Gray day without qualities. Went to the office, which had five or six people today. A Monday record! I had a fellow-worker interaction, which was nice, and reminded me that office life once abounded with casual meetings and conversations, often about our shared enterprise, often not. But when you talk with someone who’s not in your particular work cohort, and you discuss the common project, you learn something. It’s probably not essential; it maybe nothing you can use in your part of the shared enterprise. But it’s a reminder of all the filaments that connect people who work on something large together.

Oh but Zoom is awesome

Zoom, and Teams, and Slack, and every other simulacrum of human experience, are bad at this. At best you have four or seven people, some represented by picture of themselves seen from the laptop’s perspective, some displayed as Pooh characters or something equally infantilizing, and everyone sits there until everyone talks at once and then everyone falls silent and then someone muscles into the top of the chat. At best. There’s no way to have a casual chat with a co-worker. What, I’m going to call up someone who works in another part of the operation, schedule a Zoom meeting, and say “we’ve never really talked, but let’s pretend we’re waiting fro the coffee to finish brewing. How are things in production?”

You can even glean a few molecules of workplace community just walking past a couple of co-workers chatting. Familiar faces and voices in a familiar place. There is no place on Zoom. Zoom is a collection of private boxes with no common physical location. It’s like replacing actual football with a virtual version that simulates velocity and resistance. Yeah but the digital backgrounds are awesome, it’s like they’re playing football at Olympus!

Yeah but no, they’re not playing football, at all.

“I hope they start bringing people back,” said my co-worker at the end of the chat. I agreed. I remember last summer when they said they’d be moving us back in September, and I groaned: that’s forever and too late. I kept thinking this isn’t sustainable. This is killing downtown and redefining the way people work, and the whole stay-home thing is so attractive it’ll be hard to bring everyone back, and everything will have been redefined without intention or consent.

March: this sucks and we’re all going to die

April: okay maybe no. This will change in a month and we will return. The streets and skyways will have their familiar feel, again, like the side streets of Venice, leading you to a small piazza.

April - December: this will change in a month and we will return

If we didn’t have our simulations and streaming services and digital playgrounds and ingenious tools, the flight from the office would have lasted a fortnight. We might feel lucky that this experiment coincided with all these palliative instruments, but it might turn out that was the form the curse took.



Okay, for a change: straight up recommendations, for a reason that applies to the above.

Babylon Berlin, season 3: there’s a peculiar dread that attends anything set in the Weimar era, because you know what hell follows. It’s tempting to make a show about the times and invest everything with significance, drench the streets with dread, drape a caul of doom around the happy moments. Nazis on the way! Make sure that scene in the nursery foreshadows Kritstalnacht!

They have avoided the temptation. The first two seasons were grim business all around, but the third is almost . . . light by comparison, inasmuch as it doesn’t spend as much time in the gutter tying off a vein. A straightforward mystery. But since it starts with a stock market collapse, then does the old “Two Months Earlier” business, you know we’re headed for bad times.

The appeal is not a look at the world before Hitler. It’s the normalcy of the world, the enticing elements, the way people behave, the new morals, the office decor, the lush apartments and harrowing tenements. A world solid and complete and unaware of its impending destruction. It’s utterly immersive. I can’t recommend it enough.

Well, I could, by talking about it for weeks and weeks to anyone who would listen, but someone would sit me down and have a kind chat. You're boring everyone. Oh, right.

Short opening theme: Just builds and builds to a strange scream. REMEMBER: I don't make you consider clicking on video unless it's short.

Ah, but does it have convincing urban settings from 90 years ago?


I grew up with miniature models for imagined streetscapes. Never convncing. Until I saw the vid above I had no idea they'd added as much as they did. You never notice, because you're watching the characters, but on the other hand, you notice it all, all the time.



It’s 1972, December.

Google search: “There are 49 kodak instamatic x15 for sale on Etsy, and they cost $24.41 on average.”

“Self-powered, so there’s no battery to worry about Christmas morning.”

What does that mean? You have to manually advance the film, of course, but that’s easy enough. Did the Magicube self-detonate?


Photography with a Magicube went like this. You would load a Magicube into your Instamatic camera, compose your shot, and hit the shutter button. As the shutter opened, a tiny lever would press into a slot on the Magicube, which would use a spring to smack the fulminate explosive. It would do what good explosives do — explode.

This tiny explosion would light the zirconium foil, which in a few milliseconds would reach a blinding, sun-like brightness, properly exposing your film.

I never knew that.

It adjusted based on the light in the room.

Complete with that vaguely “French” romantic music:

Gotta hand it to them, they knew how to make smoking glamorous:

So it’s . . . disposable?

The ad was placed before this came out, I believe.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 22) -- The Consolidated Cigar Corporation's Allied Products Division and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission today warned consumers to immediately discontinue use of the "Rogers Disposable adjustable butane lighter."

The action was taken because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said the lighters have a potential for a flame of over one foot and do not extinguish automatically if dropped.

Over 3 million "Rogers Disposable adjustable butane lighters" have been sold since August 1972. They retail for $1.29 and are sold in a variety of colors. The lighter has a small circular depression on the bottom with raised letters "Poppell--Made in Holland."

Consolidated Cigar said that there have been several reports of injuries and explosions associated with use of the lighters.



Everyone’s bacon tasted like licking an ashtray, I guess:

She looks familiar - like someone jammed a bunch of early 70s models into a blender. Jaclyn Smith, I think.


We’ve all been there. We’re all still there, even though our clocks are now incapable of error.

The name is familiar, but it only makes you think "it's been a while since I heard that brand name."

Wikipedia: “In October 2007, Salton sold its entire time products business, including the Westclox and Ingraham trademarks, to NYL Holdings LLC.” Does that mean that NYL Holdings makes them? The website that pops up after googling the name: here.

I’m guessing they’re all made in China now.

  I can feel that slick surface, and shiver.

And that time never went away.

All that copy, and it still doesn’t sound appetizing. But I am still that little boy, I guess.

Sigh. Quadraphonic.

I had it. Aside from The Who, there wasn’t much to play on it.


It was a commercial failure due to many technical problems and format incompatibilities. Quadraphonic audio formats were more expensive to produce than standard two-channel stereo. Playback required additional speakers and specially designed decoders and amplifiers.

The copy faces this head on. “Discrete. Or Matrix. Or Enhanced Stereo.”

Always a bloody format war. Always.

That'll do; see you tomorrow. Or earlier. You never know.





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