I called my dad to ask a car question, and he was remarkably detailed in his response. To be honest he lost me about a minute into it, because he was talking that language of Carbs and Timing and Chain Shafts and whatever, but he was intent on telling me what was happening. My wife waved her hands to get my attention while he was talking, and she stage-whispered - as people do when you’re on the phone - ask him about your childhood friend.
Right, right. I asked if he’d seen him, and he said he had, and he’d pulled all of his teeth out.
I woke up, a bit startled. For one thing, my dad was about 40 in this dream, and even though he’d been on the other end of the phone I could see him in his short-sleeved polyester Unitog Texaco shirt, and he hadn’t been happy. For another thing, in this real and waking world, my childhood friend had pulled all of my dad’s teeth out, because he’s my dad’s dentist.
It’s odd to think of him as a dentist, because when we were kids he had the most notably stained teeth of anyone in grade school, thanks to tetracycaline. I suppose that’s a great motivator, and I’m sure they’re Clooney-white now.
Not the highlight of the day, but it had few to compare. Went to work and ate a London Broil sandwich with horseradish cheddar cheese, because it was Tuesday. Filed an architecture piece for Saturday. I’d written it the previous night, like everything else, so the office part was twiddle-time with the thumbs, a meeting, a stroll around downtown, and some research for a future feature. (About the past.) Got sidetracked looking at newspapers.com, where I have a corporate account; I’m back to the days of sifting through old papers as part of my job, which is my definition of happiness. I've been concentrating on obscure cartoons, just to give these long-forgotten panels another day in the sun.
Stumbled across a newspaper from 1958 whose readership was no doubt referred to as the Negro Market: the New York Age. It was published from 1887 to 1960.
Dig this cover:
That’ll move some copies. Happy New Year! MOTHERS SLAY KIDS. If you’re wondering, one mother defended herself against a liquored-up son who attacked her; in the other, an “irked” mother beat her hungry baby with a leather belt, and “showed no remorse.”
No credit on this one, except Continental - the syndicate that distributed material to African-American papers.
This single panel feature had a long pedigree:
“Stann Pat” was a pseudonym of Melvin Tapley, arts editor for the Amsterdam Newspapers, and a pioneering Black cartoonist. The feature had been running since the 40s, and was intended as a series of moral instructions, advice on how to behave, passed along by the elites engaged in an uplift campaign, according to this book. (Which disapproved of his cartoons, I gather.) Tapley drew into the 1990s and died in 2005.
I would never have known about this aspect of American culture if I hadn’t dipped into the newspaper. There’s nothing like newspapers.
And they’re doomed, and nothing better will take their place.
Print is dead, again. The NYT exec says it has ten years or so, and then poof! All digital. I’m torn on this. I only know the WaPo these days from the web; when I would handle it in person I was surprised to find how slender and smaller it had become. It was colorful and better designed than it was when I lived in DC, but it felt insubstantial.
Which, of course, it isn’t. I work in a newsroom - did you know that? It’s true! - and I see what goes into the print design, and how much attention is paid to providing a quality print experience. The problem, and the reason I’m torn, is that this isn’t being replicated on the digital side. A well-designed print newspaper can be a pleasure to read. A well-designed digital newspaper? It can be better than the physical thing.
But everyone’s on their phones and they’re coming from Facebook. From the big broadsheet experience, unfurled, held out like a treasure map in the noon sun, to peeking through a keyhole on a small screen.
Oh, but what about desktop? Pfft. The desktop digital audience will soon be the equivalent of the paper demographic: old. The home page is holding its own for the moment, but people come in via the side door all the time. They snack, or they wander down the buffet line. What they don’t do is sit and look at the menu and order cocktails and chat and look at the menu some more, then order, and enjoy some appetizers.
