Crisco - I can't believe it's digestible!

Have you heard? I just can't believe the news! Simply everyone's talking about it. You'd better sit down for this. Crisco can be digested! Come on, kids! Let's go digest some!
When Crisco breathlessly advertises itself as being "digestible", one has to wonder why that's news. It is, after all, a food product. Even in 1951, there existed a thing called the Food and Drug Administration. Isn't it a basic requirement of anything sold as "food" to be capable of being digested by a human?

Soooo, was there some non-digestible type of Crisco that had recently been replaced by the new "fit for human consumption" formula? Was digestibility really such a breakthrough? How did they market the supposed "Classic Formula" Crisco?

"Smooth, indigestible Crisco! Foods come out so light and crisp... and you'll love squirting waxy paste into your toilet for hours afterward!"

The truth in advertising laws in America are pretty loose and sloppy. The list of words that must adhere to actual definitions is a short one. Until recently, "organic" had no legal meaning and is still an effortless way to get almost anything to fly off of store shelves. Technically, plutonium is organic. Some other words used to get gullible people to buy everything from shoelaces to meat:

-"Boosts the immune system" -  This is impossible, and you should be glad. Examples of a "boosted" immune system are autoimmune diseases like diabetes, psoriasis, and endometriosis.

-"Natural". Just about everything is natural. Crude oil, dead mice, and leprosy are all completely natural. It doesn't mean they're good for you.

-"Contains no chemicals" - This is impossible. Water is a chemical. Almost everything is a chemical. You are made out of chemicals. You'd die without chemicals.

-"Probiotics" - Unless you're having some serious diarrhea, this won't help you.

-"Cleansing" - Unless they tell you what specifically you're contaminated with, this means nothing. Otherwise, they're relying on your general paranoia to get you to open your wallet. Unless you have a serious health problem like Elvis did, your colon does not stash away pounds and pounds of feces for a rainy day. Every time you have a poo, you've been cleansed.

-"Toxins" - A general imaginary bogeyman word that has no meaning and requires no proof of anything. Useful for scaring granola types.

So, to see Crisco using the word "light" to describe fried foods in '51 is unsurprising to say the least. Advertisers have used the term to mean "low in something" or "light in color". Companies have no obligation to you other than a general air of short term non-lethality about their products. They only have a commitment to their shareholders.

So what's for dinner? Err, it kind of looks like a man's abdomen with a knife wound. See? He's got an eight pack! Mom calls this dish "belly wound asparagus". Often painful. Seldom fatal. Once you coat something in breading and fry it in fat, it kind of looks like everything and nothing. Crisco was kind enough to include a legend explaining what you're looking at. Apparently its ham and rice fried in fat.

Product claims of similar significance to Crisco's celebration of it's digestibility...

"The fabulous line of new Bell telephones consistently maintain their original shape and weight, year after year!"

"Time Magazine. For when you'd like to look at some words and hold a square thing. Check your news stand today."

"Try plankton! They're small!"

"Stay in touch with AT&T. You'll complete some calls."

"Home Depot: Now selling various things!"


When You Write a Letter - Twitter, circa 1953

Were the fifties puritanical and naive? You bet. Is current digital culture sloppy and ignorant? Oh yeah. We at P.A.G. believe there are some things the two can learn from each other. So listen up 1951. Twenty-ten, hearken to our tidings.

When you write an email or a tweet, it's good manners...

-To begin notes to acquaintances or to people you do not know: "Dear Mrs (or Miss or Mr.) Customer service recycle bin".

For example, When leaving a note on a car you just backed into, since you've never met the owner, you should address him or her as "Dear Mr. Douchebag who owns the 1988 'official pace car edition' corvette with the embossed Chicago Bulls seat covers and bright yellow wheels".

-To start a friendly email with the name you use in conversation, such as "Dear", as follows: "Dear Homeslice", or "Dear Kevinator", or "Dear Biotch". Tweets should all begin with "Dear my many followers who find the minutiae of my daily existence so fascinating".

-To close a business letter: Yours truly or Yours very truly, such as "Yours very truly, Lord Jedi Cthulu, Esq." NEVER "Respectfully, heatshot4771@geocities.com". A letter to a friend or acquaintance, man or woman: "Sincerely, your stalker from high school" A letter to a close FaceBook friend or a relative: "Affectionately, one of your possible fathers" or "With love, Gary Coleman's index finger.

