If you’re seeing this, then everything worked. I won’t bore you with all the under-the-hood details, but I have this thing set up with assembly-line precision. I’m quite proud. I’ve created a series of 31 templates I can just drop into the folder for the month, and everything’s automatically added - banners, dates, ads, dividers, updates, and so on. All of the updates at the bottom now go to automatic redirect pages, and I have a folder of aliases for those pages with FTP shortcuts so I can just drag and forget.

And so much more! It’ll probably fall apart in a couple of months. But now I am basking in the promise of perfection, as of course are we all. New year! New You!

What nonsense. Got a 6 minute voicemail from Daughter on the beach in Brazil on New Year’s Eve, talking about how the New Her was really born the day she got on the plane, and how strange and wonderful the year has been, and how she’s just surrendered to the strangeness and unmoored quality of it all.

The festivities were low-key. Neighborhood fireworks - pro quality, I might add. Wisconsin grade! Wife was doing her annual puzzle, and had the TV on. Times Square festivities. I paused now and then to observe the usual horror - standing there in the cold with that ghastly mob, full of beer, no place to void - and note the additional horrors, which were A) the rain, and B) the loud and low-class acts of the hosts and sub-hosts. Someone was always yelling while smiling, and the smiles were those broad manic yawning-maw that indicates aggressive insincerity.

Did everything get much more stupid last year? Was it getting stupider at the same pace, or did something speed it up? Is it just me feeling out of joint with the times, or just out of joint with the stupid portion of the times? Pop culture has always had its braying conspicuous idiots, but when the only adult in the room is Anderson Cooper doing his best Graham Chapman Pepperpot Lady imitation. . . well.

Perhaps it's just me. It's entirely possible that more things are smarter as well. The smart things got better at the same time the banal, moronic drivel got cruder, more intent on mocking the last vestiges of some imaginary bourgeoise propriety that evaporated long ago.

Anyway! Happy new year, and so on. The top part of the Bleat will be a bit light this week, since I've lots of work to do. Some big new links galore tomorrow, though.

There's also something new below, but . . .



A new weekly feature! One paper, one day, stories mean and great. Ads and movies and comics and strange details. There's no way to capture the entirety of the paper without, well, reproducing the whole thing. If you're left wondering what else was going on, that's a testament to our expectations of newspapers.

Here’s what the front page looked like.

Let’s just say that the position of “photojournalist” wasn’t much of a career option in 1909.

"All that remains" was an unpopular sequel to "All That Jazz"

A fellow with the very Minnesota name of John Johnson. He was indeed very Minnesotan:

He was the first governor born in Minnesota to serve in office. He was also first to serve a full term in the present state capitol, and the first to die in office. Johnson sought the 1908 Democratic presidential nomination but lost to William Jennings Bryan.

That didn’t work out well for the Ds.

The eldest child of an impoverished Swedish family abandoned by an alcoholic father, Johnson left school at 13 to support his mother and siblings. Local Democrats, impressed with the enterprising young store clerk, asked him to join their party and edit the strongly Democratic St. Peter Herald. His journalistic success attracted statewide attention and fostered political aspirations.

Here's the St. Peter Herald. I'll bet it's the same building.

The press handled this with great reserve:

Elsewhere in the news:






The comics page has a brain tickler. Can you solve it?

Answer at the end.

Oh man the hilarity! They’re as funny as today’s newspaper comics:

If there's one thing we're going to learn this year, it's the abiding lameness of newspaper humor.

But this is interesting for its size, and style:

It takes up a huge amount of space. I don't think I've seen anything else in the paper by this cartoonist; there are a few similar images, but the names are different.


How to sell pianos? Easy! Show the guys running the operation counting all the money they've made.

What an easy puzzle! Why, it’s . . . okay hold on.

The phrase depends on knowing a phrase for “doing right” or “Being honest,” and was their way of assuring you that many people did, indeed, get a dollar.

Oh and buy a piano plz thnkx

Social news of the upper crust. This stuff was put in the paper for the interest of those who wanted to know what their people were doing, and those who were interested in the fascinating lives they'd never experience. Celebrity culture, in a minor form.

Let’s see where these elegant swells lived:

Where did she shop before she left? Atkinson & Co, probably. And she'd need a big trunk. Women wore a lot of clothing in 1909. A lot.

The Atkinson store was on Nicollet & 7th. A shot of the interior can be found here.

The store was substantial:

If you're a local, and wondering where this was - I mean, where on Nicollet and 7th, it's where the IDS stands today. If I may snip from a Shorpy photo:




Let's end with our brains fully tickled. This one has the answer to the one shown above. It’s easy:

But . . . smilax? It’s a plant. "Greenbriers get their scientific name from the Greek myth of Crocus and the nymph Smilax. Though this myth has numerous forms, it always centers around the unfulfilled and tragic love of a mortal man who is turned into a flower, and a woodland nymph who is transformed into a brambly vine."

So there's our first entry, with many more to come - they'll vary from year to year, town to town, and I hope you'll find them enjoyable and instructive.

As for the update: it's the start of the Eighties site. Scant stuff right now, but it'll grow. The link goes right to the 1986 Catalog, but it'll take you back to the main page, where there are few more tidbits.

Settling on the right image to sum up the 80s was difficult, so I chose something no one will agree sums everything up.

But oh, it sums up a lot.




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