For the first time, it felt like a long, relaxing three-day weekend. Why? No entertaining. When we have people over, there's the shopping and chopping and mincing and juicing and stirring and boiling and cleaning and table-setting, hours of it, me always doing something but of course not enough, and frequently in the way. Chill the wine! Get out the glasses! They're spotted! Vacumn the  porch! THEY'RE HERE! And after the great dinner and everyone goes, it's the cleaning again until it's 10. It's always worth it, but it is not relaxing.

This time . . . it was relaxing. And not without outsiders: on Sunday we had a Zoom call with Daughter. It was supposed to include Judith, our exchange student, but she bobbled the time. Got to see the poster she made for her crepe at the place where she works.

Caught up with Judith the next day. Now it's her family's turn to host someone. They have a Swedish girl, notable for her astonishment that people talk to people they don't know. People just - meet, and start talking? By the time she comes back from Spain she'll be gesturing with her hands and starting conversations in the grocery store. I wonder how long until she's shunned.

Dog emotions are easy to read, if you know the basics. Do not anthropomorphize, except when duh, that’s obviously what they mean. For example: when I’m having breakfast, Birch will trot over and wait in the general vicinity, but without making his presence obvious. With my wife, he makes himself well known, because it’s more likely to lead to something, but I usually ruin perfectly good lickable plates with hot sauce. When I am done, I show him the plate; he sniffs it, and his blank face says it all: nope.

But. When my wife leaves to go running, he becomes emotional in ways you cannot help but anthropomorphize. It starts with alarm - where are you going? You will not be safe! - and quickly turns to despair. He howls and weeps. Then he remembers that I am still here, and comes to me to complain and hector: loud constant barks, as if he has to express his dissatisfaction, or because he’s mad at me for not realizing that something is terribly amiss.

Also, his paw is bothering him. Did he step on something? Examine for tenderness. He’s not drawing his paw back. Awww, he knows we’re trying to help! Or, it’s nothing of the sort. Probably nothing like that at all, but you like to think so, but really: any time you give a dog close-up attention that is not scritches, it probably triggers thoughts of something bothersome or invasive. A bath, a shot, the dreaded nail-clippings.

Paw seems fine. As with everything, you wait for it to get better. But opinions differ on this.

Wife, a few days ago: something’s wrong with Birch. He’s not himself. He wasn’t himself last night either.

Me: I noticed that; he didn’t come in for his midnight snack.

Wife: and he didn’t eat his breakfast.

Me: well, that’s significant.

Wife: but he did have a piece of my breakfast. Maybe he’s just being picky.

Me: I wonder how that possibly could have happened. (I give the dog a piece of my sausage. He eats it right away.) See? He has an appetite.

Wife: maybe he has an upset stomach. He drank some icky creek water last night on the walk.

Me: Maybe that’s it. He seems okay.

Birch, after all the breakfast dishes are put away: eats everything in his bowl

It was strange that he didn’t eat his breakfast at first, since that is the first order of things in the morning. Noisy chomping, fast, in case another dog should suddenly materialize and barge its snout into his bowl. But it was our own keen attention to the dog more than anything. On an ordinary day he’s plopped on the rug or up on his sofa, just hanging out, as dogs do. But if you think there’s something amiss, you read vague unhappy resignation to the inertness.

Well, he’s in the back yard now, licking his paw again.

It’s not the paw he was licking before.


(Yes, I have googled “paw licking” a dozen times in the course of dog stewardship.)









Watching a rather horrifying documentary on Netflix about Woodstock 99. The imdb reviews are scornful: it wasn’t that bad and they’re blaming men for it! Well, I don’t know who else you’re going to blame; you don’t see a seething mass of drunken shirtless women trying to tear down the festival infrastructure because Limp Bizkit riled them up.

I don’t remember any cultural impact of the event, aside from eye-rolling at trying to reprise the “Woodstock Spirit,” which means "swaying to hippie sounds or tripping to Hendrix while you stink worse than you’ve ever stunk before, then tottering off to a nearby copse to squat out whatever beans you ate the day before. The whole mystique is lost on me. It seems like the original was a nightmare of bad hygiene and music of varying qualities, subsequently regarded as a utopian moment for the high holy Boomer movement. I have an allergic reaction to all that stuff.

