Today: yet another free media storage & distribution system gets incorporated into the site; screen-grab theater with a musical interlude; the Sopranos; no “24;” a comic book cover. No Joe Ohio - I think I’m going to make that a Thursday-Friday feature. Store them up and dole them out. I’m back to writing one a day, and they’re as fun as ever, at least for me.
Monday saw the return to normalcy. Up and out, trotting down the hill to the bus stop, a chat with the neighbor while waiting for the bus, then up the hill and back to work. Easy for me to say. Hard on Gnat. Her sleep schedule was shredded by vacation, and getting her up this morning was like winching a Buick out of a bog. After school she had no energy for piano, and barely got through homework. I’m sorry: stupid homework. Stupid boring homework.
She’s right; it is. I know she can count by twos, and while her successful completion of the homework underscored the fact, it's not a fact we necessarily had to prove. Again. When she came home she wanted to play outside. I said we had to do homework and piano first, because you need structure and rules and order – but I could tell she was tired, and piano would be a chore, and it was bright and sweet outside, full of early spring delights. She went outside and played in her treehouse and sat on the Oak Island Water Feature, arranging stones, then drew on the bricks with chalks of many colors. I have to believe that’s as important as filling in the blanks on a picture of a snake. The count-by-two snake, to be exact. There was also a count-by-five snake.
Structure matters, but what really gives it meaning are the times when you depart from it. And a million other parents who have gone before me nod, and think: Duh.
Don’t worry: I’m not going to reprise last week’s Groucho screen-grabs, even though I watched the second disk. If I did, I’d show you this:
The withered mummy-hand grasps the severed phallus with nonchalant disdain!
Instead, we’ll consider the commercials. The second disk has a few spots that accompanied the show, and as you might expect I found them fascinating, for all the usual reasons (glimpses into the everyday nature of post-war life, examples of cheerful MadAv soft-sell and 50s graphic arts, and so on.) In particular, I (heart) Space-lust, the fifties-era fascination with the inky beyond and the miracles of technology. These ads show how much the advertising industry was besotted by the emotive power of futuristic high tech. In the future, jets will fly in outer space!
Ah, but what’s the product?
The contrails resolve to show us the product’s trademarked name . . . but we’ll get to that. Here’s the next sponsor ad in the show’s opening credits:
A star bursts from the vast dark beyond, and explodes into a word. A word that burned itself into my childhood mind, and now sounds like an Aldus-Huxley pill:
Take Sominex tonight, said the ad I remember, and sleep. Safe and restful sleep . . . sleep . . . sleep. When you’re ten or so you can’t imagine why anyone would need anything to make you sleep. Because when you’re tired, don’t you sleep? Why wouldn’t you? Etymologically speaking, it’s a classic 50s brand name. I’m not sure everyone got the soma reference. The “Ex” suffix gives it that scientific gloss, as in Hi-Lex, Tilex, Timex, Etceterex, etc.
It was, and is, a muscle relaxant. And it’s much better those other pills, which are not endorsed by giant smooth-nailed hands:
The disc had a car ad from 1956 – a big broad brick of a car, that Plymouth. I combined two frame grabs for this:
It had push-button shifting. The buttons were used to drive North, Right, Left, and Down. When you study this picture, you see the detail people often miss when they try to recreate 50s technology and design. That’s right: Very Obvious Screws.
But the ’56 Plymouth had something else, a device which caught me by surprise. Never heard of this. Never even considered this. If I’d seen it on a Saturday Night Live fake commercial in 78, we would have split a gut laughing in our oh-so-modern way:
You don’t recognize it? You don’t grasp the pure swank ultra-cool fabulous nature of this amazing device? Perhaps this will help:
It’s the Highway Hi-Fi. It’s a record player for your car. I repeat: a record player for your car. More details can be found here. (Warning: BYO Paragraph Breaks.) Also here. Ah, but what music would you play on such a miraculous device? Well: this would be an excellent time to try out our new music-playing widget, and provide the following tune for your driving pleasure. It's a selection from a record provided to Kresge stores: this is what they played over the speakers i the ceiling.
It makes me feel six years old again. There's not a day I hear 60s and 70s pop in the grocery store, and wish they'd bring this stuff back. Heck, half the shoppers would think it was ironic, which would make it all okay.
(I got this from the 365 Project - which, to my great joy, has returned. A year of peculiar audio!)
As for the rest of the disk, it’s okay. The first one was better. One guest was notable, and that’s this guy. My role model:
I didn’t know anything about him when I was in college, except that he’d parlayed the college-humor genre into a successful career as a guy who wrote humor about college. Or collegians. I thought I might try that myself, although I never wrote about college much.
He was a St. Paul boy, and attended the University of Minnesota. He wrote for the college paper, as did I. He was quit successful, and had a TV show based on his “Dobie Gillis” character – but of course if that show is mentioned at all these days, it’s because Bob “Gilligan” Denver appeared on the show. Not too many people remember him. So let’s pause for a moment and say his name out loud. Softly will do. Altogether now:
There. Just kept his memory alive for a few more years, perhaps.
Oh, right. The Jet ad. The words resolved thus:
And what did it cure? All together now:
Watched the Sopranos last night, because I didn’t get the memo that the show has been downhill since the third episode of the third season, and exists now just to torment people with its failures. Me, I still like it, so take this with salt or your preferred sodium-substitute, such as “Mrs. Dash.” I’m partial to the Italian Blend, made from Blended Italians. Anyway: a great show. The early morning thumping at the door, Carmella’s stark question – is this it? – tells you right away where she spends most of her days. It’s not it, but it’s close, and what followed was a tidy reminder of the skill the show can deploy. Within the first few minute of the show, Tony’s in the can - and it turns out to be a sidenote to a show about a weekend vacation.
I wasn’t enthused to learn the episode would deal with a vacation get-away – it’s the Sopranos! Stop packin’ and start whackin’! But the Monopoly scene was a piece of art, as deft a piece of filmmaking as you’ll find nowadays - especially with “Take Five” looping beneath. What was once a smooth hipster groove became as tense as anything Herrman wrote for Hitchcock. (The fight was one thing, Bobby’s panicked reaction another – bad move, fella – but what really capped the scene was Edie Falco falling into bed, performing perhaps the best exhausted drunken collapse you can imagine.)
As so many others have noted, the show puts you in an ethical bind, because you root for Tony. No, that’s not right. Let’s just say you want everything to come out in a way that undoes his sins, but that’s not going to happen.
But you do care for the brute. There’s no one else you really care about. There are characters I enjoy watching, or enjoy disliking, or characters who amuse me, like a clown, they amuse me, but care about? No. I think most fans of the show care about Tony, in a complicated way, but you can’t avoid the fact that he’s a moral wreck whose few virtues were bred into the bone by his culture, not assumed by the exercise of free will. I still think it ends with his death – the show can’t end without resolution, and jail is not a resolution. What will probably surprise the viewers is the emotional impact of his death. You might think you’re going to feel something, but you probably won’t. If anything, you might feel relief, because the burden of giving him more esteem than you’d like has just been lifted.
New Quirk and Funnies. See you tomorrow!