This can’t have a good effect on design. It kills design. Why do I care? you ask. You just do words. Yes . . . and no. I am increasingly responsible for the majority of content on a single spotlight page on the back of the Sunday Variety section, and I have to find art. In the months to come I will be shooting the photographs for the page as well - how about that! Hurrah. My column over there, then a big picture and something about the content. I may be an amateur at all this but I am not a total fool when it comes to design. The pleasures of a big page with all the elements harmoniously combined will not be apparent on the phone.
If only there was some larger screen that allowed for good design - portable, but not pocket-sized. High-res, made for graphics.
You know, like a tablet.
What the hell happened? Why didn’t the tablet save us? Is it simply because you can’t put it in your pocket when you go to the bathroom? Is it because it’s redundant, when you already have another portable screen that also doubles as a device for taking pictures of your sushi?
It drives me mad, and partly because my own behavior reflects the very thing I lament. I keep picking up my iPad and saying “oh right this thing, I love this thing” and then I’m flipping through twitter on my phone. My tablet gets the most usage on vacations, when I take it to breakfast to read the New Yorker over cruise-ship buffet delights, or take it to lunch to read the BBC Music or History magazines.
It’s my fault. I should be reading more magazines on my tablet, but the web is always singing its siren song: I’m newwwww. I’ve updaaaaated. And the phone is always chittering with new tweets.
I’m the problem. I’m not only my own worst enemy - realized that long ago - I’m my industry’s worst enemy.
I hope some of you are enjoying these. I am, which is what matters - I mean, if I didn’t get anything out of this, why would I do it? You’ll notice the absence of ads for Blue Apron and the like - I could, and perhaps if I decide to add them to Ricochet, I will. But for now the idea is just to do them, and perhaps stay under the radar in case I get some copyright ding. As ever, there’s no script here, no idea what I’m doing until it’s underway.
It’s improv! And boy, does it show!
We're currently having a small amount of fun with Batman.
When last we saw Batman, he was in a cabin with a guy he’d rescued, sort of, and everything was catching on fire. “What’s the meaning of all this?” the guy said.
The old convenient cellar door, which Batman somehow identified in the nick of time, which he would, of course, being Batman.
The henches get away; Vicky Vale shows up. She takes a picture, which will probably show up in the plot in a while. The henches go back to the secret cave to take the secret submarine to the secret base where they will meet with the Wizard. He asks if Batman is dead, and the henches, having never seen any episodes of any serials, say oh yeah, no question.
So we’re back to the plot about halting the rails by REMOTE CONTROL, unless he gets five million dollars. Batman has a plan, though. He'll leak news through Barry Brown, the radio man with shadowy connections. Barry duly reports that the railways are going to pay off the money.
That’s . . . that’s what I meant, Bruce. You know what I meant. You know we’re Batman and Robin, you and I. It’s weird when you act this way.
They get up in the Batplane, which is the basic Republic serial plane:
So the plan is . . . to drop the money at a certain location by throwing it off the train, then Batman parachutes in because there’s no way that alerts the benches who are wary of a trap, and then he gets into the trunk of their car while they get the money, not knowing whether they’d put the money in the trunk, and besides, isn’t it radioactive?
Batman just doesn’t seem to be thinking things through, or sticking to the plan. Little does he know that the henches’ plan involves transferring the money to another car, then getting rid of the original ride . . .
Well THAT wasn’t in the brilliant plan. In the meantime, Robin has landed the plane, and driven the car all the way to where Batman is. They fire up the geiger counter and trail the money to the Obligatory Deserted Warehouse.
Where the Wizard hits Robin over the head and knocks him out because Robin is generally worthless. Meanwhile, Bats is is inside . . .
. . operating along his usual stealthy ways.
No one will hear that.
Remember what happens when the money is exposed to air? Yeah, that brilliant idea.
Then comes the most devastating move of them all: the glancing blow of a thrown hand tool.
Well, technically Robin did meet the Wizard.
There you have it! Don't forget the Diner, if you're so inclined. More Unknowns below. See you around!