Little Ads - The novelest of novelties.

Already, in 1948, the thriving American industrial sector was making good use of production capacity and technological advancements brought to them by wartime efforts. Those lucky enough to have survived World War II could spend their $1.95 ($19.28 in today's money!) on an astonishing, amazing illuminated bow tie -which is also "jazz"! - or a merely amazing "Guzzlin Charlie" drinking bird. Truly, victory was ours.

Just in case you forgot how Homer found a way to have this bird do his job for him, see below. I think this makes the choice obvious. Buy the drinking bird and get a nice afternoon off.

On page 66 of the same magazine, we found this ad. It seems that the novelty electric tie market was really heating up in '48. This tie is not astonishing or amazing. It is forty five cents cheaper, but it's merely "good for lots of laughs". You can do better. The manufacturer called themselves the "Electric Bow Tie Co", in a spasm of inspiration. They could apparently not do better.

For only $8.45 (or $83,56 in today's money), you could order this radio-phone. Tip for all the inventors out there: Taking a device that already exists (a radio), and adding the fun of holding it up to your head equals "the magic of tomorrow". I've got an idea for an apple slicer phone of the future. Gotta go.
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Heublein Cocktails - Mister fancy.

Heublein was a company that made premixed cocktails you could buy in a bottle. If you were really jonesing for a vodka martini but couldn't be bothered to shake-not-stir one up for yourself, Heublein was your go-to. This 1966 ad for Heublein kind of makes me wish I had a li-bary full of what look like the opening titles from Frazier Thomas' Family Classics.

The marketing bullshit being used here is the well-worn "You will be just like George Sanders if you drink our product." The copy insists that George said "Pour a Heublein Martini. Most  people can't make one as good." This could easily be true. Maybe many people are useless at mixing drinks? Maybe he agreed to say whatever they want for a nice little check? It doesn't mean Heublein cocktails were any good. Nor does it mean they were terrible. It's the perfect advertising copy, in that it doesn't mean anything, but sounds like it should.

If you have a library like that in your house (and maybe you do?), do you put on your corduroy blazer and your ascot, just to sit down for a bit of a read? Heublein wanted you to think George Sanders did. It paints a nice fictional image of sophistication and refinement - exactly what Heublein needed to polish up the image of their lazy man's cocktail line. So who was George Sanders, and why did Heublein invite him to pitch their stuff?

Here's why. Listen to this guy's voice. George Sanders is all baritone Britishness and cleverness. He was the voice actor for Sher Khan in Jungle Book. This scene is brilliant, with the voice acting and the animation. Any time you get to animate characters being sneaky or evasive, it's a scene you can really have some fun with. All the guile and barely controlled emotion give an animator a lot of opportunity to have the eyes betraying what the character is feeling, while his/her voice is trying to convince you of something else.

So, Heublein went out of business in The Eighties, but premixed cocktails are still made today by other companies. Are they any good? Here's an un-blinded taste test by Eater in which they found out. Here's the verdict:
Our overall consensus was that made-to-order cocktails trump most of the bottled versions we tried. Although the idea of enjoying a solid cocktail at home—without the effort of actually making the drink and potentially spending too much money on ingredients—was appealing.
So premixed cocktails are okay, but not as good as a freshly made one. No surprise there. They list the best brands in the article, if you're interested.

Now that it's getting all Autumn outside, maybe you need a hot drinky-poo for when you cozy up with volume 2 of "How to Wear an Ascot and Not Look Like a Complete Tool", by George Sanders? A few Thanksgivings ago, I tried a recipe for mulled wine, found on the ultranet. It called for a lot of sugar and far too many ingredients. It was thick and syrupy, and if you ask me, sugar plus alcohol equals headache. So, I just tried heating up some wine instead. Well, heating wine brings out different flavors. Acidy, vinegary flavors came to the front, and the steam carried these flavors up my nose when I took a sip, stinging my nose holes a little. It was bad. So, I hit upon the idea of throwing in a little grape juice to knock that edge off the taste. Bingo. I will now give you the recipe as if I'm dying from multiple wounds in Danger 5, breathing the secret as my last, into the sympathetic ear of Pierre, the team's bartender.

Four parts red wine.
One part grape juice.
Cough! Cough!
Microwave for one and a half minutes.
Garnish with cinnamon.
The perfect Hot Mon Deiu.
I die.

You're welcome!

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Institute of Applied Science - Handful of guys.

Today we bring you a doozy of a clip art, courtesy of the Institute of Applied Science in 1948.

Study at home, blah blah, fingerprints, blah, write for free pamphlet, blah blah. CRUSH PERPETRATORS AND MISCREANTS IN YOUR GIANT FIST! SEE THEIR VISCERA SPURT FROM YOUR FINGERGROINS! Yes, please!