-To sign your full name or your first name: A business letter or one to an acquaintance should be signed "Frobert Borgangorm".

A letter to a friend should be signed "Frobert" or "Frobey". Never sign a letter "Mrs. Froberg Borgangorm", "Mrs Frobey Borgangorm" or "Miss Borgangorm". If your writing paper is not printed or engraved with your email address, when you write a business letter add it below your signature at the left side of the last page: "Frobert Borgangorm, coloneldrinkusmaximus@aol.com".

-To use a typewriter, if it's more convenient, for forwarding hilarious jpegs to business acquaintances, close friends and family.

-To use pen and ink to answer e-vites, for notes of thanks and for letters of e-condolence.

-To use the full name when you fill in the subject line: "Mrs. tbagger11112@mindspring.com (or Miss Anne tbagger11112@mindspring.com).

-Never to use a nickname in addressing an envelope: "Mrs. Dribbles Jones" or "Miss Dribbly" or "Mr. Dribbles Jones" is incorrect.

-In writing to a divorcee', to use her maiden surname, not her first name, in connection with her ex-husband's last name: "Mrs. @whassupdawg6969" (never Mrs. Sarah @whassupdawg6969).

-In writing to a widow to use her husband's name: "Mrs. Craig @whassupdawg6969 (not Mrs. Sarah @whassupdawg6969).


Coyne School - Clip coupon now (the)!

Joke #1: While one technician carefully monitors the internals for efficient charging, the other carefully winds up the mechanism for the loudest "Pope Goes the Weasel" performance ever.

Joke #2: "Well, you shouldn't have done that. Well, might as well stick your other hand in there and get your first hand back, retard."

Joke #3: The shops of Coyne are already training today's engineers to repair the motors of tomorrow's mighty "Toyota Prius", which will some day be a vehicle seventy yards long, weighing sixty tons, and will carry four passengers several miles on a single glass of electrons!

Joke #4: "Thanks for coming out here at such short notice. I don't know what I was thinking, applying a charge before coupling to a state, and radiatively linking to a ground state. Say, are you going to the soda social in hangar 212B on Thursday?"    - Excerpt from Moff Tarkins' "The Erotic Chronicles of a Death Star Technician".

Joke #5: "Yeah, it's like I thought. Your alternator's dead. I could try re-winding the armature, but it'd take a day, and it may not even work. Why'd you have to buy a frikkin Hummer anyway? I keep telling you you've got nothing to prove to me."

Joke #1: Here at the Coyne School, students are taught to disassemble televisions and poke at them, much as Australopithecus once baffled at dead gazelles. Clip coupon now!

Joke #2: "I don't get how these things work. We got this thing all in pieces, but I still don't see no little men inside. Saaaaay, maybe they're inside the screws? Take apart the screws!"

Joke #3: "Keebler's top researchers, working in secret, are developing the ultimate Vanilla Wafer, which sustains vanilla deliciousness levels (V.D.L.) so scrumptious, each cookie must be stabilized by an external  yumtastic vanillazation system (Y.V.S.).


BART BA Subway - Now arriving at future.

Postcard at antique stores can be just stupid expensive. I have five bucks on me, but I'm not handing it over in exchange for an old postcard. This one was 25¢, and good thing, because I may have paid as much as $2 if they pushed me (where "they" is the paper sign on the shoebox in which they were cleverly displayed.). Behold, the subway of the future!
Man, that's a cool looking train. It has two things I look for in public service / institutional engineering: molded white plastic, asymmetry, and geometric angles. I know that's three, but I threw in an extra thing I look for because you have an honest face.

I had to look up what "BART BA" stands for. It's an acronym for "Bay Area Rapid Transit" and the extra "BA" may have been a typo, or maybe it's a bonus at no extra charge because the logo guy thought you have an honest face, or maybe because it was 1978 and most of California wasn't thinking too straight because everyone was hopped up on herpes medication. The picture shows the Lake Merritt train station in Oakland, which is home to a lake that combines salt and fresh water. I didn't know there were and lakes like that, but I don't spend lots of time thinking about lakes in that way. If I did think about it, I'd guess that if one combined salt and fresh water, you'd have a slightly more diluted batch of salt water. I dunno. Maybe the density of one or the other makes one float on the other. Who cares? I should cut that part out before I post this. It's really off-topic. I'll leave a note for the editorial staff.

