Finished the Polaroid book. It’s good right up to the end - and it’s a bittersweet tale you can see coming a mile away, in retrospect. If you know what I mean. Because I was never a Polaroid guy - we were Kodak Yellow to the end, from my Grandmother’s Brownie to my Dad’s big chunky 35mm to my own two Instamatics - I never understood the art that was possible with the medium. For example:
That’s a Polaroid. The photographer physically manipulated the chemicals while they were drying. (Or Gabriel did it; neither remembers. The artist was Storm Thorgerson, of the great album-art group Hipgnosis.) This:
That’s a Polaroid, or rather lots of them.
They really were Apple, in a way - tons of money, R&D facilities, a charismatic future-visionary who could inspire and motivate despite his reduced set of interpersonal skills. Like Appple, they won a huge patent case - against Kodak, for bringing out their own instant camera. (Reading about photo giant Polaroid squaring off against photo giant Kodak is a bit like reading an account of a T. Rex fighting with a stegasaurus.) Then came the big shift in technology, and neither could make the leap. If you’re selling film, the prospect of selling filmless cameras has limited appeal.
Tom Petters, local Ponzi artist, enters the picture at the end, too, ripping the meat off the company’s thin bones. Anyway, it’s a great brisk read, more attractive than 99.8% of the books I’ve seen lately, and an utterly American story as well. Applause.
Did the afternoon walk around downtown again, 45 minutes at a brisk pace - with lights and pauses to take pictures, that’s probably 17 minutes worth of exercise. I wish I could say I always find something new to shoot, but I don’t; I think I know where everything is. Sometimes you get good light on the side of City Hall, and there’s a sprig of green at the feet of Hubert Humphrey’s statue . . .
. . . and some days the mysterious porn bunker is a little more forbidding than others.
It’s the annex to a shop that sells pictures to people who can’t figure out the internet. You can only imagine. I’m convinced it was a burger stand back in the twenties. Look at that projection on the left: that was a White Castle or White Tower, even though the two surviving pictures of Minneapolis White Towers look nothing like that. Or it was a rip-off: White Battlement.
Whenever I pass by the big hotels and see people outside waiting for a cab or a shuttle, I always wonder what they think of this place. Today was one of our finer days - perfect weather, brilliant sunshine, the shadows of people in the skyways above, skyscrapers glowing with autumn illumination. I always try to remember to smile and nod hello when I pass. Welcome!
That was my day. Write, walk, write. Home; go to the vet to pick up medicine for the dog to ease the back-leg discomfort. (He had another hour walk this morning. My wife - who is home for the month, since she’s between jobs [moving to the U of M for a great new position] lets him go as far as he wants. Lately he goes back to the neighborhood we lived in when we first met.) Daughter came home from school with the news that she had played King George in Humanities class. Why? They had a unit on the American Revolution, and the teacher asked which side people would have taken.
My daughter chose the loyalist side.
Really. Why? You wouldn’t choose freedom from the crown?
She explained: it was a good thing that the colonists fought for separation, but knowing herself, and knowing how she liked things to be stable and the same, she knew she would have sided with the loyalists.
I find that more heartening than bluff insistence that of course she would have chosen the winning side. Know thineself, and all that.
Took a nap before dinner. Fell asleep instantly, having gotten to bed late and gotten up early. The phone rang. I let it ring. Couldn’t go back to sleep. Looked at the clock, expecting at least 20 minutes.
In the future our voice-controlled houses will shut up everything if you just mutter “mute” and leave it at that.
So, I’m exhausted, and this is short. Two more things.
First: a few weeks ago I gave you the sprightly chipper dom-com theme for an early 50s radio show, “The Couple Next Door.” To recap:
For some reason they swapped it out, now and then, for another. Just as lapidary, and the same happy-land tone.
Second: I’ve moved WNAX to Wednesday, since it just doesn’t feel like a Friday site. It’s hard as hell to find out anything about the people who populated the station; 1947 Yankton is one of those dead zones on the internet. (Which is why I’m doing the site at all, perhaps.) But it’s starting to yield dividends: today you’ll learn about an amazing synthesizer built in the late 30s, capable of startlingly modern sounds.