A few months ago I needed to replace an old point-and-shoot, a cheap Canon I got four or five years ago. It took great pictures. A few years ago I bought a point-and-shoot for my wife, so she could take her own vacation snaps and daughter-pictures. It had more MEGAPIXELS! than the old Canon, and took inferior pictures. The new cheap Canon I got had EVEN MORE MEGAPIXELS!!!, but the most important aspect was the timer.

See, some cameras let you set a custom timer, but only once. That’s it. You want it to repeat? We’re very sorry. The programmers who designed this feature set decline to offer you that, but you can apply a “poster filter” that makes your picture look like crap, if you wish. So I bought the cheap one, which also had 16 Megarfrickenpixels, more than any of the other point-and-shoots.

It’s just an awful camera. It’s about the worst camera I’ve ever owned. Timer function works, though. I took it downtown today to snap a few things, and it consistently misrepresented color, and delivered nothing but pale mud. Most the reviews agree. Pros: Cheap, Speedy! Cons: sucks.

But it has a wide variety of options that let you make the picture look Instagrammy, every single one of which I can do on my computer, better.

Tonight it broke. Can’t put the card back in the slot. To hell with it.

One of the last pictures it conceded:


That's after I sharpened, adjusted the color, and did some lens-correction.

Now. For fun I ran it through a filter that reproduces the look of a Polaroid SX70.


Ah, retro! Ah, crappy cheap instant camera photos, with their faded hues. But that’s wrong.

In the mail, as they say: “INSTANT - the Story of Polaroid.” I can tell you the pitch: Before Steve Jobs was Steve Jobs, Edwin Land was Steve Jobs, except back then he was Edwin Land and that was enough.” Okay, let me work on that.


Land was Steve Jobs, if Steve Jobs had invented anything.

Okay, that’s harsh. But Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone or the iPod; he brought them into being, which is different. Not a small accomplishment, but when you look over what he did in his second term at Apple, it was about making other people do things that conformed to an exacting and usually well-conceived model. He had good taste, with a few glaring examples to the contrary. Most of the designs are justly praised; some decisions haven’t dated well.


Anyway. It’s the story of Land and the Polaroid, which was an object of great fascination in my youth. Never had one; never wanted one. Too big, and expensive, and the pictures were thick and had that big white space on the bottom. But they were

The things I’ve learned in the first few pages:

* Land invented 3D movies as we know them today, sort of

* The Polaroid office’s model-maker was Maxfield Parrish Jr.

* Land got the idea for an instant camera and figured it out in about 48 hours

* Polaroid was a trademark for the things they made before the camera - a reflection of Land’s lifelong interest in, of all things, polarization.

And so on. It's a fast read - I finished the book in 60 seconds, half of which was spent shaking it - and great design. Okay, I'm only halfway through. And you really didn't have to shake the pictures at all. Ever.

One of the models noted is the Swinger, and one of the models in the Swinger model ad is - well, you spot her.

Jingle written and sung by Barry Manilow.

To get back to my original point: the book details the development of the Land Camera beyond the early models, and shows what marvelous results you could get, how it made huge pictures with intricate detail possible, how the colors just sang. It's a forgotten story, and if you like A) technology, B) stories of visionaries, C) sixties culture, and D) product design, you'll enjoy it.


. . . The site's popularity highlights an uncomfortable reality: Pinterest's user-generated content, which overwhelmingly emphasizes recipes, home decor, and fitness and fashion tips, feels like a reminder that women still seek out the retrograde, materialistic content that women's magazines have been hawking for decades — and that the internet was supposed to help overcome.

So when people are able to do what they want instead of what they were supposed to want to overcome, this is bad.

Sites like Jezebel were created as an antidote to women's print magazines, which are rife with diet, fitness and dressing tips. The internet has for many years now been thought of as a place where women can find smarter, meatier reads just for them.

Instead, there's Pinterest: heavy on recipes (diet and otherwise), inspirational quotes, exercise tips, and aspirational clothes and homes. Kitchen porn, cupcake porn, bracelet porn — any kind of eye candy you can think of is probably on Pinterest, waiting for the next Pinner to covet it enough to re-pin it.

So the popularity of one somehow negates the existence of the other. It’s not possible that someone could go to both.




Products Tuesday, where we look at the packaging design of yore, and also say “hey, it’s Tuesday! Only two more days until Friday.”

More A&P:


They needn’t doesn’t necessarily say they aren’t. Only that they needn’t. There’s a word you don’t see in advertising very much. A&P seems unusually keen on celebrating its 96th anniversary, something no one would care about at all. It’s still going into its third century, albeit in diminished form; no national ad campaigns for them anymore. But you can still buy Eight O’Clock, their house coffee, at Target and elsewhere.



Ann Page was a house brand. Where’d she get her name? Ann Page. Right there in front of you. She was one of the reasons the company would go bust a few decades later. If you’re thinking she became corporeal and took over the Board of Directors and made disastrous business decisions like eliminating milk (“I don’t care what it does for our sales, I hate the horrid stuff”), well, no. A&P relied too heavily on house brands, believe it or not:

In 1951, the Supreme Court ruled that manufacturers could not establish minimum prices unless the retailer agreed to the arrangement. This decision launched a revolution in discount retailing[10] fueled by the rapid increase in television advertising that raised demand for national brands. Contrary to this, A&P invested substantial amounts of its scarce capital to expand manufacturing

Customers would go to a store for Betty Crocker, and there wouldn’t be any Betty Crocker. But plenty of Ann Page, whoever the hell she was.

Also, the pork-to-beans ratio may have been off-putting.

Domino sugar had a mascot:


I wonder what her name was. Sugarina? Domina? Pixysweet? The internet is silent - possibly because she didn’t have a public name, just a term used by the ad men. (In which case it was probably obscene.) Domino Sugar’s website, like many company pages, ignores its commercial history altogether.

The old Evenrude logo:



In my day, there were two outboard motor companies: Johnson (the sea-horse) and Evenrude. You were one or the other like you were Ford or Chevy, Case or John Deere.

Bombadier owns both Johnson and Evenrude today. There was a Mr. Evenrude, as you may have suspected: a fellow by the name of Ole.

Heinz cans. There’s just no way to draw that stuff without making it look like brains in a can. Bloody brains on the left; drained brains on the right.



Finally, there’s the Hotpoint mascot.



That’s Happy Hotpoint. He was a bit creepy in his early incarnation, although that was standard character design for the time. When Happy was put on TV in the 50s, we learned that he was a she:



She’s about 25 seconds in. Do you recognize her? No? Well, you know her.



How about now?



Regardless of whether you hate spunk, she had it.


Today: new book! Also, Comic Sins.














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