Here's a new thing I can do once a week, for fun: my open browser tabs on an ordinary afternoon.

From Left to Right. First Tab: a story about Jacques-Louis David. Great painter; bad man. Perhaps not personally bad to those around him, as in the sense of abusing friends and lovers, but a suck-up to charismatic totalitarians. Joined the government after the Revolution, and as the article notes, his name's on a few death warrants. Made that famous painting of Marat dead in his bath, boo and/or hoo. The more I read about the Revolution, the more I'm glad I wasn't there. What a nightmare.

Also a link to the Tennis Court Oath, an unfinished piece by David I've scrutinized for the bolt of lightning in one of the windows. Can't find it. I have a recollection from Simon Schama's great "Citizens" about a bolt of lightning in one of the pictures, and how it symbolized the power of electricity in the mind of the Rational Vanguard. A force that could be understood and tamed for the good of the People!

Next tab: story on Scott Joplin. You have no idea how sick of "The Entertainer" were got in 1975. Another link from Arts & Letters daily, which I clicked because I wanted to know whether they mentioned how a new generation was exposed to Joplin via the loading screens of "Bioshock Infinite.

This makes me nostalgic for a world I never lived in, but inhabited with astonishing intensity. I don't think I'll play a game again after that one.

Next: Atlantic mag story on "Frederick Law Olmstead," tiresomely titled "When Parks were Radical." Anything good in the past has to be radical. Olmstead did have different ideas about parks, and they did expand the classes of people who used them, but I'd reserve "radical" for the groups that behead the ruling class and rename the months of the calendar. I've mentioned on my Loring Park tour how its design was influenced by the new school of landscaping, and how the rational symmetrical parks of Europe didn't appeal so much to latter-19th century Americans who feared the effects of industrialization and mechanization. Yes, even then, they worried that our unspoiled bucolic garden was being ruined by sooty progress. So they loved the naturalistic-ramble look, even though it was pretend.

Next: Found in a Flea Market, a look at a 1930s scrapbook, from a Paris-based vintage-retro-chic-whatever site. I'd gone to the site to read about rejected designs for Central Park. Rejected for good reasons; they look like something drawn by unstable people who sit in the library making intricate doodles that explain EVERYTHING.

Next: Oh God why? Right. At a meeting today we were discussing a bug in the CMS that kicks fact boxes out of your story package, which, I know, is something about which you do not know or care. I know and care and I don't really. It got me thinking about the archaic system we used to use to put stories in the paper - ATEX. We were one of the first, and hence the investment meant we were still using huge clunky clackity keyboards into the late 90s, with dumb terminals that weighed a ton. Green letters, black screens, dozens of buttons and macros. I think we had it in Washington and St. Paul, as well. Everyone had ATEX and then no one didn't, although they're still around.

Now we have this new system, which does everything, and is Win97 ugly. But! We're looking at flatscreen monitors, just like the future promised, and in my case I'm working on an impossibly thin laptop with no wires, just like the future promised. The office is sleek and futuristic, too. (Things that are futuristic are always sleek, because we can't imagine that the future would be clunky; everything bends towards the elimination of unnecessary details, as Raymond Loewy demanded.)

So why doesn't it feel like we're in the future? Why does that feeling of marvel and delight pass so quickly?

Next: the Freakazoid theme song, because for some reason I had called up the Animaniacs on Netflix. Never watched it when it was on, but appreciated that it existed.

The 90s, which was when I began a tentative disconnection from the entirety of pop culture, seems a simpler & happier time now.

Finally: Bojack. I have to read the AV Club comments after I watch an ep. It's the only pop-culture site where I seek out the comments, because by some magic ac of the Disqus Sorting Hat everyone in the comments is on the same page, loves the show, gets it, trades lines. It's one of my favorite TV shows in the history of the medium, and there's nothing like it, nothing so bleak and unsparing and honest and funny. And ridiculous. And generous, with so many throwaway lines and sight gags. These might be nightmare attributes for some - jeez who needs bleak - but it's not a single-file parade of Bitter Sensibilities blatting on whiny woodwinds, compensating for bad high school experience by sneering at happy pretty things. Hard to explain, but A) enough to say it's mid-early-period Simpsons brilliant, and B) in retrospect it almost seems as if the whole show was intended to be a secret, since the first 5 eps were hardy-har, and then it became something else entirely. As if the first half of the first season was a test. Okay, you made it this far, and stuck with it for some reason. Here's your reward.

It's the opening credits that always made me believe, and yes, I will embed them again. The moment when he goes over the rail gets me every time -lands in the pool, - Diane, hand over heart, concerned; Mr. Peanutbutter, dog-curious; indifferent young thing swimming overhead; police-media overhead, because it's news - and then reset, because it didn't matter, annnnnd horse whinny sax.

It's the opening credits that always made me believe, and yes, I will embed them again. The moment when he goes over the rail gets me every time -lands in the pool, - Diane, hand over heart, concerned; Mr. Peanutbutter, dog-curious; indifferent young thing swimming overhead; police-media overhead, because it's news - and then reset, because it didn't matter, annnnnd horse whinny sax.

