Daughter had mentioned that she wanted to make Valentine’s Day cookies for her school chums, so I picked up a tube of dough, some frosting, some pastel tints, and these candied hard decorations that taste like blood. It’s an odd choice for a flavor, that. People generally expect something sweet as a cookie topping. It is not an ill-advised assumption. But the company went with “Blood Flavor.” Doesn’t even say it on the package. Probably just as well; sales would suffer.
Gentlemen, sales of our cookie decorations have decreased 87% since we put BLOOD FLAVOR on the package. Any suggestions? You there, Johnson.
It’s Jansen, sir. How about we remove the words BLOOD FLAVOR?
Hmm. I don’t know. Seems like we’re over-reacting. Smithson?
It’s Smithsen, sir. Perhaps we could replace the blood flavor with sugar?
You’re talking changing the entire recipe there, Smithsen. With an e, right? Like Johnson there?
I think it’s time we asked ourselves whether it’s enough to make blood-flavored, hard, unpleasant cookie decorations. Perhaps it’s time we told America why ours were better than the others.
As far as I know, sir, only ours taste like blood.
Then that’s our competitive advantage!
And so on. She made beautiful cookies, 20 in all, put them in a container, put the container on the counter, and approximately nine hours later screamed at the dog who had eaten them all. Perhaps because they smelled like blood.
That unfortunate start to the day - Daughter was very, very unhappy with the dog, who understood nothing but the obvious anger, and spent the rest of the morning slinking around and avoiding eye contact. The rest of the day was a wash, with some very minor but recurring things that galled me more than they should, and required A Decision. (Which was made.) Turned in a column, had some lines objected to. Sigh. Sat down to do evening work and everything looked exceedingly dull. See? I told you.
Worst week of the year. Or so I hope.
Annnnnd then after I wrote the above I go downstairs and flip open the laptop and see all these twitter mentions about David Carr, NYT columnist, and think he must have said something zesty and piquant, but as I read on and they’re recollections, I fear: no. But, yes. Imagine a great grey edifice, a decommissioned church that still attracts a crowd on Sunday, with a gargoyle come to life on the parapets, leaping and grinning, and you have the Times and you have Carr. I don’t know why we had lunch in an old Masonic Temple downtown years ago but it was the last one, and he was heading East. I think I was heading East as well. It was a grand laugh. I expect many obits will say he had struggled with demons, but that does him a disservice: he struggled, with himself and he won and we were all the better for it.
Some of us, anyway. There are those who are already shambling into the comments here and there to micturate on the corpse, because we live in an age when editors have discussions about whether to allow comments on an obit.
On to something written earlier.
Esquire’s “New Technology Columnist” - Warren Ellis, as it happens - introduces himself by dumping a sour gout of spleen-sauce on the Apple Watch, which he did not use, touch, or investigate beyond deciding it looked worse than a 1978 digital Star Wars watch he once coveted. He can’t see the point, and that’s why he is the New Technology Columnist. Also, everything is shite.
Just to make the point in as snotty and high-handed a way as possible: This is the decadent end of the current innovation cycle, the part where people stop having new ideas and start adding filigree and extra orifices to the stuff we've got and call it the future.
Okay. Let’s step back. What do I use my phone for? Texting, maps, weather, podcasts and music, Twitter, websites, and sometimes making a phone call. What do I have to do to access these functions? Take it out and hold it. Now. Imagine there weren’t any smart phones, just the old boring phones that made calls and did texts. Imagine that someone brought to market a watch that told you the weather, played podcasts and music, let you make phone calls, see appointments, read texts and reply with your voice. This would be revolutionary. But! It’s tethered to a small slab you have to carry around with you. Would it succeed? Doubtful; people would balk at the second object, regarding it as something else to carry around. Sorry, I’ll wait for smarter phones.
But in this world, everyone carries around the second object already. So the watch is the new second object, except that it extends the first one from your pocket to your wrist so you don’t have to take the damned thing out to do something with it. This is not a filigree. I like the idea of taking a phone call on my watch - pausing the music with a tap, sending the call to my headset. Without reaching for the phone in my pocket.
He goes on:
I'm not much given to the Retromania cultural theory, the whole notion that we're living in a state of terminal atemporality where there's no space for anything new because everything old is happening all at once.
I’m not sure why this is relevant.
And certainly the withered specter of my ten-year-old inner child, murdered long ago by adult pleasures, would absolutely be up for a fancy wrist-node for my even fancier phone, which remains a lot cooler than anything science fiction promised him back then. But
Stop right there. Do you get a sense of gratitude here? A sense of delight in living in a world whose commonplace tools were just dreams when we were kids? No, because everything sucks:
But it is, to me, an obvious truth that consumer technology is not in a good place right now. Things don't "just work" the way they were claimed to, online services are getting bloated and broken, network interoperability has been ruined by carriage disputes over eyeballs and naked grabs for user information, and apparently the important thing is that we buy a three-hundred-quid watch that connects to our phones and does absolutely nothing that our phones don't do. It's a desperate move from a field that's run out of ideas.
Also, those things look like shit. And that's coming from someone who owned a Star Wars digital watch in 1978.
Pupdate: He has SEEN THE LIGHT!
And your construction update: the exterior elevator is up on the south block. One day it wasn't there. Then it was.
These are twin towers, although the latter term probably doesn't apply to a 17-story building.
As usual for Friday, the Music Cues. This year we'll be showcasing more peculiarities from old-time radio - dialogue, themes, and so on. But of course we begin with the Couple Next Door.
CND Cue #518 More of that a-kilter confusion music, ending in Bunce Sputter.
CND Cue #519 A few tantalizing notes of the B theme, never heard in full. Ever.
Moving along with the innumerable Gunsmoke cues:
Gunsmoke #59 "Blanks, doc?" Those horns remind me of early John Williams sci-fi TV themes.
Gunsmoke #60 As does the upward horn runs on this one.
As promised: something new and different. These are the music cues from the latter years of Yours Truly Johnny Dollar. For most of its highlight years, they used the same orchestrated cues over and over again, to great effect. In the last three years they started reaching deeper into the catalog, and here are some of the things they pulled from the Library of Dramatic Stingers.
YTJD #1 This is from a source I've never heard before. Those thrilling clarinets!
YTJD #2 That settles that. And not in a happy way.
YTJD #3 The most consistently dissonant cue in the history of the genre.
To round out the radio offerings, here's 1960 CBS PSA for the nice lady who brings coupons and a plastic glass to people who just moved into the neighborhood.
It's still around.
Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons. Recorded in 2 sessions, May and June 1941. Later, from Wikipedia:
In 1950 he moved to Buffalo. He encountered some health and financial problems in this period, including losing part of a finger in an accident and being partially paralyzed by a stroke. Between January and October 1953 he was employed by an ice cream company washing trucks, but supplemented his income by performing in a trio which played at the Bamboo Room in Buffalo on weekends. Johnson experienced more of the same the following year, 1954. He washed cars at a mortuary for $25 a week.