Okay, the train. It has that futuristic look that  people in the seventies liked. The TV show Space 1999 had it. Curvy biomorphic chairs are set against chunky geometric walls. It's the aesthetic of a clean, simplified future designed by Abba and made from vaccuformed white PVC. It's the future in which you can still smell the recently-removed shrink wrap. For further examples see Star Wars (The first three movies. The only ones worth watching.).

The train driver's window is off to one side because... err, I'm not sure why, but it probably has something to do with it being a train, and the driver only has to make the thing stop and go. He's not steering it like a car. Asymmetry implies the idea of function taking precedence over form. Engineering over style. This is a kind of purity and elegance whose polar opposite can be found in the ornamental styles of everything from classical Greece to early American colonial design.People instinctively like things lined up in a row, and centered with each other. Going against this fundamental desire implies that "it doesn't need to be centered, so it won't be." I think that mentally, this slight dissonance is intriguing and satisfies in the same way that spicy food is really good despite a light tingle of pain.

The Nissan Cube takes the whole industrial asymmetry thing and does it backwards. The rear window on the Cube is asymmetrical, but that's only the glass. If you look at the corner where the glass wraps around, you can see the drivers' side c-pillar behind the glass, whereas the passenger side c-pillar is visible on the outside. This is interesting because asymmetry implies function over form, but the Nissan would have been easier to manufacture with a more conventional balanced look.The asymmetrical glass is a styling choice that hides the actual symmetry of the structure. I'd rather they made the car truly asymmetrical, with an unobstructed corner window, but that would have sent costs up and made it hard to meet safety requirements.

Throw in some bold, simple graphics on the train and some big planes of orange and white in the train station and you're ready to rattle off into the bell-bottomed, blow-dried future where Dabney Coleman waits for his train down to L.A. to catch a table read for North Dallas Forty. Personally, the movie I remember him for is WarGames from 1984, where he plays Dr. McKittrick, but that film probably wasn't in pre-pro until 1979. Wait. Maybe Coleman was riding this train into the future to make the WarGames table read? That's what I'd do.


U.S. Air Force - Hear big words and use them!

Let's say you're the U.S. Air force. You're not? Few people are, but let's say you are, and you need new recruits to fly some planes over some kind of troublesome Southeast Asian country in a couple of years or something. How do you get them to stampede to your recruiting office? Tempt them with the promise of jargon. It shows you how the Air Force felt about advertising budgets in 1960. Click for slightly enhanced legibility, over. Ksshht.



Joke Alpha: "Honey, some wiseass keeps calling up and going 'boooooooooop' into the phone. Do you...? Wait a second. 20Db spike at 1500 Hertz... 8Db roll-off at 150 Hertz... Nagging tone boosted by 14 Db... Hey! It's your mother!"

Joke Bravo: "You may handle a situation like this. Or, you could completely screw it up and get some people killed. In today's Air Force, you'll enjoy a complete lack of accountability, and a cool hat. Send for our free booklet 'So you like to say words into an instrument?' today"

Joke Charlie: The iPhone 4G. Steve Jobs can sell anything.

Joke Delta: "Hello? Wow! Those ARE great long distance rates! One second. Let me attenuate my apathy filter a little."

Joke Echo: "Hey honey, it's your mother. She wants to borrow the Honda on Saturday. Her heart rate's a little elevated, but her galvanic skin response is within normal range. I don't think she's telling the whole truth. Should I offer her the Aztek?"

Joke Foxtrot: (Ring ring) "Wooooooooooooooooooooop! Uh, what's that? Oh! Hi, Mom! Sorry, I thought you were Gina's sister. I'll start over. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..."

Joke Golf: "Yes, General. The wiggly line has some funny bumps in it. No, not like before, these look more like sailboats. The sound is kind of a 'blip blip bleep' that repeats. Yes... Yes... No sir... Understood.  I'll turn the little thing with a picture of a bunny by it. How's that? Turn the flower one too? Yes sir. No, the noise is now like a 'wee-ow wee-ow' and the shiny bell went 'ding'. We are now clear to launch missiles. Fire when ready."

Joke Hotel: "Yes. I am receiving the carrier signal. Thoughts are clearing. Breathing is normalizing. I will now watch Fox News for further instructions. Communication ends."

