And again: no tales. This is a tale-free month. I’m sure it’s my fault; if I wanted tale-creation I would get out there and be amongst tale-generating things, but I just do my work and that’s about it. Today at the work blog I posted a piece about why a Russian parody TV show had a Pink Hitler, and it’s a rather interesting story. Or at least I thought so around 11:30 AM this morning; time may judge it with dispassionate contempt.

It’s one of those cultural references you just can’t know unless you know the backstory, and even then you’re missing a lot. Most of it. The intangibles that arise out of the language. Short version: There was a somber Russian TV show about a WW2 spy, and it ran during the Brezhnev years. Grey times. Grey show. Literally; not too many color sets in Worker’s Paradise. The main character was quite popular, but despite the “Soviet James Bond” parallels the programs weren’t about a super-agent who performs acts of great derring-do and has his way with all the ladies. He seemed to be quite miserable, if devoted to the Motherland. Not so much the Party, but the Motherland. The voice-over dialogue was parodied, turning the dreary, resigned observations of the character into jokes without ever touching the esteem the character possessed. Then they colorized it. Badly. And so:

I don’t know what he’s saying at the beginning, but I’m sure it’s part of the format: Stierlitz saw something, Stierlitz thought something about it. That’s the cliche that was turned into the joke.

If you ran across that on YouTube without context, it would make no sense. That’s okay; you’re not expected to have context for everything. For example, I have no idea what anything related to “Game of Thrones” means. I watched the first episode with anticipation, and at the end of it thought “These are awful people and I do not want to spend any time with them.” It seemed a world designed to exalt the worst and punish the best, and also dragons. Don’t care about that entire genre. But here’s the thing: everything I’ve gathered from the season finale suggests that there was much slaughter. Yea, the flagstones ran red. There was a Wedding that likewise ended with half the characters gutted, it seems. Okay. Fun.

So everyone who watches it is stupid because I don’t watch it. I hope we’re clear on that. And since I don’t understand why people watch it, I will judge them according to my own criteria, which are predicated on ignorance of the thing itself. But I’ve read some tweets about it, which is practically like burning through all five seasons in a marathon.

It’s like the people who are complaining that the new DOOM game looks too violent. People said the same thing about the original, in which you took a chainsaw to giant floating tomatoes. That was a murder simulator, you see. The new version is . . . well, the ability of modern chipsets to render light as it plays across flying chunks of viscera is really quite remarkable. I think this would be unhealthy if your foes were other human beings. They are, however, creatures from Hell. Literally. They are demons who want to eat people and drag their souls to hell, so I’m not particularly upset if you can step on flaming skulls, and make a satisfying crack. But I expect it will be controversial for ancillary reasons, because there is a certain template applied to all art by the Righteous these days, and unless something contains an explicit endorsement of their viewpoints, the silence is regarded as an aggressive dismissal.

I remember how Bioshock Infinite handled the violence early on - the character you’re sent to liberate is appalled by your actions, and later on you yell at the level’s main adversary not to do this, because you have no quarrel with the men he’s about to send after you. The entire game is soaked with regret.

So will “Game of Thrones” have a happy ending? I can’t imagine it would. It will probably end with some horrible twist that ennobles the worst person ever and leave the world in charge of malevolence, because that’s Dark ’N’ Gritty, and that = Seriousness. The older I get the more I enjoy a happy ending. When I was a kid one of the movies I loved the most was “Fantastic Voyage,” which had - spoiler! - a happy ending. Hard-earned, too. But then came “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” and “Soylent Green” and “Silent Running” and I became accustomed to leaving the theater depressed. You walked out into the sun and it felt like you were made of lead, full of the inescapable awfulness of everything.

Well, I’ve said it before, and so have a million others; we loved Star Wars because it wasn’t that. But let’s not forget the end of “Jaws,” when the bullet finds its mark and Roy Schneider lights up with shock and surprise. It was okay to win in those movies. It’s still okay to win, I suppose, but the victors must conform to certain checklists and have the right ideas. It’s not enough to fight for the Motherland. You’d better be doing it for the Party.




How madcap the Sixties were! Such daring, baring new ideas!

How ugly things got!


Classy. Remember, that word is used by people who have peculiar ideas of actual style. They're still around - Bachman's, that is; no idea about the models. Their website says:

Our founder, J.S. Bachman, went into business in 1884 with just one product – pretzels. He had a small oven and a horse-drawn delivery cart, and his product was hand-made and packed. Although the pretzel had been known in Europe for nearly 13 centuries by 1884, Bachman’s bakery was one of the first in America.

They still make Jax. I'm guessing Mr. Bachman's first name was John.


Steak house - or grocery store? Either way, it's good 60s modernism. Or rather: was.


Valle's was also faulted for the straight line architecture of its large dining rooms that caused some critics to compare the restaurant to a cafeteria.[34] Other critics questioned the wisdom of using a regional New England menu in southern locations such as Atlanta where customers of the early 1970s were unfamiliar with clam chowder, baked stuffed lobsters, and New England-style pot roast.

In other words, ethnic foods. The chain had the usual headwinds; as the article put it, the gas crisis and economic contractions of the 70s drove down business; the "steady increases in the minimum wage" required prices to rise when incomes were level or declining; they had huge banquet rooms that weren't used anymore but cost a fortune to heat and cool; and estate taxes.

The Valle family was unable to pay the sizable inheritance taxes levied on the estate of Donald Valle when he died in 1977 and were forced to liquidate the business in order to meet their obligation to the government.

The family sold their share for $17.5 million. Good! Parasites.

(Stolen and enhanced from the Wikipedia page.)


More prood that the 60s graphic design infested every possible nook, as stodgy corporations were terrified of being insufficiently With It:


Peter Max, call your lawyer. Look at that mess, though. And what a horrible tag line: "Frigidaire bothers to build in more help." That's just incoherant.

General Mills' lineup is not entirely unfamiliar to modern eyes:

  That's the late 60s version. The 1960 version, lifted from the indispensible Mr. Breakfast, was a bit jauntier, and more interesting. General Mills' own blog says: Hi-Pro high protein flakes were introduced in 1960 and featured the best cereal box promotion of all time – the opportunity for 27 families to win two new cars (a Pontiac and a Tempest)!


This was one of those single-serv collections every kid loved so very much, except when there was nothing left but Hi-Pro.


Jets - now there's a complex story. First name: Sugar Smiles. A combination of "Sugar-coated Kix" and Wheaties. Then they took out the Wheaties and rebranded it as Jets. Sorry: Sugar Jets.

So Kix weren't sugar-coated?

There was a cereal in 1969 that wasn't sugar-coated?



Good question:

Ah, good old also-ran Sharp. As I've said before, they had the best designed consumer electronics in the mid / late 80s. But look at this extrapolation:


Deep, sad sigh.

You would not have seen this ad in 1946. Or 1959.

You're SICK. Not clever, but sick. For GTE to take out a national ad like this show that there was either a big problem with these calls, or a perception of a problem. The last two paragraphs are brilliant. Shows how Mad Av could, if need be, threaten you.


That'll do; enjoy some "steampunk" adventures from America's preeminent science guy. See you around.



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