One tab left, but I think I'll leave that for tomorrow.

Sometimes at the store you'll find fabric on a chair that screams Mid-Century. If you asked someone today to come up with something from this period, they'd never come up with this.

How did they come up with that in the first place?

That's one cheesy, insincere, conflicted warrior-type guy:

Mass-produced for the living rooms of discerning Americans.




Perfect sized city for this feature - 25,000 people. Nickname: the Pretzel City! Because they were settled by Germans who made them.

Let's begin with a mystery: what the devil is going on here?

Has to be some kind of garage, or perhaps that's a warehouse door . . . but the big blank expanse on the second floor is inexplicable. Scoured clean for a big neon sign? If so, what are the little inset decorations?

Let's hope things make more sense as we go along.

This was cruel. Late-20s / early 30s terra cotta, stripped on the lower floor and replaced with the collary of Buckaroo Revival, the dreaded diagonal wood.

Someone said "yeah, chop off that corner. No one will notice. Who looks up to the second floor of anything, anyway?"

Lynch & Roberts:

The fellow gave his name to a local park.

Much of the land being donated was owned by the prominent merchant and “loyal citizen,” F.A. Read, the principal donor for whom the park was named. Read, who the account states believed in the importance of public parks, made several additional gifts to the Park District.

The park commissioner was the son-in-law of "Freeport's most noted industrialist, the one and only W. T. Rawleigh."

Ah hah! Oh, we'll learn a bit more about him next year, in a site that's going up on the Miscellany section. Anyway, from his obit:

Mr. Read, who was in the mercantile business in Freeport continuously from 1877 until his death in 1942, was a quiet, unassuming man with high principles and sound judgment. Always interested in the advancement of his city, he gave generously of his time and energy, as well as of his possessions, to any project designed to bring increased comfort and happiness to residents, old and young.

The building is still called the Read building.

Brick 'er up, Charlie, but don't bother matching anything. No one will care.

You know, it's possible that they deliberately chose different colored bricks, just to keep the spirit and original design of the place in memory.

A space-bending theater, with TEN SCREENS

It's a Rapp & Rapp theater. A local contest chose the name, but who knows what it meant? Probably someone's daughter.

Say, I forgot to mention - Freeport was famous for more than pretzels. They also held one of the LINcoln DOuglas debates.

An old picture here, with its marquee making a proud boast: THIS IS A MODERN TEMPLE OF BEAUTY COMFORT SAFETY

There's something so ordinary and midwestern about this; that must have been why I snipped it. Plus, ghost sign.

When you think about it, everything's since 1853.

Remember I mentioned "Rawleigh" up above? The old quack-nostrum factory.

Millions of gallons of EXTRACTS once chugged from vats and pipes into small bottles, sent out to the credulous public to be consumed in hope.

By 1915, an estimated 2,000 "Rawleigh men" distributed Rawleigh products while visiting approximately 20,000 customers daily. The Rawleigh company did not do expensive advertising or newspaper ads, instead it relied on the products their benefits, and the Rawleigh man going into homes to sell their products. By 1922 over twenty million customers had admitted the Rawleigh man into their homes.

Up these stairs, none shall pass again:


A prosperous scene unchanged since, oh, 1965 - although I'm sure the purpose of the big building has gone from hotel to senior housing. That's always the case.

Nice little modern building, with that tell-tale green-tint window that always made the structure look cool and minty-fresh.


These were always the Saviors of Downtown, these big bank towers with their Los Angeles profile and parking-ramp podium. You suspect there was something interesting on the site before, and the lack of anything across the street is telling.

Another human-defying government structure, designed to look like it munches the citizens as they enter:

A candidate for a haunted building - no one dares go to the third floor, and the windows are arrayed just as they were the day of the terrible murder.

The inability of everything to line up must have driven some people a bit daffy.

We'll never know.



Or maybe we will -


if we find some old fellow in the barber shop you can tell you what used to be where. The older they get the less they seem to care that anyone else cares, though. There's a certain practicality that prevents nostalgia among some Midwestern seniors. Eh. It's gone. That happens. Happens all the time.

Double ghost: Coke, of course, and E. A. Blust.

From a Freeport jewelry store website:

The term “family business” has special meaning for sisters Alicia Luecke-DeMichele and Marcia Luecke-Toepfer. Together they run three jewelry stores, the flagship location in Freeport having been established by their grandfather, Robert G. Luecke, in 1921.

The family connection to Freeport’s historic downtown business district dates back even further, however. Robert began his jeweler’s work in a corner of the Blust Dry Goods Store inside a building erected by his father-in-law, E.A. Blust, at 10 E. Main St., Freeport. The Blust Building, built in 1892, remains an iconic downtown landmark.

The building in the foreground is less iconic, having been cursed with multi-hue brickwork during the era of No Good Ideas.

Speaking of Leucke:

How does it line up that an old building about the same age as the one where the R. Luecke got his start has R. Luecke on the cornice?

It's complicated.

Thank you for your patronage! On, then, to the Motels of the Week.




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