Joke India: "Yes, I know honey. I'm sorry it's annoying, but when I talk in a high squeaky voice, the little line looks exactly like a profile of two flower pots, except one of them has a big nose. Huh? Too bad. The squeaky voice stays!"

Joke Juliet: "Hello, thank you for calling Comcast. This call may be monitored for training purposes. My name is LaTrey, how can I help you? Yes, well, what kind of problem are you having sir? Uh-huh. Have you tried cycling power on your modem? Okay, are you sure the cable is connected to the back of your computer? Well, I'm sure one of these knobs in front of me will fix your problem, but our records show that You've been a Comcast customer for over five years and are therefore unlikely to cancel your contract or you would have done so by now. So, I'd like to invite you to go fuck yourself and thank you for calling Comcast, soon to be renamed Xfinity."


GE Sunlamps - Alleged healthy glow.

 Joke #1:Hoyt could only look on in envy. Everything had been different since that weekend at the boat house. Gary used to let him straighten his tie while staring deep into his nostrils.

 Joke #2: "Awww, honey... you popped my favorite pimple! Now what am I supposed to sing show tunes to?"

Joke #3: GE's new Smuglamps will give you that smug douchebag look all year 'round! Just three exposures per day of one hour each, and GE's patented Smugwaves will penetrate and nourish your skin, turning you a rich, smug douchebaggey color that your wife/mistress/girlfriend/genetic clone will absolutely adore!

Joke #4: Honey, your tie's crooked. Let me fix it for you, but please don't headbutt me. Hey! I said DON'T headbu- *thunk!*

Joke #5:  In this archival photo, submitted today by Brach's Candy for a grand jury investigation, a young Paul Giamatti is given a starlight mint for testing, by then-researcher Jackie Onassis. In damning testimony by former employees, the prosecution argued that "they didn't need babies to tell them the mints were too large." Brach's Candy defended the practice, stating "Have you ever actually smelled a baby's breath?" Deliberation continues today.

Joke #6: "I'm sorry, sweetie-pie. They don't allow children in Florida. Here's a sunlamp and a little beach ball. Water's over there, in the toilet. We'll see you in a week, okay? Aww, that's my little angel."

Joke #7: Are you tired of other babies getting all the attention from women? GE's sunlamps are now approved by GE for baby use! Your baby will be a healthy bronze color and h - o - t, hot! Don't wait up, mom! Junior's got a date, heh heh!

Joke #8: "I'm sorry sweetie-pie. They don't allow semi-amphibious subterranean wretches in Florida. here's your Precious, and I'll turn on the Yellow Face to keep you warm. Fish are over there in the toilet. We'll see you in a week, okay? Aww, that's my little Smeagol."


Magnavox Radio Phonograph Television - A little entertainment.

Holiday magazine was clearly a rag for the rich. After all, it was a magazine all about travel and perpetual vacationing. The ads that fill the pages are those for luxury items like his and hers luggage, high-end booze (LOTS of ads for booze), and boats. It's no surprise, then, that in 1949 a television was kind of an expensive indulgence. Just for fun, let's run some numbers.

I did these calculations using the online inflation calculator, which is a fun little tool. Okay, hold on to your hats. First, you buy the radio-phonograph for the modern equivalent of $1,598 to $7,968. At any time after the purchase, you can add a TV receiver for anywhere from $2,667 to $8,458.

So, depending on how cushy your postwar job was and how much you liked your Howdy Doody, you could have one of these in your living room for as little as $4,265 for the base model or $16,427 if you wanted the really nice one. I wonder if the "scared robot face" cabinet was only available on the expensive model. Maybe the robot face just found out how much you paid for him?

But look what you got for your (median price of) $8,213. First, there's what looks to be a ten inch screen. Then there's the tube-based receiver and amplifier. By the way, tubes are still used today in guitar amps. They have a particular sound that some musicians find irreproducible by any other means. That's as may be, but tubes were horrible for anything other than gathering lint and burning your fingers.

My family had a tube TV that my dad built from a kit. They looked like sausage shaped light bulbs, and if I recall, our TV had maybe ten of them back there on the circuit board, and they were perpetually covered with fuzz and dust. Tubes generate a lot of  heat, and you had to keep them relatively clean or they could overheat and burn out prematurely. If a tube burnt out, dad had to pull the set away from the wall and take the back off the cabinet. Sometimes you could tell which one was dead just by looking at it, but more often than not, you had to pull out each one and put it in a tube tester. Yep. There was a special instrument that would tell you if a tube was good or not.

