So. I have six pieces due this week. They’re all in my head, jostling and competing for attention, waiting to be written. Best possible situation - I know exactly what the columns and features will be. But I have to do them first. Good thing my precious routine has not been upended in any way, right?
Actually, it has, and it’s quite nice. I’ll be telling you more in the weeks to come about our FFES, which stands for French Foreign Exchange Student. We picked her up last night. Unlike the Japanese student we had for a week, her English skills were not oversold by a factor of 1000%; she’s quite fluent, although I have to remember to speak slowly. Je parle beaucoup trop vite, je suis désolé.
She brought an amazing quantity of French Things to give to her adopted family - chocolates, truffle mustard, a nifty fountain pen for me (the writer) a towel from a famous tennis merchant for Wife, perfume, books - it was quite overwhelming. She has fit right in and appears to be enjoying herself, although of course you can’t ask too many times if everything’s okay. Daughter is having a grand time, and invited over a few friends today for a painting party.
Oh . . . speaking of which.
Can I brag a little? Daughter painted this in class the other day.
I texted back: PLAGUE DOCTOR! And I thought: if he's the doctor, why is he dressed in regal garments?
Asked her about that later, and she said she intended the picture to be ambiguous. Is that the king? Did the doctor take the king's possessions? Is the King's illness metaphorical? and so on.
I loved Michael Keaton’s Batman. I love Christian Bale’s Batman. Two different takes on the same idea, the Dark Knight. For years I renounced and scoffed at Adam West’s Batman, because it was campy and silly - a kid’s show I enjoyed as a kid, not seeing the arch humor, but found tiresome as an adult. The music annoyed me. Robin annoyed me. The movie was just silly.
But now? Well, the movie is silly. The awesome Batcave aside, the production values were cardboard. But when news of West’s death hit the internet and there was an unexpectedly large and anguished outpouring, I began to think that there was something else besides affection for a fellow who seemed entirely cheerful and decent. Many were suddenly nostalgic for a Batman who smiled. Who was an utter square.
All the bright colors and cartoon graphics seemed fun, and you realized you were sick to bloody death of Dark and Gritty - which now feels like a decadent indulgence that helped us talk ourselves into our national mood.
I loved Adam West’s Batman because I was eight, and he had a tool for everything and the tool was labeled. He was confident and smart and leaped into action when action needed leaping into. But I forgot about him when the craze ended, and discovered other heroes - Kirk, Spider-Man.
One other note: the Jungle-Book Effect, as I call it. Being a kid and not realizing that these actors, these voices, have backstories and careers your parents probably got. If you’re my age, Burgess Meredith is the Penguin, period - stylish and gleeful, which is why the Tim Burton version seemed so grotty and corrupt. You had no idea he was anything else.
Despite all the other roles I’ve seen him in, he wasn’t anything else.
Anyway. It was wonderful to see how many people loved him. I hope he knew it. I think he knew it.
Watched a show about a great guilty pleasure of the 80s - one of those cop shows that incorporated a bit of sci-fi, a lot of macho bluster, bad quips, and all the gritty locations the Isle of Man could provide:
No, it didn’t exist. But it does in the movie Mindhorn, which is a fairly standard idea. Washed-up TV star has to slip back in character to catch a killer. I’m not sure it works on the big screen; would seem as slight as it is. But on your Netflix feed? If you’ve a warm spot for British comedy? You’ll thank me. Also, the first half is better than the last. You’ll thank me for being honest.
Last week the voice of Wallace died - at the age of 96. Long career - his first job was in 1947, and it was a TV show. So perhaps ten people saw it. The news of Peter Sallis's passing made me think right away of the theme for “Grand Day Out.” Ah, sigh. You know when you heard it you were hearing something more than your kid heard, something that had an old note of England to it. To kids it’s just the theme for the funny show with the dog who doesn’t talk. You hear something humorously nostalgic, a bit self-mocking, a bit proud.
Anyway, kids don't think much about the people who voice the characters, because why would they? The voice is the character. It's only later you think of the actors, and you see a picture of someone in a booth with headphones reading from a page on a stand, and you're tremendously disappointed.
