Back to Target to pay for the glasses, since I’d forgot my wallet yesterday They didn’t take Apple Pay. Sounds like they never will. In ten years everyone will be walking out of Amazon stores without having to check out, and Target will be the store where everything stops because the clerk has to put a new roll of paper in the machine.

If I recall cash registers I have know, the paper used to have a pink stripe along one side to warn you that the paper was running out. Hard to say what the point was, because I don’t remember a cashier ever changing the roll before the paper ran out.

Some day that’ll be as strange and inexplicable as the little circles that used to occur in the right-hand corner of the movie picture before the soundtrack made a peculiar burp-buzz and the picture jumped and the scene changed. No one expects that anymore; no one remembers the last time they saw one of those circles.

I stand corrected: Someone used a cue mark for a retro effect. But did the audience get it?

Those things mystified me as a kid. They meant something. But what? It was like a secret symbol others understood, but only a few.

This seems to sum things up, doesn't it.

In a perfect world, the Easy Pull Tab (which replaced the Strength of a Thousand Bulls tab, something you had to attach to a locomotive with a stout cable) would come right up without taking off the part that proclaims the Ease of Opening. But it took the whole thing right up. “It’s supposed to,” you say. "The entire part that rips off is unnecessary." So why is the top part perforated?

Huh? Answer that, smarty pants.

Now, if this was Althouse's blog, I would stop and think about "smarty pants" and see if I had a tag for it, then link to something written four years ago, but since this is mine, I will go on and on at length for no apparent reason.

1. I don't think I've used "smarty pants" much, because I don't like the term. In the late 80s / early 90s, I'm sure someone marketed smart pants, because "smart" was all the rage before "cyber" came along. Smart pants would be self-adjusting pants - Enhanced Sansabelts, maybe.

2. No one chooses their dog treats because the box is easiy to open. No one feels a flood of relief when they realize they won’t have to get out the chainsaw to open the box. In fact, the Easy Pull Tab is annoying, because when you're done you have a strip of cardboard you have to throw away.

2. There has to be a reason this technology hasn’t been adapted for cereal boxes. It’s not necessary. Quick: think of how you open a cereal box for the first time. Can you visualize it? I can’t. It’s just something you do without thinking. The Easy Pull Tab is actually more work, because you have to concentrate on what you’re doing here.

3. Today at work I had a packet of horseradish sauce, taken from the deil. You know the type - serated ends. You grip and rip. I couldn't get it open. This is when you think I am old and have lost all strength, and must now wander the office until I find a young man who can open it with a mix of amusement and contempt. Here ya go, old timer. But I tried another and it opened. It was just that one packet. They appear from time to time, and everyone has the same reaction, I think. Am I ill? Do I have some underlying condition now manifesting itself with this sudden weakness?

Anyway, I got the glasses. Expensive, but as I said yesterday: I have to have one pair with the blending line just so, and that's not the sort of thing you can do online. I mentioned the online prices to a clerk yesterday, and I'm sure she was so happy the 394,223rd person had brought that up. She had a tight smile and said "well for one thing it means I have a job." Yes; yes it does. I'd be happier to be part of the whole shop-with-humans-and-share-the prosperity idea if everything in the shop didn't come from Luxottica.









I forget what I do and do not post. As you might expect. I bang out copy every day, put it in a folder called THIS WEEK, which has different folders for different weeks - say, I already wrote TV Tues, I’ll file something for the next week. I swear I had addressed this sneaky, and mystifying, callback. Bear with me if I repeat myself; there's a reason.

I was watching the Netflix movie about the National Lampoon, which is another helping of stoner hagiography. Every era has its humor mag - Punch, Puck, Smart Set, Life (pre-Luce) Judge. All seem strange and unfunny today. Humor is evanescent. All those magazines were popular at the time, and leave people Keaton-faced today. (Buster, not Michael.) It’s odd how my objective at the start of my writing career was to deserve a spot on the shelf of the American Humorists - Benchley, Thurber, Perelman, DeVries. It never occurred to me that I might get good enough to belong there - but that the shelf wouldn’t matter, because all the names had faded away into obscurity, known only as a reference to a time and a style.

Someone says “Thurberesque” nowadays and an editor will red-pencil it out. For a while it was understood - gentle, man vs woman humor plus dog, whimsical at times, pointed on occasion, some Mark Twain-type nostalgia. The Night the Bed Fell! Right?

Right? Nah, no one remembers. A few, but no one reads it anymore. Thurber was my childhood hero, thanks to a TV show I’ve mentioned before.

Nothing says "Thurber" like early synth squeaks, I know.

When I found some eps I was horrified to find it again and see how much misandry was baked into the character - as you see from the opening moments of the show above.

