Reasonably satisfied with the day’s work. Put up an old architectural history post at the work blog; finished a column written last night; adjusted the next newspaper architectural criticism column to the editor’s specs. Made dinner while listening to a podcast, since Listening to Podcasts is one of my 2015 resolutions. I know, I know: isn’t that asking just a bit too much of one’s self? Take these things gradually; don’t expect to upend your life all at once. But I need upending. So rather than listen to the radio, listen to a calm voice detail the succession of Byzantine emperors, confident that A) you are learning something, and B) you will never remember it.
Really, the only reason I remember the early days of the Roman Emperors and who came after who is because of “I, Claudius.” And only after I’d watched it a few times. Byzantium is a fascinating story, because it’s like “Rome II: The Romaning” or some such sequel title, with all the trappings of Rome transplanted and repeated and adjusted until the great chain snapped for good. (Literally; there was an enormous chain they pulled up to keep ships from entering the harbor.)
Consider this: Columbus built a small town in America in 1493. The Muslim empire had defeated the last vestiges of the Roman empire only forty years before.
That’s how close to Rome we are.
Anyway: this is the second age of Podcasting, it seems. I was there with the first - it was the Bleatcast originally, and then the Diner came back. (New one next week.) I have a yen to do something different, though, and I think I know what that will be. More on that in a bit.
The last few weeks I’ve been working my way through old classic Bond movies. My first was “You Only Live Twice,” about which I have written too much and will no write too much more. Saw that as a re-release. Saw “Diamonds” in the theater at the age of 14 or so. BEST GREATEST MOST INCREDIBLE EVER and so on, but the last time I saw the film Bond seemed out of place in the Seventies. At least Connery’s Bond. No, I grew up on Roger Bloody Moore, and I duly consumed them until it was just silly quippy drivel.
Having watched all the Bond films Netflix has, I’ve been watching Bond documentaries. There are many. There are no shortage of filmmakers who want to Explore the Phenomenon and the children of the producers are more than eager to show up to chat, as well as any superannuated survivors from the era. Connery, of course, is nowhere to be seen. God Forbid. George Lazenby shows up and grins his way through an accounting of his time with both cheer and ruefulness; there’s a fellow who was judged by the world and found wanting. (I blame the expectations and the film, which A) was a good Bond film in many ways, but B) ruined everything by having him address the camera at the beginning and say “This never happened to the other guy,” which is like having the next guy who plays Indiana Jones face the camera and say “And by the way, Han shot first.”
What no one seems to acknowledge in the long tortured tale of the movies is how bad they got in the Moore years, and I think that’s because everyone loves Roger Moore. He is the Saint, and hence could not be Bond; he lacked that undercurrent of factual necessary brutality Connery implied. Craig has it. Dalton, to a lesser degree. Brosnan - I don’t know. Those movies mean nothing to me. It was like watching a Calvin Klein jeans model try to kill people. They’re better than I think they are but I don’t particularly care to investigate.
What I do remember, and come back to now and then while woolgathering over the follies of the age, is the Dalton movie set in Afghanistan, where his mujaheedin ally is an Oxbridge-educated fellow who is eminently civilized and secular and a great fan of the West. That made sense at the time. It’s like Ho Chi Minh and Khomeini: well, they spent a lot of time in the West, and they must have picked up on how sweet it is to have reasonably functioning democracies and women in skirts and free will and all that Enlightenment stuff we assume was hard-coded into human DNA, and needs but the proper situation to flower.
It’s something we can still attain, but it’s an uphill struggle in the sense that climbing Devil’s tower using your fingernails and teeth and toothpicks for pitons is an uphill struggle.
As for that podcast I mentioned above:
In the old days you wrote a book and sent it off and waited. If you were a character in a radio play, there might be some mystery or perhaps even murder; best-selling authors were a constant plot point, playing into the audience’s notions of romantic, tempestuous Artists who grappled with their typewriters like Ahab with a harpoon. Sometimes an up-and-comer would steal a book and pass it off as his own - having murdered the original author, of course. But that was make-believe. Most of the time the book was out of your hands, handed over to publicity, which would put a tiny ad in the back of the New Yorker - and sometimes even then only if you’d already made a splash.
Now you have to design the jacket and all the promotional materials - and, if you’re really ambitious, write a soundtrack. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if you’re really ambitious, you write a soundtrack.
Well, not a full-fledged version, but some transition cues, a main theme at least, a stinger for the end of the chapter, a few mood notes to give it all the proper atmosphere. I mention this because I am putting together an audiobook version of “Casablanca Tango,” and it is more fun than anything I’ve done in a long, long time. The first chapter alone has so many places to bring to life - the street, Dayton’s department store, the newsroom, the Oxen bar. I’ve never done anything like this before, and just as the book was an homage to all the old stories and movies I read, this is a nod to the radio dramas of the era. I’m considering different ways to get it out: sell the whole thing all at once, or serialize it for a few months for free and sell the last chapter at a reasonable price.
You’ll be hearing more about this. Literally, this:
A snippet of transitional music.
Dogs will eat anything. Marketers knew this, so it was a matter of appealing to the owners.
You'd want Magic Sauce Cubes; why wouldn't your dog? Note: tastes great dry if you're a lazy sod.
I love that dog; the wink makes him more cheerful than he'd look if his eyes were open and his tongue was out, since that's more or less the default dog state.
One of the things you learn from old ads is the astonishing number of companies that came and went, leaving expired trademarks, logos, company history and the like. All lost now, done in by foreign competition, changing tastes, leaving only some memories in guys in nursing homes and a few third-generation kids squandering whatever was left over from the liquidation.
Yes, it's sad. Anyway: Knape & Vogt, whose website is here, has been making things for 120 years, and seems to be doing quite fine. In the mid-50s they made these:
Pegboard in your closet? How clever! How modern! How not done any more. Especially special hat racks. If you saw the top items in a closet today you'd wonder what they were for, exactly. Scarves?
Not to be confused with Johnny Walker King George V, which they made in 1934. This stuff . . .
His charm and culture earned him the title "the first gentleman of England", but his bad relations with his father and wife, and his dissolute way of life, earned him the contempt of the people and dimmed the prestige of the monarchy. Taxpayers were angry at his wasteful spending in time of war. He did not provide national leadership in time of crisis, nor act as a role model for his people. His ministers found his behaviour selfish, unreliable and irresponsible.
Perfect guy for some mass-market hooch.
Drugstore beauty aids, notable not just for the packaging and color, but the names of the products. Heed Deodorant seems to be a clever little nudge. The All-Purpose Lotion could be a skyscraper in China, too.
They didn't really put a lot of thought into Freshies, but it got the point across.
Finally: Lawrence Fechtenberger, Interstellar Officer Candidate, is brought to you by chocolate cookies with white stuff in the middle:
Another of those strange Nabisco cookies that had marshmallows that weren't really marshmallows, covered with strange chocolate that wasn't right, somehow.
The Space Age: even cookies chipped in.
That's it for today - except, of course, for tumblr and your weekly ration of Classic Comics. Thanks for the click! See you around.