I forgot to mention that it snowed a lot over the weekend, and that the polar chill returned. Temperature? Ought and change. We’re now all dead inside, thinking well, it may be five above, but there’s no wind. Grateful for that.

The wind in the blizzard grabbed the back storm door and pulled the screws out of the wood. Sheared the screws right out of the pneumatic opener. The door banged back and forth in the wind, which scared the dog; he barked forever, and we just thought it was the snow-removal guys showing up at 4 AM again. The wind also dislodged a light fixture over the door, and now it hangs down and bangs into the storm door. (Which I reseated.) So when he has to go out, that’s not a good door, because the light has to be poked up.

So I take him out the tradesman’s door, which is on the side of the house a few yards away. He does not quite understand this. I get him out by holding a treat, but the idea of going back in via that door does not compute. He goes to the back door, up the steps. I cannot lure him to the tradesman’s door, and he seems to regard it as some malevolent portal that opened up without explanation, and leads dog knows where.

Please, c’mon, Birch. You get this. It’s not that hard. There’s inside and there’s outside. You know the front door. You know the garage. You know the side door. It’s just a door.

But he’s never known it, and balks. Cannot be dragged or pushed.

There has to be an analogue to our own lives there.

Hey, lots of stuff below. NOT A REVIEW. Rather, as usual, something I saw on the box that serves as a springboard for something else. Ready?






I always suspected that Mars Attacks! was a hideous misfire, and I don’t know why. The reviews? The top critics seemed to have loved it at the time, because it was Burton, had a great cast, and spoofed the movies the critics grew up on.

The cast is huge and notable. Everyone’s bad. Nicholson is particular bad in a double role. The script’s idea of lampooning the cliches is to play the cliche at 110%. Rod Steiger (!) as a general who wears mirrored sunglasses and barks KILL! KILL! Oh that's rich.

Twenty years after Airplane!, you’d think they’d know the key to an successful parody film is affection and humor. And by humor I mean “actually funny,” not “technically funny.” You know, something that acts funny, thinks its funny, seems to tick off all the funny boxes, but lands like a manhole cover.

One of the reviews I read said we were all wrong, it’s not a parody of sci-fi films. It’s really a parody / homage to the Topps “Mars Attacks” trading cards of the 60s. If true, this might be the thinnest source material ever.

Mars Attacks is a science fiction-themed trading card series released in 1962 by Topps. The cards feature artwork by science fiction artists Wally Wood and Norman Saunders. The cards form a story arc, which tell of the invasion of Earth by cruel, hideous Martians, under the command of a corrupt Martian government who conceal the fact from the Martian populace that Mars is doomed to explode (due to internal pressure in the planet's core) and therefore proposes a colonization of Earth to turn it into their new homeworld.

There’s a novel idea.

This Wikipedia page treats the cards and the subsequent reissues and sequels like important cultural artifacts, and in a way I suppose they are; we’re lucky that we have such detailed records about such a slight thing.

We have a good record of so much stuff that doesn't matter. As I mentioned last week, I recently came into possession of some crime mags from 1900. Well, copies. The originals flake into nothingness nowadays.

They're tales of - well, pluck. Also luck, but mostly pluck; without pluck you can't take advantage of luck.

I love how the policeman stands aside: beat those crooks, lads! Lay into them! Give them wood, I say!

The stories would veer into the realm that would flower into sci-fi and it was clear we're ways from figuring this stuff out.

But it's the same thing as now. Your imagination is set alight:

A boy of 10 reading this would have been in mid-50s when rockets finally started to appear - and they were falling on London in a horrible war.

You think the DC vs. Marvel thing is new?

Were you a Frank Reade guy or a Jack Wright guy? Don't be fooled by the date; these were reprints. Jack appeared from 1891 to 1896 - 120 stories in all. It tells you something about the pace of technological change that the stories could still work after so long. I wonder if they dind't seem a bit dated, to be honest.

BY NONAME. You scoff: that's the same "author" who wrote the Frank Reade Jr. books. They just plugged anyone in.

Nope: same guy, Luis Senarens. He died in 1939; he saw the rise of airships and zeppelins. I did some image searching, and one picture had a date that sent me to the newspaper archives . . .

Lo, behold, etc - the author of Frank Reade Jr.

Here's the page from May of 1922:

The fellow listening to the radio? He's one of the old boys.

Then, as now, you never forgot what it was like to be a lad, your head full of adventures. Tim Burton never forgot, it seems.

It's sweet that he brought the cards back. Too bad the movie stunk.




It’s 1975, and we’re in Iowa City, reading the Daily Iowan on the Quadrangle, maybe thinking of heading over to the Airliner for a sandwich later.

This is so very, very high 70s. The sunglasses, the turban, the fonts, the little logo for “Downtown” in the corner.

At its peak, Seifert’s had 240 stores in 29 states. It had 26 stores in Iowa, and 45 stores total in 1988, the year it gave up the ghost and closed.

I am having unstoppable and vivid flashbacks:

It’s the style of art, the choice of shows, the nomenclature - Hancher! I hadn’t thought of that in years - and also the fact that I was in Iowa City in the summer of 1975, and probably saw this ad when it was printed the first time and I was having dinner at Burge Hall.

Oh yum

Not there anymore. We didn't have Hardee's in Fargo; I may have found this another sign of the fascinating, different, diverse and exciting culture of Iowa.

I'm not kidding.

What’s Kanekelon? Why it’s a modacrylic:

I think she danced for Captain Kirk in an insane asylum.

Why, it’s our old friend.

Why would he be wearing any protective gear at all?

Lantern Park Plaza! Aka, a Strip Mall.

I saved this as an example of local newspaper grocery store ads, and the general level of layout and composing skills available. Also, because of Coralville - the other city in the U of I educational-urban complex.

You wonder . . . still around?


2008 Yelp: "As a kid, summertime approached with a much-anticipated countdown to the end of the school year.  However, the true start of summer began with a trip to Dane's.  There's nothing like bathing in the yellow fluorescent light above the walk-up window, listening to the quiet hum of the nearby highway, and surrounded by people eagerly waiting in line for some of the best soft-serve ice cream ever created."

And yes, it’s still around. I wonder if I ever went there.

When the owner's daughter does the art for the ads:

An explosion destroyed the restaurant in 1983.

I spent two summers in Iowa City - well, two fortnights - and it was a happy time. Who doesn't like to pretend like you're in college when you're still in high school? Tried to get Daughter (remember her? I do, sort of; wish she'd call or write) to go there, and she wouldn't have it.

I almost went there. Wonder where my life would have ended up. I would have worked at the Daily Iowan, perhaps, and set my sights on working at the Des Moines paper.

In a parallel dimension, that's where I am.

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