Ah, there’s the sun.
It’s been warm and cloudy all morning, but every so often you get the blare-of-trumpets effect. The world lights up and it’s perfect spring – then the light dims as the clouds cover the gap, and everything looks like you applied a photoshop filter called East Germany. (5 pixel range, maybe, with the winter setting down to 0.) I’m outside waiting for lunch. Lunch is at 11:30. If I push it, then everything falls apart. Why, a fellow could end up having a sandwich at 11:23. And then what happens? People stop wearing hats, ties get wide, and adults wear dungarees in public. It’ll all fall apart.
Bucket status: unchanged. Status update scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, I believe. Palpitating? Not much. But now and again, yes. I miss my column. The front page of the paper has a quote every day, and I'm convinced they're chosing them all with particular care these days. Today's quote: "Without work, all goes rotten." That's Camus. The rest of the quote didn't fit under the masthead: "But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies." Hey, thanks, Al! Have a great day. And remember, folks, unless you're a hairy-backed barrel-chested painter slashing away at a canvas in a Paris garret, life is over. You there, working in an office job, doing what you have to do, looking up every hour at the picture of your kids and thinking how great it'll be to see the brood when you get home (and it's taco night!) - your life is meaningless! Stifled! Dead!
I'd say that when work is soulless, work stifles and dies. Life is a different matter.
Hey, remember this fellow?
No? (Clever people who like to peek at the file names will be disappointed to learn his name is not 12.jpg.) A few years ago I used this screen grab in a review of 1957 movie, the first one this chap did. He was in the news again this week – peer hard at the face and see if you can recognize him. The answer comes somewhere in this Bleat. When you least expect it. (UPDATE: I may be wrong about who this is, so let me doublecheck my facts for once in my life, and get back to you tomorrow.)
Bucket status: unchanged. Status update scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, I believe. Tomorrow I will have a job or not. If it’s the latter, it won’t be because I was canned – it’ll mean I took the buyout, possibly so I could be canned later. I prefer “canned” to “fired,” which has the sound of Biblical wrath; I like “sacked,” but since I’m not in college anymore I don’t use British words to impress the girls, or “birds.” Did that ever work? Did I ever get a date because I said I’d been sussing out the aluminium? I don’t like “made redundant,” which sounds like you’ve been duplicated. “Laid off” is pathetic; it makes you feel like something slumped and boneless that rolled off the sofa. “Fired,” on the other hand, does have a brutal finality to it, as well as the comic Mr. Spacely implications.
“Took the buyout” sounds like a euphemism for death. But I suppose when you think about it, “death” is a euphemism for death. Not that I spent any time thinking about these things; I'm done brooding. I found myself a bit distracted today, worrying about the shape of things to come, and I decided to touch up this week's Bleat design. Gosh, can you tell? If I'd had another hour I would have come up with a custom font for the body copy.
Let’s take our minds off our concerns with some early 1930s crayon ads, shall we? These were taken from “Everyday Art,” a magazine aimed at school teachers. The later issues of the 1920s had ads that looked like nice nursery-rhyme illustrations – sub-par Parrish with a woodblock feel. Then came the New Era, and the American family was streamlined to meet the challenge of modern times:
What, you ask, is that thing behind them? It’s not cotton candy from the 1933 World's Fair; it's the streamlined version of the American Crayon Company’s logo, Old Faithful, seen here on a stock certificate.
Apparently the crayons were meant to be as dependable as a geyser, thus putting in the shade for all time the undependable crayons that had plagued the nation since their introduction. No more the tear-streak’d face of a tyke whose crayon had snapped whist shading a gentle scene; never again the stricken visage of an innocent tot who had put the crayon up her nose only to snap it in half while in transit, and thus required the attentions of Father and his tweezer in order to extract it. Steadfast crayons! Look for the sign of Mother Earth blowing it out her -
As I was saying, American Crayon was the Hydrox to Binney & Smith’s Oreo, the Crayola brand; the firm was noted for its Prang paints as well. Wonderful word, Prang; it just comes right out at you. If you hit a hollow cast-iron statue with a metal rod: PRANGGGG. If Pan the Goat-God dropped his trousers: PRANGGGG. It’s the sound of the color yellow hitting your retina. It was also the name of the company’s founder, Louis Prang. The firm was later absorbed into the famous pencil maker Dixon Ticonderoga, which really should have been the name of a great American frontiersman. Anyway, American Crayon was quite modern; here’s an ad for their “Tuned Palette” of paints:
The notes are supposed to evoke “Old Faithful” as well, which is really overextending the metaphor.
This cover illustration is a little behind the times and somehow ruins the whole effect, but I like it:
A few years before the covers looked like someone stamped them out with finger paints and carved potatoes. It gives you a sense of how the economic dislocations accelerated change. People seem to think that everything in the 30s looked like a Walker Evans photo, when the mass culture took on a whole new look. Hard, shiny, sleek, machined, lean. I mean, this is a magazine for grade-school art teachers, and it looks like the manual for a rocket. Tomorrow: hand-lettered ads from the back pages.
And now, Bleat Radio Theater. We present "X Minus One," a radio show I first encountered in Washington DC, listening to the Sunday night radio shows. This was the first one I heard. It’s a Heinlein story published in 1940, and given the radio treatment 16 years later. I’ve always liked it, even though it’s a bit pat towards the end. Why I’ve never forgotten this slender tale, I don’t know; might have something to do with the tagline. “Keep ‘em rolling.” Enjoy! And I’ll see you tomorrow. With my bucket or on it!
(Oh, and new Money as well.)