Ah, Friday!

Well, no, but tomorrow’s a day off, so today has the feeling of a Friday, in a way. Then Thursday will feel like Wednesday after you napped and dreamed it was Saturday. When real Friday comes along it will be unearned. We’ll take it anyway.

A piece in the paper the other day talked about how more people are leaving early on Friday, or skipping Friday altogether - a certain demographic, yes. Most do not have the means or opportunity. But for a certain stratum of the professional class, this week is as close as they might get to the month-long hiatus the French take, or are said to take. I suppose they head up to the lake, where they will toil in the garden or do home repair in a different setting. Lake homes are no longer the rude, meager cabins of the old days, with screen doors that squeak, funky well-water, a pervasive scent of must and insecticide - a place where everything had gone to seed, and a man could do the same. Recline in a hammock wearing a battered hat lanced by fishing lures, and drink from a can of beer punctured twice by a church key. Hamms. Grain Belt. Schmidt.

Why church key?


The term in the beverage-opening sense is apparently not an old one; Merriam-Webster finds written attestation only since the 1950s. Several etymological themes exist. The main one is that the ends of some bottle openers resemble the heads of large keys such as have traditionally been used to lock and unlock church doors. The other is that jocularity helped propel the popular spread of the name, with the joke being that opening a beer is an activity that usually has little to do with pious or ecclesiastical circumstances—historical connections between monasteries and brewing notwithstanding.

While I think of a church key as the devices with a sharp pointed. end, the term was ported over to the can-pokers from the openers that popped open bottles. Anyway, you lost that, you didn’t open your beer. There was always a picnic outing where someone couldn’t find the church key. It would show up, but oh, the momentary panic.

Then came the pop-tops, which, you might recall, came completely off the can, leaving a razor-sharp aperture for your drinking enjoyment. It was customary to drop the pop-top into the can, heedless of whatever rat urine might have covered the cans in the warehouse - or hand them to the kids, who made long metal chains with the things. Today’s pop-tops are so much better than anything that went before.

They’re called Sta-Tabs, by the way. No one ever thinks about church keys or disposing of the tear-off top. And not one person in a thousand today has ever stared with sadness and dismay at a can where the ring broke off before the can could be opened.

Anyway, the man in the hammock. He’s wearing slacks and brown shoes. Leather. If he’s in the hammock at home, there is a child pushing a lawn mower in the vicinity. That was the way of the world.



I have noticed this as well, and I'm not sure I'm bothered.

No one notices because no one cares about "culture," at least as the uppermost of the toppermost say we should care about culture. There was a time when people generally agreed that there was a stratum of art above the bobby-soxer passions - that long-hair stuff a regular guy might not like but at least had the sense to recognize was something complex beyond his ken, and had a certain strength. They might not like opera, but tell ‘im that the Lone Ranger song was classical, and he’d grin - lookit me, ma, I’m Stakowski, wavin’ my arms and all. The disconnect between the middle-brow and the highbrow started in the 40s, when surrealist and atonality started to define the vanguard of art.

You doubt? Well, there’s a plot arc in Lum & Abner in 1943; a surrealist artist has come to town, and insisted on living in Abner’s attic, because an artist has to be poor and uncomfortable, and starve for her art. She’s a poseur, of course, but Lum is smitten and decides he, too, will be a surrealist artist. He adopts a deshabille style, daubs paints on canvas in ugly pictures that have ridiculous names. When the town holds an auction to raise war bond money, the only picture that sells is Grandpappy Spears’ paint-by-numbers hackwork. A bowl of fruit.

About the same time radio shows about Troubled Composers had them banging away at difficult angular pieces that demonstrated Torment! and the ravages of an Artistic Temperament! and provided not a jot of actual aesthetic pleasure. The means by which previous generations had achieved most same emotions in ways that lanced the sternum and connected with actual human beings, well, those days were over. Art was now a spoonful of castor oil.

But the classical tradition would not go down easily - it was like a bronto sinking in the tar pit, its tail thrashing. Kennedy had the signature nods towards the classics his class required; he pretended to appreciate Art, and everyone swooned: Casals and Lennie, making Camelot Great Again. The myth of the cultured Kennedys would be reinforced by the material, which was traditional - no one could really imagine JFK nodding with fascination to a Schoenberg screech. That stuff was out there, part of the inchoate gas cloud that had Lenny Bruce and Pollock and all the other hungry malcontents nibbling on the loaf of Western Civ.

