chance? Enough to think I didn’t like it. You have to stick with it! It gets so good! Okay, I’ll drag myself through a season with no particular enthusiasm so I can find the deep richness of seasons 7 through 14.

Ah: here’s one I checked out just before bedtime, and did not abandon, but bookmarked. HELLBOUND! IMDB:

A story about otherworldly beings who appear out of nowhere to issue a decree and condemn individuals to hell. These supernatural events cause great mayhem and enable the religious group The New Truth to grow in influence. A few people, however, become suspicious about its activities and begin investigating its involvement in mysterious events.

Sounds okay-hokey-dokey, but it’s South Korean, and we’re all in love with South Korean TV and cinema these days. Even if they’re giving us cliches - the tough grieving cop with an estranged daughter (really), the insolent juvenile delinquents, the social media panics - it’s all set somewhere different, a Western veneer (clothes, interior decorations, tech) over an Asian society, something familiar we in the West think we could navigate with little difficulty if we just knew the language. Because the doors in the apartment building look like they came from Home Depot.

But maybe you've no idea how wrong you would get almost every single detail of daily life.



It’s 1966. I’m running low, it being the end of the year, so just seven images.

Whiskey causes storkism: this is known.

You can tell what they’re thinking: what if we made women want scotch? It would be a whole new market. A HUGE one.

“It’s 86 proof, and does exactly what 86 proof does.”

That’s about as close as they’ll ever get to saying it.

’ve stitched this together, and tried to fill in the missing parts as best as I could. A huge version is here.

Birth of a brand:

Cities Service Company inaugurated use of the Citgo brand in 1965 (officially styled "CITGO") for its refining, marketing and retail petroleum businesses (which became known internally as the RMT Division, for Refining, Marketing and Transportation). CITGO continued to be only a trademark, and not a company name, until the 1983 sale of what had been the RMT Division of Cities Service to Southland Corporation.

Cities Service was known, of course, for one of the most beautiful buildings in the last days of the Jazz Age.


They’re going to the bathroom. Gasoline ads used little girls to indicate that the bathrooms were safe, and not grotesque pits of odorous filth.

"Okay, Bob, I’ll distract him by showing him the newspaper editorial about Vietnam, and while he’s reading about troop deployments and what it might mean for our geopolitical commitment, you swipe something off the front seat."

No, of course, he’s washing the window. You couldn’t get your arm in those little triangular vents.


I do love this, but then again, I drove an Element.

It’s an ad for the East Coast commuter, the man who has left the city behind and arrived, a bit weary, perhaps feeling the effect of a drink or two, at the suburban station. His car does not say SEX, but it says ADVENTURE and MANLY THINGS, without being too boastful. It’s subtle about it. The sort of thing you’d expect from a man who reads the New Yorker. Well, when it’s at the barber shop and someone else has the Esquire.

“I’ve brought the shrieking hell-child with me”

Who are they? Does anyone know? Is there someone whose family archives have this photo, because that was Grandma?

He starts to shift into a different dimension after a drink and vibrating ride loosen his ability to maintain his form, but she’s not wearing her glasses so she won’t notice.

The rest of the train was filled with tired, half-bombed shapeshifters as well.

  That will  have to do. Some peculiar 70s comic book ads await.




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