Write, schmite. Feh! Feh on the writing, already. It’s a nice night; I should sit outside typing? Of course, it was a nice day, and I sat outside, typing – but not as much as before. This video production schedule (more about that hoohaw tomorrow) is cutting into blogging, While this is tough on buzz.mn updates, it is good for your host’s mood, because it gets me out of the house. Even when I’m at the office I might as well be at the house, so far from the madding scene is my desk. It’s nice to collaborate. Next year I may branch out to having lunch with people, which I haven’t done since I headed over to the Cedar St. Café for hamburgers with Rich Leiby and Katherine Lanpher. Except for the lunch where we took Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy, to a nice restaurant and gave him a box of Little Debbie Cakes. But that’s another story.
Anyway, here I am, outside, writing. The water feature is burbling along nicely. Had a heart attack the other day when I found the tank almost completely drained. I thought it had sprung a leak. In the history of Oak Island Water Feature moments, this would be akin to Keats seeing blood on his handkerchief. There’s nothing I fear more than the Fatal Drain, the untraceable leak. I wouldn’t know where to start to fix it, aside from nuking it from orbit.
Turns out it was just evaporation. At least it hasn’t drained since I filled it up, and it’s unlikely the thing has developed an occasional leak. There’s no grey area in the hole genre. It’s a hole, or it’s not.
The main fountain that emerges in a triumphant splattering splash out of the big stone – a giant rock left here by glaciers long ago – has been giving me aches and contrusions, though. When I replaced the pump I had to replace the hose that goes through the stone, because the pump had a different sized nozzle. The new hose is thinner, so it doesn’t stay in the channel – in fact the first time I turned it on it shot out from beneath the stone and thrashed around in the water like an electrified snake before it rose up and shot a gallon of fetid water in my face. Spent the rest of the day waiting for ameobic dysentery to set in.
The hose has come unmoored again, so I’ll have to put my arm into the cold water and thread it back up the channel. I set up a spotlight on the fountain, so it looks great at night. When it all works, of course. But it’s hard to get the hose adjusted just right; if it’s too far down the granite urethra, you just get a bubbly trickle. If it’s too far up the fountain sounds like it’s vomiting into a gutter non-stop.
Yesterday morning I was paging through “Southern California in the ‘50s,” an excellent illo-riffic Charles Phoenix book that reinforces every useless, simplistic nostalgic idea I have about the era, and not only makes me wish I’d been a kid then, but stokes something else I’ve felt about the era. It’s not that it ended, as they all do, but that it was taken away from us, somehow. The architecture, the cheer, the optimism, the sense of anticipation for the ever-miraculous future – it’s like there was a referendum, and someone stole the election. I mean, it’s hard to think that people would willingly leave paradise. Usually takes a flaming sword to cast them out.
The seeds of the rejection were all in place in the 50s, though – one pampered generation comes of age, believes itself unique, finds a entire culture catering to their interests and pocketbooks, and bang: adolescence is established as the permament emotional and intellectual state of the nation. He said, horribly oversimplifying.
Anyway. The chapter on Palm Springs described the push-button house built by Robert McCulloch, chainsaw magnate – the beds raised on motors so they could be made without bending over, the rooms had intercoms and controls that ran a 100-disk jukebox, and so on. George Jetson’s house, in the desert. It also had a circular lounge that turned with the sun, so you could bake yourself in the proper position at all times. Seven hours after reading that, I was in an antique store. I looked down at a magazine on the floor:
There it was. The cover of Life, 1956. It had a story on the house. A few more pictures here.
Also got some old Popular Mechanics magazines. A buck a pop, pristine, 1939: well, yes, of course. Here’s a completely unstaged and genuine shot of a fellow taking pictures from an airplane:
The photographer, Merle Oelke, was what they'd call a Pioneer in Aviation Photography. A bit more here - an Amazon excerpt of a book on the Glendale CA airport, aka the "Grand Central Air Terminal."
More to come on that mag; it’s just crammed with ads. But not glamorous ads. (Except for the Chesterfield ads on the back, which are amazing – I’ll post a few of this week in the Advertising is Good For You section.) The ads are dull, humble, and aimed at the dull and humble: learn fingerprinting at home! Magazine editors want your photographs! Earn big money learning guppy-sexing! The how-to stories no doubt appealed to the audience – they might not make this stuff but they liked to think of themselves as the type of men who could, if they wanted. BUILD THIS RADIUM STRAINER. HOW TO CONSTRUCT A MECHANICAL ORCHESTRA. The new inventions pages are crammed with things that never caught on, sensible as they might seem. I remember a similar feature in some mag my dad took. (That’s an old locution for “subscribing to a periodical,” btw. People still use it for the newspaper, but not magazines.) I kept waiting for these miraculous inventions to appear at the Ben Franklin or Coast-to-Coast, but they never did.
This was a find: a cache of 1940s Jack and Jill magazines. Sweet, but dull. Kids had it rough in the days before television, it seems – comics were poorly drawn, the illustrations for children’s mags were rather crude, and the stories tooth-achingly sweet. Here’s a 1942 cover:
Looks cutesy enough, but the squirrels have ration cards in hand. A year later:
Imagine a contemporary magazine aimed at grade schoolers today with an image like this on the cover; I can't. It would send the wrong message. There’s more, but first a reminder of the way kids were spoiled in the 40s:
Sounds like dad was caught up short and reached in his pocket to see what he had; lucky she didn't get, well, Luckies. According to this page, Anieta married a man named Houser, and strolled into the wind. She might still be alive. She probably remembers having that letter printed; that would be a big thing for a ten year old. Then, and now.
The front cover, from 1946, needs no explanation.
Daddy’s home. It’s an illustration from a story about a dog in Minnesota, as it happens. Note the trophies – the Japanese sword, and the black bird. The illustration continues on the back – but you’ll find that at buzz.mn today.
New Minneapolis site: the late-40s coolness of the Doctors and/or Professionals Building. Tomorrow: the Science Museum Star Wars Exhibit. Woot!