Helen Gurley Brown of Cosmo fame died. Wonder if I can work that in here somehow.

Woodsmoke in the air on Monday night. Too soon. August needs to get its direction back; I like the stern strong-minded August, which glares down and says it’s heat you need for your own good. Store it up! It is past the hour of twelve, and cold times await when the hand grasps six. Then again, I’m obviously delusional. Seasons don’t speak.
They’re mimes. It’s the small gesture that give away the plot - the single leaf that goes brown, the cloud that moves over the sun and drops the temperature twenty degrees. When that happened today it was like getting NO SIGNAL on the satellite radio.

Speaking of which, and I’d like to, because it means changing the subject from the indulgent crap deployed above, I would like to ask the satellite radio people why they take stations off the air for no apparent reason. Yesterday while driving around I called up a talk radio station:

“This station is scheduled to be off the air at this time. We look forward to joining you when the station returns.”

Or something like that. Went to the comedy channel. Same thing. Went to another channel; same thing. Off the air for what? Maintenance? Are little nanobots crawling around the satellite cleaning out accumulated syllables and melodies? It’s not like they have human beings sitting in the booth talking or spinning discs; it’s just tape, and lots of it.

Things like this are a sign no one is thinking about, well, things like this. The customer experience. What does the customer think when he goes to his station, and it’s “scheduled to be off the air at this time”? He thinks why am I paying for this?

 

I have a slight interest in bad news from China. It's a slow-mo bubble deflation. Here is a fascinating account of China's problems and future. Everyone has problems, of course. The Euro is going to fracture. The Chinese bubble will leak or pop. I read this a week or so ago:

YUEQING, China — A shipbuilding boom raised the fortunes of this hardscrabble industrial port. Five-star hotels sprouted along with machinery depots and metal shops. European luxury cars darted past heavy trucks on the bustling streets.

But in another sign ofChina'seconomic slowdown, shipyards are now closing and half-finished vessels lie rusting in the humid haze. Prosperity is receding like the tide.

Today, Dongfang's Yueqing shipyard remains largely abandoned. Its three burnt orange gantry cranes stand idle over a pair of unfinished tankers covered in scaffolding. Chen Tongkao, the company's chief executive, hasn't been heard from publicly in months and is suspected of fleeing the country.

When they got a bigger share of the shipbuilding industry, they overbuilt. They overbuilt everything. It'll all go kaboom in some interesting fashion, and people are thinking: this is unparalleled. The level of global instability is unprecedented.

Just like the end of the 80s, when the USSR swam-dived down the drain and Japan crashed and China had that unpleasantness in the downtown square?

That was the moment the baton went up, perhaps. Now it descends and the opera begins.

There’s something about building huge empty cities for the sake of beefing up your construction statistics that has the whiff of the fish; there’s something about miles of unaffordable skyscraper condos marching along clean new boulevards lanced by brisk expensive trains going from one glutted market to the other that says: hmm. Jiffy-Pop economy. As this article notes, the new projects aren’t actually inhabited, but purchased for investment. The value can only go up! Sound familiar? Now add murky crony banky fun coupled with one-party rule and a scorpion death-dance with American debt, add hundreds of millions of people who cannot afford the new palaces and live in closets, and you have a benign inversion of 1984: the state, instead of destroying the results of productivity through conflict, creates more and more non-productive assets to keep the economy going. I watched a documentary about one of those new cities, intended as a ready-made Manhattan - a skyscraper cluster in some town that had yak on the main street twenty-five years ago, and now boasted a forest of glass and steel.

Except no one moved in.

The construction of American cities was organic, competitive, prone to speculative frenzy, assisted by government infrastructure spending, but most of all individualistic. One syndicate put up a big building here; another put up a competitor down there. Washington did not decree that Manhattan should arise here, and have these buildings, completed by this time - it happened because of the competitive jostling of moneybag men, egos, and a desire to dig deep, built tall, cash out, and move on. Along the way arose a city of beautiful towers, each lancing the sky on its own behalf, but forming a harmonious whole, tempered by time and shaped by changing tastes.

I’ve never bought the “Chinese Century” hypothesis. I don’t think the Party will lose control, though. In the end, they’re okay with shooting their own people. If it comes to that. It probably will; it usually does.

 

   

 

And now, some more 1950s product design. This is not a product design blog, of which there are many. This isn’t even a blog. It is ALL THINGS, though. A chameleon! No, a procrustean chameleon. A Whitmanesque procrustean chameleon that contains multitudes.

Ahem. Sorry. I had a long day, a good long lazy day that unspooled exactly as I wanted, and I’m just shrugging my shoulders and whistlin’ a tune tonight. Here’s Dole, taken from the invaluable culture document of American Culture, the advertisements in Life magazine:

 

Simple. Direct. Kraft, the same way:

 

Do you really need to say amy more than that? I'll bet there's nothing on the other side, no barcode, no nutritional information, no 1-800 number to call for questions or comments. Nothing.

Corn Flakes changed it up a lot:

 

 

Better get a spare package! SPARE YOURSELF THE HORROR OF INSUFFICIENT CORN FLAKES.

 

That one comes from this:

 

 

Get it? No? It isn't funny when you run out. So get a spare. Do not be taunted by a man. The copy says as much: "isn't that like a man? Trying to get a laugh out of you in spite of the fact that more families (including yours!) ran out of Kellogg's Corn Flakes this morning than any other cereal." Seems somewhat presumptuous.

As for McGee, c'mon; you should know that. I don't like the show much and I know it.

Brown 'N Serve is still around. Needs another apostrophe; should be Brown 'N' Serve, right?

 

As you can guess, there's a circus motif. They did that a lot, associating the gaiety of circuses with meat and value.

 

 

 

Did I do these yet?

 

 

Godfrey: meh. The Old Redhead. Took a long time, but his essential personality did him in. The LaRosa Incident. Long story short: he fired a popular cast member, and people responded poorly. When they're making songs like this, the tide is starting to turn.

 

 

And what does any of this have to do with Helen Gurley Brown? Godfrey was first man on the cover of . . . this.

 

 

New Today: Comic Sins! Hit that link. Also, there's the tumblr - usually up around noon - and Twitter and Instagram and all the other internet things. Oh, and the Strib Blog - I'll tweet the URL if I remember.

All this w. Hope you like it. There's a book coming in a week - hope you like it, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
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