You need this clip art in your computer. You could use it for almost anything. Emails from the Human Resources department, for example, or an invitation for a Ladies' Night Out. Just about any occasion where you feel the need to convey absolute hideous control and horrific disregard for all humanity, this clip art will be there for you, ready to help let the world know how you feel. Maybe you're a plucky young upstart and you need a logo for your Presidential bid? We've got your covered. Get your rude finger ready to right click this little doodle onto your hard drive in three, two, one, right click now, you crazed despot.

It looks like the long, enormous arm of the law scraped clean the streets of Victorian London. I can see Fagen, and about seven other ne'er-do-wells called "Stabby McGee" or something. It's good to know what kind of criminals were crawling the streets of America in 1948, and that they were the size of army men. You're welcome.

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Music Recommendo! - Vince Guaraldi's Greatest Hits

Today is the final day of Music Week, and we present to you a person that probably nobody hates. When his songs come on the air, is there anyone who says "Oh god. This frikkin guy. I'm leaving the room an an angry fashion immediately."?

You may recognize his name. We're entering the Vince Guaraldi time of year, when you'll be hearing his music in all the Charlie Brown holiday specials. But, you can assign your self some musical street cred bonus points by getting his Greatest Hits album, which features a lot of music from his career before he ever got the Peanuts gig. Yes, that's right! He had a life before Charlie Brown!

Guaraldi's recording career started in the early Fifties, on an album with the fantastic jazz vibraphonist (No, I'm not being sarcastic) Cal Tjader. He eventually started his solo career in 1959, and did a lot of great stuff before being knighted the Charlie Brown Minstrel in 1965 with the release of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

His style, like a lot of 60's era jazz, was heavily influenced by sambas and other Brazilian rhythms, which were brought back to America by soldiers returning from World War II. See? War. Ughhh. Good gawd yaww. That's what it's good for!

Dig the Ginza Samba...

Cast Your Fate to the Wind was Guaralid's big grammy winning hit from 1963, and basically won him the Charlie brown gig when the animation producer Bill Melendez heard the song and asked Guaraldi if he would do some music for a little project he had coming up.

The rest is seasonal TV history. But, do yourself a favor and hip yourself to the samba jive by making the scene on his earlier career. It's just as charming, but you can still feel like a sophisticated grownup and stuff when you put it on.


Music recommendo! - The Planets, by Gustav Holst

Have you always wanted to get a little classical music in your collection, but just something a little more substantial than frilly, flopsy Mozart (not that there's anything wrong with that)? Today's musical recommendo may have the cure for your classically curious blues: Gustav Holst's The Planets.

Gustav! How's it hangin, baby? You're looking a little intense there. Let you music take care of that instead. Give us a little smile, my man.
The Planets has one "song" written for each of the seven planets known to exist at the time. Each has a distinct character, borrowing from mythology to assign personality to each planet. Each planet has a job. Neat!

Mars, the Bringer of War
Venus, the Bringer of Peace
Mercury, the Winged Messenger
Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
Uranus, the Magician
Neptune, the Mystic

Gustav Holst (1874 - 1934) was an English composer whose influences include Vagner, of Ride of the Valkyries fame, and Ravel, of Bolero fame. This makes complete sense once you get through The Planets for the first time.

Vagner's ridiculously large opera The Rings of the Nibelung is so long it has to be broken up into several days of opera-ing. Lots of apocalyptic imagery and screaming choirs - good! Fifteen hours of turgid epic drama - possibly bad. The Planets has that, but in a less forbidding size. Just drop the needle on Mars, Bringer of War. Perfect soundtrack for your standard issue category three tornado or D&D gaming session. Mars is a thundering planetary death knell in 5/4 time. Because of this, it's a pretty useful and popular piece of music. So, you've probably heard it before: It's found its way into lots of commercials and movies. It's the heavy metal of orchestral music. Skip to one minute in this video for the start of the music. Or, just jump to 8:26 to hear the end of the world.

Another Holst influence, Ravel's Bolero starts quiet and gets louder as it repeats its main theme, sounding mysterious and exotic the whole way. The Planets has this too. Look up Uranus, the Magician, or Neptune, the Mystic. The dissonant (notes that intentionally don't match) chords sung by the choir in Neptune still give me the creeping heebie jeebies every time. Skip to 5:07 in this video to make all of your hairs stand up.

Unlike your tea-and-cakes kind of chamber music, The Planets offers those with orchestral curiosity something to sink their teeth into, without needing a doctorate in history. It's a good gateway drug into classical music, if you don't want your CD shelf (if you still use those) to look like you inherited your collection from your grandma... even though mine totally does.