At the same time you had intellectuals elevating the vernacular, which was a boon for those who didn’t want to trouble themselves with learning what made the traditions of Western Civ different, and had the extra bonus effect of making the new aesthetes wise without requiring anything close to a critical perspective. Simply to be new and raw and honest was sufficient, and if you could cough up a bolus of blather to explain why this artist’s incoherent blurt was more inventive than last year’s fave, you had cred. Everyone loves the guy who makes them feel smart for loving something stupid.

The idea that presidents should also be our artistic professors seems to be another expansion of a job that needs to be severely diminished, simply because it bolsters the idea that someone who has achieved success in the world of politics has any ideas about art we need to hear. I mean, I don’t even care which movies Ronald Reagan liked.

In the era of Trump, government retreated from promoting the arts. GOOD. Anyone up for a Trump directive that pumps money into the NEA to promote Rockwell? I think Rockwell is criminally maligned, but using the state to favor his work and style opens the door to the next guy using the state to promote modern crap I think is unjustly revered. Take art out of the hands of the state, and you remove the opportunity for the state to use art for political purposes.

Anyway, I never expected Trump to promote art, because he’s a philistine. Future historians will look back at this era as a period of astonishing diversity and artistic expression. It’s there, all around you, on the internet; never have so many had access to so much. The State had nothing to do with it.

Hence our Renaissance.

This off-the-cuff bleatage is either spot-on or a ridiculous simplification. I'll accept either, or, of course, both.




It’s 1925.

Why are they called drops, and not divots?

The history:

Gumdrops first appear in the 19th century United States, purportedly as early as 1801, though the name isn't known in print until 1859, appearing in an ad in the Illinois State Chronicle in Decatur, IL that year, for a candy shop owned by a George Julier. By that time, a gelatin-based, rubbery candy akin to modern gummies went by that name, but also a more pasty candy with a potato starch base.

So it was the shape of a drop, and the term was transferred to something that had nothing to do with the shape of a drop. Also:

At the end of the 19th century, the term "gumdrop" was being used to refer to sweetness or a sweetheart. By the mid 20th century, "goody gumdrops" was a term of excitement, sincere or ironic.

For a while, Beech-Nut made Life Savers. In the 50s. Since then: Squibb > Nabisco > Kraft > Wrigley > Mars for Life Savers. Beech-Nut drops are gone. Here, anyway. Probably the most popular candy in Malaysia or something.

United States Chain and Forging: there’s a straightforward name.

As for McKay:

The McKay Company was founded by Pittsburgh Industrialist James McKay (1830-1906). From tire chains the company moved into auto bumpers. A 1926 magazine advertisement promotes McKay “Red Bead” auto bumpers. From bumpers the company began producing chrome furniture with the product owing a debt to the automobile bumpers of the period.

By the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, the company was in a position to furnish The McKay Lounge in The Hall of Science stocked with McKay craft spring action, chromium plated metal furniture for porch, lawn, solarium, or the like: gliders, chairs, tables, smokers, stools, and accessories.

I know I have that somewhere around here . . . ah.

Children in the 20s had a stylized childhood, if Mom and Dad were modern. Old-fashioned buy story-book idealized. Those ducks are perfect for the era.


Raymond Griffith - the fastest rising star in Comedy!

Who? Well, as one Youtube comment noted, “Walter Kerr ranked Griffith as the fifth greatest silent comic artist after Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and Langdon, and before Laurel and Hardy.”

Today? Well, few remember Walter Kerr, too.


It looks so archaic today - but how cool it must have been.

I wonder when they chose red for the gas pump color. Fire! Motion! Excitement! Danger!

So very many car brands. Just like the early days of computers.


The Star was an automobile marque that was assembled by the Durant Motors Company between 1922 and 1928. Also known as the Star Car, Star was envisioned as a competitor against the Ford Model T.

How'd that work out?

They did make the first station wagon - a bit different than the station wagons of the post-war era, to put it mildly.


Finally, more breakfast. Few options. Familiar today. Fairy cereal:

Please stop feeding your child something that is "good for you."

I think they'd rephrase that today.

A close-up reveals a peculiar attribute:

Steam exploded, in a few years, would become "Shot from Guns."

World-wide war will do that to a culture.

What's our peculiar little ex-journalist up to now? Let's find out. See you Thursday.



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