Tube testers cost the modern equivalent of $360, and many people couldn't justify the expense of owning one, but that was okay, because the local hardware store usually had a tube testing station right next to the display of replacement tubes. So, you pulled out all your tubes (probably) and carried them down to the Ace store where you tested each one, bought a replacement, and humped the whole mess home and reinstalled them in your $8,213 television... hopefully NOT knocking loose some other component in the process. Whee.

So what was on TV in 1949? Bozo the clown debuted, for instance.Then there was the aforementioned Howdy Doody. There were variety shows, usually involving singing or comedy sketches. Various dramas, Candid Camera, which is basically still being imitated today, and Godfrey's Talent Scouts, which is basically still being even more imitated today. All in all, Wikipedia lists 73 different shows, which is more than I expected.

By contrast, you can buy a 26 inch LCD high def TV today for $500. That's about $55 in 1949. Plus, the thing will basically run for a decade, which is much longer than you'll want it to. Most people with six thousand pound CRT TVs can't wait for them to die so they can get a better, lighter flat panel TV. Few people will replace a CRT TV before it dies because they dread the ordeal of trying to move it. CRT TVs were made out of neutron star material, which has the density of the entire human population condensed into the size of a sugar cube. When it failed, my old 32" CRT simply underwent gravitational collapse and became a black hole. I ran like hell.

Hilariously enough, color TV was introduced in August of 1949. This Magnavox ad is from January of the same year, so the lucky people who spent $16,000 on a premium black and white TV console could look forward to it being made obsolete by the first color sets that appeared later that year, and cost $1000 (about the same as the "premium" B/W tuner from Magnavox) at the time, or $8,900 today. Ouch.


JCPenney Room Fresheners - Freshen with the color of bile.

The seventies get criticized all the time. It's the decade that has been the butt of more jokes than any other that springs to mind. Sure, the eighties made fun of the seventies, but they were arguably the virtual antithesis of everything the seventies stood for. The hate endures, even now, over thirty years later. Yeah, we've timidly re-embraced some of the clothes (boot cut jeans, giant aviator sunglasses), but this hardly counts as a wholesale seventies revival. For sheer visual crimes against humanity, the hideous, embarrassing seventies will live forever. The P.A.G. Temporal Research team will check back in twenty years to verify.

JCPenney Room Fresheners. Yes, fresh like the color of bile. Fresh like sparkling beer vomit. Fresh like the sclera of a jaundiced eyeball. Fresh like the color of pork rinds.

One of the trends to be found in the seventies was sort of a "rustic chic" or "cocaine cowboy". In 1973, the Urban Cowboy craze had yet to sweep the nation, but the groundwork had been laid by Elton John, who had already built a career doing his best to imitate the sound of a southern American twang on albums like Tumbleweed Connection. Because he was from England,  this resulted in an incomprehensible language all his own called "Eltonese" that made possible such lyrics as "Too big to weep and get their hawk on elderberry wine-ah!" (song not found on Tumbleweed Connection, but still an excellent example of Eltonese).

And so it was that JCPenney offered their line of affordable decorating materials to cash in on the national error in judgment now known as "making any decisions at all in the 70's". The outdoors were very popular at that time. "Free love" had run it's course, and 92% of Americans over the age of six now had some form of venereal disease, but Americans still had fond memories of having sex in mud puddles at Skynard concerts, and so there was a strong urge to bring the textures and shapes of the great outdoors to the interior of the home. This gave rise to ideas like re-purposing planks from old tugboats as paneling, to get that "I live in a barrel" look. People found great comfort in such textures, which recalled the dirtiness and violence of the old west, so any woodwork that hadn't spent it's life underwater was made to resemble saloon doors, like the headboard seen here.

Patterns and texture were very popular. The only rule was freedom. If a homeowner found a vinyl tile with a pattern that he or she really liked, it could easily wind up on the walls, as seen in this ad. "Too much" was never enough. If a flower arrangement looked good on the floor, a painting of the same flower arrangement would be fantastic over the bed, which in this example enjoys a luxurious bed spread in the color "Golden Infected Bladder".