I’d talk more about Twin Peaks, but as far as I can tell no one is watching it. Not one of my office friends. Not - one. It might be due to the show’s location - Showtime, which you have to pay extra to get. It might be due to few people really caring at all, or thinking “I’ll binge later.” Our paper’s film critic, who is a great admirer of Lynch, seems content to let it all unspool without him.
So there’s no point to telling you I think it’s fantastic. Left entirely in Lynch’s hands, the Twin Peaks parts have become more Twinpeaksian than ever, and the rest of it is varies from the incomprehensible and terrifying to hilarious to annoying-but-compelling. The point to which I alluded last week, to sound punchably pretentious, is the way the mood of the thing seems to fog my head for a day. Things seem odd and ominous.
I went to work, and an elevator door was open. No one ever gets in a door that’s already open. The door has to be doing something - opening or closing. When it’s just open, it’s unnerving. I pushed the button and got into another car and thought nothing of it.
A few hours later I was doing downstairs and I went into the elevator lobby on our side of the building.
The same car was on my floor. The door was open.
Moments like this seem to make some sort of sense in a way you can’t grasp. It’s connected to you, but also indifferent.
You're there, even though you're not.
We're doing selections from my Dad's record collection, and eventually mine. The lost art of the 45 / small 33 1/3 disc.
Yeeee haw: Western typeface, Western clip art with all the basics: cacti, a train, and one of those translucent towns you found in 50s illustrations.
Tex Ritter sings? Well of course Tex Ritter sings. Did they think the audience expected he'd be reading excerpts from Kerouac?
1960, so it's just barely a sign of the 60s. In fact, considering the lead time, it's more indicitative of the 50s - but these things do not begin or end with the turn of the calendar page.
Daddy, why are you on a ladder? I can come down to the bottom of the stairs.
That’s okay, Snuggums! It’s just a set.
It’s a charming image from the Father Knows Best era - although as magazines of the 50s pointed out, Fathers often did not, and were made to seem like stuttering buffoons in many new sitcoms. Maybe they’d been granted a bit more gravitas by the early 60s; this is respectful. Maybe we’re just reading too much into a peanut ad.
It’s Fresh-Up Freddie!
We’ve met him before, years ago, in the Comic Sins section. To quote from what I wrote there:
This may be the most obscure Disney character ever. He's copyright Disney; it says "See Freddie on TV! Watch Zorro," but no doubt that was a commercial. I don't think this character was part of Latin America forklore.
A little googling revealed that Freddy was based on Panchito from The Three Cabelleros. The campaign was invented by Leo Burnett.
The line at the top - "Right now, your Grocer is featuring" is a reference to Freddy's favorite saying: "Right now, you are probably asking yourself."
Voices by Paul Frees. Most of the ads on YouTube date to 1958, but apparently Freddie was still used into the early 60s.
No gin breath for milady; no scent of sour scotch-and-stomach-acid:
This was one of the early selling points of vodka: no one could tell you’d been slamming back booze. Another manufacturer’s slogan was “It leaves you breathless,” which sounds distressing.
One of Arrow’s forays into non-liqueur. You can still buy luridly-hued versions at rock-bottom prices.
You’re sure that’s regular tobacco, Bob?
One of Lucky’s many “regular men who are enjoying cigarettes” series. Gone were the days when they advised women to pick up a Lucky instead of a sweet - now it’s a butch smoke all the way.
Most kids would probably go for Beat, because that was cool.
A reminder: the past takes a long time to work its way out of everything. Chairs from the Forties would still be around.
My grade-school had chairs like those - a round bottom, so all your pencils and pens rolled to the bottom, where they stayed all year under sedimentary layers of notebooks and paper. The top part was fake blonde wood, and you could write on it.
Ah, those colors. Those were the hues of my childhood.
Given the other products they made, you could be excused for thinking that's glue:
If makes you think of the stuff coming out of a can, and that's not really an attractive image.
She's busy, beautiful, moisturized, and be-birded:
Westergren is currently residing in Nockeby and Båstad with her new husband Carl Magnus Nyström. She likes the fact that Nyström knew nothing about her and her parents when they first met. For thirty years they have lived in the same house in Nockeby that Westergren grew up in. During that time she has become a grandmother of five children.
Wonder if she kept a copy of this ad.
That'll do; see you around. The adventures of Frank Reade Jr. await. Do the Chicken Wing!