The most interesting sound you’ll hear at the end of November: thunder. It’s a good sound. It’s reassuring and comforting in this context. It’s always exciting - whoever tires of hearing thunder? - but a ripe rolling peal at the end of November is like hearing a shell explode in the Command-and-Control HQ of Winter. Take that.


There has to be a word for Sadness in the Midst of Happiness, which is simultaneously the opposite. Bittersweet probably qualifies. It wouldn’t be the same if it was Sweetenbitter, because that ends with an acrid tang; bittersweet resolves to happiness informed by its opposite, all contained in a single emotional reaction.

I watched “The Man Behind the Mask” the other night, a documentary about the fellow who played Darth Vader. He was the physical form in the costume, not the voice. Being a Star Wars enthusiast from the beginning who studied all the actor bios, AND being a “Clockwork Orange” fan from high school, I knew who David Prowse was, how they called him Darth Farmer because of his accent. But that was it. You had to be British to get the full cultural impact, because he was the Green Cross Man.

Darth Vader helped kids get across the street.

I love respectful bios of the people who didn’t make it all the way to the top, or those who made it there for a moment. It’s ridiculous to say Prowse’s tenure at the top was meteoric, since he inhabited Vader for three incredibly successful movies that spanned many years, but he wasn’t the voice, and the voice was so much of Vader. Watch it without the sound up, though, and you see what he brought to the role: the pointed finger, the clenched fist. The presence. For those of us who knew what Prowse looked like, the final reveal of dying Vader - oh, sorry, spoiler warning - was a crashing disappointment. They used another guy. As I’ve said before, they used some who looked like a big thumb that had been in the bathtub for an hour. He literally looked like an Egghead. You tried to take it all in - he a big brawny guy with an intellectual’s face? Really? He looked wrong. I remember how the scene just felt flat, how I had to convince myself as I watched it that this was emotionally affecting, when it wasn’t.

It just wasn’t. One of the reasons Ep 6 bites the waxy tadpole was the showdown with the Emperor; went on forever, suffered cuts back to other scenes, had hokey lightening, hokey dialogue (now Young Skywockah, you will die) and Vader’s crappy deathbed scene.

The documentary details, in part, the director’s effort to reshoot that scene with Prowse as dying Vader, to zig for great justice. You can imagine how Lucas et al responded to the request.

On Thanksgiving night we were playing Password, as is the family tradition, and I had a 13-year-old partner. The password was SQUAT.

Hunch! I said. Slav! I said. Diddly! I said.

The kid didn’t know diddly-squat. Anyway, that was how much Lucas cared about letting Prowse play out the death of his character.

There’s a scene of Prowse walking to the premier of the reshoot, which was shown to a private audience. Big man. Genial, dignified. Walking with the aid of silver sticks. Just hits you right there in the sternal area. Eighty years old. Darth Vader is 80.

The documentary shows the work for which he was knighted: traffic safety videos. For Brits of a certain age, I imagine this means as much as the Test Pattern Girl. In addition to the one above, there's this, complete with an R2D2 sidekick:

And then there's this.

Not the most demanding role, but there's something so generous and nice about that. They remembered. It meant something.

As I said yesterday, the wall photos show old New York, because, well, you know. Can you identify this spot?

Macy's, Herald Square. Let's look at those billboards. Nice legs, up in the sky:

It's here I know I did this before, because two things come to mind: the song by Freddie Cannon, and the old Superman ad where he holds up a model of a roller-coaster. I can't find the page where I said this. Perhaps I never did.

To Have and To Hold: MONEY

The signs cover up the Spoiler Building.

This latter 5-story building was purchased by Robert H. Smith in 1900 for $375,000 – an incredible sum at the time – with the idea of getting in the way of Macy's becoming the largest store in the world: it is largely supposed that Smith, who was a neighbor of the Macy's store on 14th Street, was acting on behalf of Siegel-Cooper, which had built what they thought was the world's largest store on Sixth Avenue in 1896. Macy's ignored the tactic, and simply built around the building, which now carries Macy's "shopping bag" sign by lease arrangement.That building earned the name Million Dollar Corner when it was finally sold for a then record $1,000,000 on December 6, 1911.

An incredible high-resolution version of the building behind the signs can be seen here.






Towards the end of the year I end up with a folder full of stuff I haven't used - or have I? I start the year with good organization; every picture that's been posted is tagged with a grey button.

Unless I don't tag it, in which case I look at some things and say: is this familiar because I've strolled through this folder so many times, or because I used it?

Every year I figure out something new to make this easier, and in the case of 2017 it's going to be a chronological examination of ads, starting in 1890. I've no idea when I did all the work, but somehow there are 35 weeks already sorted, resized, and named.

So that's nice.

Anyway: if this has been used, it deserves to be used again. The glamour of bread in waxed paper. There's nothing like it.

The ad was brought to you by the Waxed Paper Merchandising Council, which I believe has disbanded.

It's signed - Cashwell-roth? Cashwan-roth. Nothing comes up. It's ncie work, but you have to wonder if the artist thought this was just . . . silly. Because it is.

Nice of the WPMC to throw some pro-bread sentiments in the ad by her shoes.

One more thing: "Gown designed by Pauline Trigere."

For waxed paper. You probably can guess when the stuff in the red tube did, but the name's so blah you didn't want to use it.

New BLEM! Beats BLARGH in 9 out of 10 tests. Here's what it can do, and isn't this just a 50s problem:

That happened all the time and it made women women furious with careless houseguests. Or husbands. Then again, a careless friend could put a hot teap pot on your table and claim she thought there was a coaster. Oh I'm so sorry! I'll bet you are, Mildred. I'll bet this has nothing to do with me getting angry at your husband for letting his butt roll out of the ashtray.

Here are four cartoons shilling for a shirt chemical. They're all by Famous Artists, except perhaps for one. The first:

Ted Key did a lot, and perhaps was most famous for Hazel, that sassy maid. What you might not know: he was the creator of the Sherman and Mr. Peabody "Improbable History" series that ran on Rocky and Bullwinkle - and runs to this day in another form.

Not many people remember Hazel.

The inimitable stylings of Peter Arno? No: Richard Taylor.

This site says "His characters were known for their “poached egg eyes”, with low-hanging eyelids and often perverse sensibilities." But there's more:

Although Taylor is most known for his gag cartoons which poked fun at society, and humorous illustrations for a variety of books (Fractured French, My Husband Keeps Telling Me To Go To Hell, Half a Dollar Is Better Than None etc), it seems his private passion–and one he would pursue til late in life without seeking commercial benefit–was fantasy art. Taylor created a fantasy world called Frodokom, in which he based an entire series of watercolor, print and oil paintings that featured surrealistic creatures and landscapes.

This I did't know. One tiny example on the web. Where did it go? In what room does it slumber, waiting for a reappraisal?

Too bad this guy's work also faded into obscurity:

Kidding. Movies based on his characters have grossed $3.5 billion dollars.

Finally, an unfamiliar name - at least to me. The other guys I recognized, but not this one:

Henry Silverson. Guess what else he did.

Now you know that we know who drew that. Ah, the things we learn here!



I have no idea what the context is for this. Who were the Blakes? Did people know who the Blakes were, and why they required the scouring action of Lava Soap?



With that small mystery, we conclude today's entry - except, of course, there's more. There's always more!



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