Here comes Jupiter, Bringer of "Jollity". Good old Jupiter, with his abundtive jollity. So jovious and whimsitive! Sometimes it's hard to tell if history actually used to use words like "jollity" or if it's just making shit up to screw with our grammar. Let's play it safe. Just go around ramming different suffixes onto words that don't have matching plugs, and tell anyone who complains to "look it up, you troglodyte. I'm listening to classical music!" Get your music-holes ready to have jollity crammed into them. Jolly up, you!

So there's The Planets. It's got some happy stuff, some light warfare, some spooky crap going on, and various other emotions, like going really fast (Mercury, the Winged Messenger). You could do worse.
Homewrecker, or just your sexy muse?

Be careful, though, just like suddenly going to the gym on a regular basis, starting a little classical music habit may have your husband, wife, or wifeband suspecting you're cheating with a college professor... or Arthur Fiedler.


Music Recommendo! - The Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop O.S.T.1

Music Week continues today. It's time for some foreign jazz imitating American jazz.

I know, I know. You don't get anime. That's fine. Even though Cowboy Bebop is the only anime show that seems to be made for grownups and carefully avoids all the weirdnesses that would turn off the casual viewer, you completely don't have to watch the series to understand how good the music is. Also, the English dub is so well-performed you could forget it was ever in a different language in the first place, which is a rare, rare thing among anime dubs.

Yoko Kanno, as she would be called in the States. In Japan, you
would call her Kanno Yoko - Family name first, and then your
own name. Kind of a nice idea. This is how it is in most of Asia.
The show is set in 2071, on Mars and Earth, starring a couple of bounty hunters that don't really like each other. So, of course the natural fit, when it comes to the music, is Sixties-sounding American jazz, right? All the music for the show was written by Yoko Kanno. She also conducted the band she assembled to record all the tracks, calling themselves The Seatbelts. She's kind of a musical genius. How good was the music? A couple of years after the show ended, The Seatbelts went on a tour of Japan doing concerts of the soundtrack to sold-out audiences. Who could say no to a twenty-whatever piece big band playing music to have fight scenes by?

Enough talk! Stare with your ears. Here is the opening title sequence to the TV show. The theme song is called Tank!

More. This is Rush, also on the O.S.T. 1 album (which stands for Original Sound Track, by the way).

The recordings have a retro sound to them that is definitely not accidental. Ever since roughly The Sixties, audio engineers will tend to record a band by "close mic'ing" them, with each horn getting its own microphone, sometimes shoved deep into the bell of the instrument. This reached its height of popularity in The Seventies. This is how you get that sound that each instrument is sitting right inside your head. A good example of close mic'ed horns can be heard in pretty much any studio album by Steely Dan, but here's My Old School. Notice how the horns sound like you're sitting right in front of them. This is the sound of The Seventies. Tight and dry, with little or no reverb.

With these Cowboy Bebop recordings, you can hear a lot of "room ambience". The musicians were very likely recorded by two microphones (gotta have stereo separation!) positioned overhead, covering the whole group. This has the effect of letting you hear the whole band, as they sounded in a large room. This is how things were done up until the early Sixties and for the whole of recording history before then. By using this recording technique, Kanno further positions her musical sound in the past, giving it a retro feel that you definitely perceive, maybe without realizing it. This method is sometimes used today, whenever the engineer wants to get a more natural sounding recording, or "that retro sound".

Oof. A quick check of Amazon shows us that pretty much any Seatbelts CD is going for thirty to fifty dollars, apparently because they're only available on an import basis. Shit. This is not a reasonable first-time purchase for the casual listener. Maybe if you're resourceful you can find it some other way, or maybe one one of your new-to-medium-fangled streaming services?

As long as we're through the looking glass of outrageous music prices here, let's watch just about the coolest chase scene ever committed to film and the accompanying song, What Planet is This. The song is on a different and similarly outrageously overpriced album, the soundtrack to the Cowboy Bebop Movie, released in 2003, Cowboy Bebop O.S.T. Knockin' on Heaven's Door /  Future Blues. Skip to 1:13 when the scene kicks into high gear as the music starts, or watch from the start to see all the hand-drawn tracer fire and smoke trails you can possibly see. Sorry we couldn't find this clip on FaceTube with the English dub.

I've read before that the Japanese regard American culture the same way we do French. They think it's cool, and like to borrow it from time to time to add some style to their own. Cowboy Bebop makes a strong case for this notion. Cowboy Bebop uses ultra-hip music to make sure you understand that violence and mayhem make brilliant entertainment. Mission accomplished, The Japanese.

As music recommendos go, this one is getting depressing. No one should be asked to pay forty-ish dollars for a frikkin CD. Maybe this year's Surprise Pointy Tree Day Card CD Gift needs to have a few of these easy-to-find-but-expensive-to-buy tracks on it? Food for thought.