That is not a star. I got a notification on my phone that the International Space Station would be visible soon. You point your Device at the sky, and the screen lights up with a brilliant array of dots and constellations. The ISS was rising soon, and I tracked it. There it was! If I'd seen it any other day I would think it was a plane. It was fast.

Hah: I just got another notification that it's due soon. What goes around comes around, I guess.

Wait a minute, you say - weren't you going to go a day without the Device? Oh, I lasted an hour. There's just so much I do with it.

1. I've been shooting videos every day. Nothing important, just a way of nailing down the day so it doesn't evaporate. I's an exercize in memorializing the quotidian, documenting the banal.

2. Also taking lots of pictures, every day. Everything and anything, sorted out later. Sometimes you just stop and see a series of lines and shapes and intersections you see a dozen times a day, and because you see it a dozen times a day, you don’t pay it any mind, until you decide to look twice.

For example: this is the escalator, at an angle. Not a very good picture. At some point things have to look better than an accidental snap.

You see the wall of StarTribune pictures, mostly. But what's that yellow thing?

It's the guy removing the holiday foilage from the planters outside of the building.

Earlier in the day I'd gone down the escalator and seen the old tired dead fir sticks, and thought "it's time they go. It's the end of March." And then the next trip down, they were being removed. I hadn't given them any thought in months, and the day I notice is the day they go.

That means nothing, I know.

3. I'd miss the music. I would not have access to the daily soundtrack. So . . . like it was before the Walkman? I still remember how amazing it was to walk around outside and hear something in stereo. That was the thing. Not the portability of music, but stereo. Think-pieces of the day tut-tutted that everyone would now retreat to their own cocoons, strolling through museums or the street in a private world - and that’s what happened. But it's not as if we were all talking to each other anyway. Walking through a museum listening to Mahler or Eno was a new world.

The Device does not put you in a private world, though - it’s a door that opens into a nattering mob waiting for you to call up the noisy app, and scroll through all the people clamoring for a half-second of your time like people on the Titanic with a bulging suitcase over their head, yelling at you as you try to get an orderly queue for the last lifeboat.

So no, I didn't put it down. Maybe tomorrow? Nnnnah.










One of those “cultural rebirth” twitter accounts had a piece on Art Deco skyscrapers, lauding them as the epitome of the art form, an expression of brilliant American optimistic futurism.


  I still say it’s not Art Deco, it’s Moderne, but that streamlined chrome horse is out of the Bauhaus-influenced white barn. He’s right about the “American optimistic futurism” part, though. These are wonderful structures.

So, Twitter being Twitter, we are reminded that capitalism bad:

Yes, exactly! Pith of the gist, lad! That’s why Cities Services looks like an enormous oil derrick, and 30 Pine looks like . . . well, like something a rampant capitalist would want to sell you! O to be young again, and discovering the perfidies played upon us hapless mortals by CAPITALISM.

While the intentions of the buildings may have been capitalistic - i.e., commodify space, rent floors, project a corporate image - the style’s intellectual underpinnings were not the sort of “rampant” free-market ideas the tweeter finds so icky. The idea behind this style is more technocratic and managerial, with smart science-minded men with grey hair looking at charts and deciding how to best run the world. Futurians, if you wish. Your basic atheistic rational master-planner who can order the chaos into something more productive.

The apotheosis of the movement would be the Worlds’ Fair of 1939 - 40, where the style was pared to the absolute minimum. Many buildings were devoted to corporations, but you couldn’t always tell what they were selling. Cars? Hot dogs? Cash Registers?

Well, actually, I think you could tell if they were selling cash registers.

But what’s this selling?

I’ve removed anything that might give it away. Can you tell? No. The shape has no relationship to the product. But it still has that big-shouldered utopian optimism: whatever these guys are doing, you know that Science is on their side!

Add the livery for the product, and now people know what it is.

Even though it has the markings of a product with a national ad campaign, some people still might not recognize it. So they had to add the name.

Form follows function this ain't. But like all the World's Fair buildings - hardly a dud in the lot - it's fantastical, and a vision of the future. If we wanted it.

We didn't have the chance to say whether we did or not.

Anyway, back to Van Allen's Folly:

Did they love the Chrysler building at the time? They did. I paged through many reviews in newspapers, which were different than the gatekeeper critics of the New York press, and many saw it for the uniquely American object it was. The negative reviews thought its shape and materials were excessive and showy.

T-Square didn’t like it, because he didn’t like the metal. Lewis Mumford did find it too much, excoriating the “egregious gargoyles,” but he didn’t find it objectionable because it tried to sell cars, he found it objectionable because Chrysler cars had better aesthetics. (In his view.) Architectural Forum noted that it was an ad as well as art, and found its style, height, materials, and exuberance “unusual, daring, and original.”

The building's gargoyles, the hood ornaments, are waaaay up there. hardly visible from the street. If this was an ad, that's bad product placement.

But surely the ground floor is an explosion of banal automobile-related imagery?

Surely the entrance is full of hubcaps and oil cans?

The hubcap friezes are on the 31st floor. It's a one-of-a-kind hand-made object, a potent embodiment of an age and the men who drove it. It exists because of Capitalism.




It’s 1915.

Settle in, this will take a while.

Somehow I think the story could have been told with a bit more brevity, but I’m not sure how.


Wonder how John and Louis ended up in life. I’m guessing it was more of the same. Especially if your name is John Johnson, which is literally more of the same.



  Uncle Hammer? You suspect it’s some symbol of a previous situation which the Business Men have vowed to change.
  Well that certainly clears things up



A reminder that small towns were up against Big Retail a long, long time ago. The fight would shift soon from mail order to the peril of the chains, and that battle was hard-fought.

The small towns were better off with a chain store, if you ask me. More variety and a more modern experience. they could coexist with local merchants, and did for decades.


They were regarded as interlopers and destroyers, and now we look at the pictures of old Main streets with a Kresge or Woolworth's and think it's a sweet nostalgic image of the bygone days.

The chance of this running in small papers in those days was about 85-15%.

The chance today?


A local humor column written by someone who signed it W. A. R.

Written in that simpleton-vernacular that suggested a wise but untutored local wag.

  Also in his column: WHAT THE HELL IS IT

The pace of city life being what it was 1915, chances are you’re nerve-fagged at day’s end. Drink up! She already looks half in the bag.

The Christ. Diehl brewery closed in 1955.

  Another joke column from the Ink-wire. Luke McLuke: it was also the name of a famous horse.

Again with the hot cross buns:

The paper was 8 pages, and absolutely packed. It’s a good read, and it’s not hard to believe that everyone wanted to see what was in the paper this week. Gave the town a sense of itself.

And it’s still around.


Now two ways to chip in!

That'll do. More of 1955 Interiors below, absolutely perfect Mid-Decade Mid-Century. See you around.



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