When I walked out of the building at noon there was still a hint of morning chill in the air, and the smell of fried foods. Pure State Fair. It’s a thing that takes you forward a bit but takes you back much further.

Up in the sky today, on the deck. I haven’t taken advantage of this space enough, and in fact I forgot about it.

But the new elevator control panels have a SKY DECK option now, and hey, why not? It’s like a hotel up here.

Nice furniture, a bar, music playing, TV screens showing the news. And I have it to myself.

It opened a few years before the Great Emptying, and of course was closed when it was thought COVID could spread even more quickly outdoors in the wind on the 15th floor.

Needs people, I think. To be fair, it was 1 PM, and I'm sure everyone had stood when the great bell rang the top of the hour and scurried back in.

By the way, the carillon was playing "Born Free" the other day, which really isn't a song suited to big pieces of tuned metal. It was actually amusing when he went for the high notes. It was like being beaten over the head with a huge tuning fork by someone shouting ISN'T THIS LOVELY









Well, I’ve hardly watched anything. Working late, and then no particular desire to watch the show I’m chewing through, because it’s good, and requires attention, and there are too many things skittering through the head. It reminds me of how TV used to be consumed, and let me correct that sentence because I hate that use of consume. The only time you should use the word is when you eat something, or are misspelling a French word for soup. I don’t like being a consumer. I don’t like to think I am consuming media. In fact I don’t even like to think of consuming food; I’d rather reserve the word for an external process of fascination, as in I’m consumed by this idea.

But even that is close to “passionate” or “obsessed,” two words that have been promoted to the job previously held by “interested in.”

Anyway, we didn’t consume TV, we watched it, and we watched it for one reason: it was evening, and it was on. You had three choices plus spinach, and thanks to the invaluable TV guide, or the newspaper grid, you could bounce around. It always seemed strange to read of shows succeeding because they were preceded by a popular show, because that implied that people were too inert to change the channel, and just let everything wash over in a state of indifference punctuated by amusement or mild surprise.

But there was something else. Now we select what we will watch, and nothing precedes it, if we’re starting out. Even if it’s our second show of the night, a different series, nothing precedes it. We call it into existence. When you turned on your TV in the olden times, it was already in progress; it was always in progress. It was always ongoing, whether you were there or not. Aside from broadcast TV, which fell off my radar years ago, the only thing that’s always in progress now is the news, and for a lot of people the news has taken the place, psychologically, of the ongoing parade of amusement and suspense that was once evening TV. Instead of a 24-7 burlesque show going on behind those doors you pass, it’s a 24-7 lecture on the ills and the villains.

Anyway. People put in a good four hours a night, back then. You started at 7, rode the networks until 10, went to your preferred news station - we were 6, I think, and might stick with 4 if that was the channel we were watching. Rarely 11, which was bargain-basement. Then you might get up during weather or sports before settling in for Carson. Monologue, maybe Mighty Carson Art Players if you were lucky, Art Fern if you were luckier, the first guest, and time to hit the hay.

I lost that habit the minute I left home, and never sat in front of the TV just to sit in front of the TV again. Ever since the VCR it’s been a matter of choosing my own time. Now I have more than ever, and I watch less than ever before.

The most interesting thing I saw today was a small town in Montana on Google Street View. I’d just finished the Clippings for the town’s newspaper in 1912, and was interested to see if I’d gone there for Main Street. I hadn’t. Having just read a lot of stories about the life of the town - the usual insanely detailed and boring stories about who called on who, who was in town, who had the ague - it felt familiar to drift up and down the empty street on the Google Street View page, look up at the names on the building, wonder if this was where that store with the ad about the ladies’ hat sale might have been. No plot, no characters other than Dick McQuinty (who was back to his old smiling self after a bout of the new-moanie, and at whose meeting hall the Ladies of the Fair were meeting to discuss preparations), no souls in the street who might tip a hat or nod hello. Just a quiet little stretch in the middle of the flat lands, with few signs it had boomed much since the end of the Great War.

It was better than most of the TV shows I have waiting for me. But that was just my mood, I suppose.



It’s 1904. We haven't gone back this far in a while,  possibly because it's not all that interesting.

Straight, simple, effective:

Also strange. Why is to-day the day?? And why is he dressed like that? Is this a retouched photograph, or a very good illustration? What does the biscuit taste like?

I suppose people already knew the answer to the last one.


Good news, dearie! We got you a kitty. After a fashion.

  It’s an honest assessment of the truth: some pets deserve their reputation for drawing blood.

The beauty standards of 1904:

If you’re going for the “Fierce scullery maid” look, this is the soap for you.


Drawing on the natural connection between ham and sea-faring:

“Good for the Race.” A double message intended? Don’t think so. More like “Can be counted upon to be the best.” I think.

Wonder when they dumped the Little Cook. I don’t know why they used little children in their ads, exactly; purity, innocence, an ability to strum the maternal harp-strings, perhaps.


Imported British soap: no better recommendation. Have skin like a Briton

Imagine being the guy who had to hand-letter this ad. He had to plan ahead, kern with care, pay attention to line spacing, and invent his own letters. Like the artist of the illustration, he is unknown. Perhaps this was as high as he got in the ad game, because someone new came in to manage the account, and didn’t like his letters. Makes us look like amateurs! Who is this, the boss’ nephew?





We’re still a ways away from house electrification, or new construction automatically having wires to every room. It’s still literally a novelty.

Welcome to Sweat Like Hell Day, ladies! Commence auto-drenching.

Linen is superior to cotton, and everyone knows it; linen is special, cotton is common. Use anything but Lux and your linen will look like cotton and you will be judged accordingly.

Fellow citizens! Is that Mr. White? If so, nice work.

FOOD RIGHTS. Those other ones, well, in time.

You won’t see Mr. White on the boxes any more; he was memory-holed in 2020 as part of the drive to eliminate all non-white characters from product labels.

His likeness graced the boxes for a hundred years.





That'll do; Pain awaits. And thank you!




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