In June of 1981, JCPenney was hit with a series of class action lawsuits filed by customers suing for emotional damages resulting from the realization that a room that cost $12.00 to deface in 1973 using JCPenney's ads as a guide would cost $1500.00 to put right just eight years later. The JCPenney corporation counter sued, claiming that the customers were just as high as they were, and that Elton John's romanticization of a generally deprived and ignorant period of U.S. history deserved as much blame as they did. Despite being named, but not charged with wrongdoing in the U.S. case, Elton John counter sued both parties, taking advantage of Britain's irrational libel laws. He spent the settlement on a pair of hydraulic platform shoes.


Seiberling Tires - Just in the squish of time.

June, 1952. Seiberling tires launches a new ad in Life magazine, singing the praises of the engineering they put into their tires. Engineering that gives you "an extra margin of safety". Then they add a picture of a man clearly being crushed between two cars.

They seem pretty proud of the fact that they got George Hughes to paint their weird little picture. He was active mostly in the fifties, doing a lot of work for The Saturday Evening Post. If you ask me, he kind of paints like a big fan of Norman Rockwell, but maybe that's because the Post asked for it. Rockwell was the darling of the Saturday Evening Post, and one couldn't go too far wrong by imitating his style.

Yeah yeah, big deal. The real news is that the man that looks like Jim Carrey has obviously had his legs crushed into a fine paste by those two Oldsmobuicks. The gist of the picture is obviously supposed to be that he was barely spared a hideous injury / gooey demise by the marvelous Seiberling tires, but that's not how it looks to me. He's been mashed. The reactions of the bystansders all indicate that it was merely a close call, but I think that it'd be a more convincing statement on the tires' quality if we could see more daylight between the guy's kneecaps and the bumpers. Maybe it's a video game and this is the player's second playthrough, which has allowed him/her to enable the "no clipping code"? Nah. If that were the case, we'd also see "big head mode" activated, too.

The baffling features of this painting don't stop at the pedestrian's manglement. Look at the squatty man. Is he actually trying to lift the black car? Even if he were strong enough to do so, how would that help the Jim Carrey guy? "Here, let me help you pulverize your femurs, as well as your tibias,  fibulas, and patellas. I know those words because I'm a doctor, you know. Pretty cool, huh? Here's my card."

Check out the little girl looking out the back of the black car. Good thing Jim Carrey is uninjured. Witnessing the bloody crippling of a famously annoying actor would be the kind of thing that ruins your wedding day... especially if she was the type of child bride that denies scientific facts.

Wait a second. I think I've got this scene figured out. The Jim Carrey lookalike is not a human. It's not raining. That's not water on the ground. It's hydraulic fluid, because the robot that ran into the middle of a busy street has just had his legs crushed. The second squatty robot is obviously using his mighty robo strength to free the damaged robot, while the young bride in the black car looks on in ironic envy of the robots. Why? Because she is a vaccine denialist who cannot survive outside her protective sterile vehicle. She's wearing a wedding gown because she heard Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy broke up, and she's hoping to get him on the rebound. She thinks the robot is Jim Carrey.

That was easy. Anything else I can clear up this morning?

 P.S.  (High res versions of each page below.)


Neurotic Computer - You should be so lucky.

In the May 1957 issue of Popular Electronics, there ran this short news announcement about British researchers trying to build an "electronic brain" that was "neurotic".

Why all the quotes? Because neither of those terms is widely used anymore. "Electronic brain" has become obsolete ever since computer programming became separate from the hardware. In '57, building a computer program meant connecting wires and transistors. This was very much like a human brain, in which the software and hardware were kind of inseparable. Now, as you know, software is just code and you run it through pretty much  whatever machine you want.

As for "neurotic", psychological understanding has become more thorough, identifying specific disorders. "Neurosis" is not really scientifically useful as it's so general as to be almost dismissive.

 Computer scientists have been assuming they're on the verge of creating an artificial human brain for about fifty years. In 1957, they were apparently so worried about creating an artificial brain that would turn out to be crazy that they were trying to figure out how to deal with a crazy computer. That seems a little overly optimistic, considering the computing power available at the time. Why teach a program to become overconfident and sloppy? I guess they were afraid of finding themselves with a crazy program on their hands and not knowing how to  "heal" it. This shows us how little they understood the difference between a machine and a human.