The 90s was when I lost touch with contemporary rock, so the bands mean nothing to me. They’re mostly angry. Very angry. Loud and tight and tuneless. You look back and wonder: I don’t remember the 90s being this feral. But you get the sense of a youth culture that had completely decoupled from the civilization that gave them life and food and purpose. Just RAAAAHHHHWWWWW dude culture, like the last horrible yawp before the internet fixed them all with a pin and everyone was anesthetized by a gaming console or a phone.

It’s the old question: what are you so angry about? I don’t know, whaddya got?

This is actually a stupid response that sounds cool, like many things that seem cool.

What are you so angry about?

I don’t know, whaddya got?

Potable water, antibiotics, jet travel, dentristry - oh, here, just watch this Life of Brian scene and get back to me.

I remember the rave-up moments of 80s concerts as positive, partly because we had actual melodies and varied song structure, but also because it was a release from all the anxieties of youth, great and mean. Punk had failed to take root, because Americans weren’t spotty wankers on the dole. Its energy was channeled into more interesting forms. More commercial, in some ways, but open to elaboration. Punk itself was a dead end. Put that stripped-down DIY idea in the hands of the Ramones, and you got exhilarating stuff that was just as raw, but also fun. Punk wasn’t fun.

I was also watching a series about the Sex Pistols on Hulu, and it’s meh. The only thing that seems to come through with any degree of accuracy is the loathsomeness of Malcolm McLaren, who is portrayed here with supercilious camp. From the distance of four decades it looks quaint and amusing and refreshing - why, of course there was a rebellion against the Eagles and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and good thing we had these lads to break the niceties of the ossified culture! I suppose. But it was ugly music for losers, and ugly music for losers will always be manipulated by smarter people who want to do something shocking in the hopes of self-enrichment.

You can, I suppose, draw a straight line from Buddy Holly crooning in a white suit to the goblins crouching on the stage spitting tuneless complaints through a curtain of oily hair. But the masculine energy of the early days of rock was creative and romantic. The masculine energy on view in Woodstock ’99 was an outgrowth of '69, anarchic and destructive, and it resulted in a festival that collapsed into filth and disease and scarcity in two days. But it was building up for a quite a while, all through the 90s. You have to ask: why?

Oh, I think we know why! What we probably can't do is agree on the reasons.



It’s 1913.

The book that ensures food purity!

How? Well, you burn the book, and cook the food over the flames, killing all pathogens.

A nice round-up of 1913 product design here.

"What’s for dinner?"

“Cottolene and Our Trademark Ham.”

“What’s our trademark?

“Well, it’s their trademark.”

“Which is what?”

“Our trademark.”

As for Cottolene:

Cottolene was a brand of shortening made of beef suet and cottonseed oil produced in the United States from 1868 until the early 20th century. It was the first mass-produced and mass-marketed alternative to lard and is remembered today chiefly for its iconic national ad campaign and the cookbooks that were written to promote its use.

Crisco beat it out, eventually.

Baker-ized coffee! It’s Bakerized!

They’re all rather cluttered and fussy by modern standards. But still, you get the idea: national products, national campaigns, brand identification. Over a hundred years ago. The consumer economy is hitting its stride.

Several of these are still around.

Knox hung on to that design for a long, long time - and Worcestershire sauce still has the same packaging. Remarkable.


“Auto pleasures are but half when you cannot Evinrude.”

Another sign of new tech and new prosperity. Imagine the delight you’d feel tooling around the lake with one of these. Noisy? No idea. Subject to breakdown, leaving your party stranded? Can’t say. But the brand would survive until 2020, when it was axed by its parent company. They blamed COVID.

Ole Evinrude’s ghost wept.

Crackle it! Tear it!

"No, I need that, it’s the last sheet -"


Paper is one of those things no one thinks about much - but really, has anyone given it much thought at all, for decades?

Hammermill is still around.

That’s just a hell of a lot of underwear.

Add a full suit, and it’s hard to say you’re heading into the relaxed, breezy, season of cool comfort.


  Well, my source material says 1913. Perhaps they were still resting on the loud, sustained acclaim they’d received for the 1912 innovations, and were determined to make the next batch of improvements really something to notice.

Believe it or not, they’re still around - and they go by Shuron. Their website notes that they created "the iconic glasses" of the 50s and 60s.

Here’s their handsome company HQ, which they occupied until the 60s.

The site also says they were founded in 1865, when their own ads say differently. Wonder why. But don't trouble yourself over it too much.





That'll do - time to check in on the adventures of Johnny the Nicotime Imp!



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