Anyway. There was a period in my formative youth when “My World” and reading “The Thurber Carnival” and the New Yorker Compendium of cartoons all coalesced into an idea of American culture; I thought it gave me a handle on the era, but it was a thin piece of rarified metal. None of those New Yorker writers had the profile Benchley had, and that’s because he was on the screen. Even so, he was a minor presence. Perelman wrote for the Marx Brothers, but no one knew that. DeVries - well, I have said this before, and I’ll pass it along again. I’m a young man in my editor’s office in New York. He bought my first novel. I tell him I want to be like DeVries. He smiles and nods and says that DeVries was brilliant.

But do you know how many books he sold?

Nevertheless: these were writers, and they plugged at it for a long time, and they left a body of work that spoke to their times and gave us a hint of the man, or woman, who wrote something with the intention of making someone else laugh. At some point they wrote something funny, and someone laughed, and that was all it took: that’s my road, thanks. Whew! My life’s now clear.

Seriously, it’s like that. Whether or not you’re good hangs on one crucial thing: if you trust yourself so much that you think something must be funny because you wrote it, you’re going to end up a caricature. If you believe in yourself, if you trust that your work is funny because you’re funny - everyone said so! - then you will fail. Any humorous writer who doesn’t begin with the conviction that he is addressing someone who doesn’t think he’s funny is a lazy SOB. You have to work anew, fresh, with every piece.

National Lampoon wasn’t looking to posterity. It was looking to the next issue, next month, and that juiced them enough to make for some amusing pieces. The Yearbook is brilliant, as I think I said a few Bleats ago; getting some deja vu here. But Doug Kenney wasn’t some stoner-Boomer genius who needs several movies.

ANYWAY. Jeez. Okay. In a scene where they’re pitching the mag to execs . . .

Do you recognize him?

No? Well, here's the video clip that made me smile, and rewind, and Google, and go to YouTube. Warning - very low volume; it's for context.



You don't quite get the full effect, but it helps to see it. Here's the clip.



Someone gave him that line intentionally, and I find that heartening. The question is whether they thought lots of people would get the reference, or only a few.

Well, you tell me. Did you get the reference?

No? Highlight the area below for the URL to explain it all. If you lack the patience for the classics, it's around 1:10.


Thirty years later, it's still his line.




It’s 1926.

Okay, well, if I can follow Secret Operative #38, how good is he at his job?

It seems as if he’s a suspect in something, so I should follow him. Maybe that’s the case: he’s been giving secrets to another detective school, and I can get extra credit if I find out what he’s up to. But he seems to know I’m there.

The magazine is “Detective,” so yes, they were interested in these things in 20s. Way before that. But the golden era of the gumshoe is yet to come.

Page one: 'say you will, but don’t, yet"

Pages 2 - 30 blank.

It’s amazing how much money the neighbors will give you if you just stop playing that damned thing:

Girl Jazz! Things were changing.

And Girl Smokes:

I don’t know what the tropical aroma might have been. Now we associate that with coconut.

Never seen mail-away cigarette offers; could be that women didn’t want to go to the store and be told they couldn’t have any.


A corn is a social faux pas:

“Blue-Jay always welcomes a contest with ‘an old offender.’” Ah, we meet again, my friend. En garde.

Which, of course, no one ever said outside of a movie. It was a fiction of the stories of gallant foes, when they probably just cursed and started hacking at each other.



The Tiny Tint of Golden Glint: the Flapper’s Friend.

Had hair ever been that short in American culture? Wikipedia has an interesting assertion:

Although young girls, actresses and a few "advanced" or fashionable women had worn short hair even before World War I - f or example in 1910 the French actress Polaire is described as having "a shock of short, dark hair”,[ a cut she adopted in the early 1890s ]—the style was not considered generally respectable[8] until given impetus by the inconvenience of long hair to girls engaged in war work.

From a collection of pieces by 20s women:

Bobbed hair is a state of mind and not merely a new manner of dressing my head. It typifies growth, alertness, up-to-dateness, and is part of the expression of the élan vital! [spirit] It is not just a fad of the moment, either like mah jong or cross-word puzzles. At least I don’t think it is. I consider getting rid of our long hair one of the many little shackles that women have cast aside in their passage to freedom. Whatever helps their emancipation, however small it may seen, is well worth while.

There wasn't any analogue in my lifetime. Not even a mohawk.


Now that I think of it, aren't these odd ads for "Detective" magazine? Did they do research and find a suprising number of female readers?

Note: "Winxette comes in cake form." I'd expect no less.



Apparently the fad for androgyny was more pronounced than we knew:

No way they could sell those today. Way too problematic.

That'll do. Enjoy your day, and by all means take to the comments to ask the fellow's immortal query. Well? Stand up and tell the class.



blog comments powered by Disqus