For the experiment described in the article, the "brain" was quizzed by another computer, and it's performance led it to become overconfident at times, which led to sloppiness and panic, but only because they told it to. The scientists would then have to come to the rescue and soothe the computer, because they told it to enjoy that. Hoo-ray.

So where are we now? For an artificial intelligence progress report, you could do worse than to ask Hans Moravec, a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University specializing in robotics and AI. Based on the exponential growth of computer technology, Moravec's current prediction is that by 2050 we'll have a machine that can mimic a human mind.

Unlike the goofballs in 1957, Moravec has the presence of mind to point out that we don't need artificial human  minds. We have those already. However, the milestone is hard to ignore. The ironic benefit will be that once we can simulate a human brain, the machine will be more useful than a human brain for solving complex problems, because frailties like confusion and fatigue will have to be intentionally engineered into the program in order to mimic a human. In their "natural state", AIs at that point will be more reliable and linear than our squishy bags of goo.

At that time, I look forward to downloading my mind into a robot so I can leave this rapidly decaying pot roast behind and cruise around on my tank treads, dispensing wisdom and charged particle beams to my fellow man. Imagine the new excuses and social escape routes that could be mine. If I were in a tough spot and didn't want to talk to somebody, I could just throw an error message: "This application has encountered an error, and must be shut down" and I'd go into sleep mode until the other person gets bored and goes away. With my luck, crashes and bugs will be a thing of the past just as soon as I become a robot, thanks to the relentless improvement of technology.


U.S. Naugahyde - The Cadillac of vinyl.

For those whose primary concern is their furniture's durability and hose-down-ability, U.S. Naugahyde brings you their 1957 line of shiny, resilient interior furnishings.

Everybody knows Naugahyde is just vinyl with a fabric backing, but did you know/care that the name "Naugahyde" comes from the Connecticut town of Naugatuck, where Naugahyde was first produced? Didn't think/know so.

The fact that Naugahyde was produced by U.S. Rubber is misleading. Vinyl (polyvinyl chloride) isn't rubber. It's plastic that's been tricked into being flexible like rubber, but not quite as stretchy. You couldn't make a workable automobile tire out of vinyl. Depending on how you formulate it, it can be hard or flexy. If you look at a Star Wars figure, you'll notice the torso is kind of hard, but the limbs are kind of soft. Both are PVC, but with different formulations. As a fun little science project, my dad once showed me that if you take a piece of hard PVC and submerge it in acetone for a few minutes, it will remove the hardener and will become the flexy species of PVC. If you leave it in the acetone even longer and stick around to monitor the progress, you'll also notice a  headache, blurred vision and slight unconsciousness.

Anyway, I generally like the Danish modern style of these sample rooms. The furniture is sleek and minmalist. The lines are all very clean and futuristic. Know what though? U.S. Rubber went too far with the vinyl flooring. Everything in the pictures is shiny and plastic. They should have thrown down some carpet to soften things up if they wanted to make it look inviting. But, I'm sure U.S. Rubber also made vinyl floor coverings, so that explains that.

Try as they might, I don't think vinyl ever really took off as a furniture covering. Even in a room-temperature room you can get a sweaty butt just from sitting there too long. Even leather, which is not the ideal couch material, breathes a little better than PVC. People with vinyl furniture quickly became the owners of many ass-puddles.

Notice that the decorators recognized the fact that television technology reached it's peak in 1957, and so they mounted the TV in the wall, safe in the confidence that they'd never want a different one. Well, the Thunderbirds had a TV in their wall, and that show was pretty cool, so maybe I can see why they gave it a whirl.

In a strange lack of continuity, the set decorators included some ornate and decidedly non-modern "art" pieces. Look at the curvy candle holders on the sideboard, and... a clown painting. Yes, these sad punchinellos once were considered lovable harbingers of joy. It's hard to imagine, but once upon a time, clowns were regarded with something other than horror and hatred.

As a special bonus treat/punishment for the readers, the Phil Are Go! Garage Sale Assault Squad has authorized the temporary publication of these rare clown prints for your sanitation. Click and save if you dare. The enigmatic artist "Michele" had a short but fiery career, prior to his/her conviction. These limited edition jpegs were produced in small quantities in cooperation with the parole board, with all proceeds going to the victims of the paintings. Please enjoy them for your cherishment and generations.


Palm Beach Suits - She'll palm ya, all right.

Joke #1: "(Sigh) My wife wants me to tell you that we have an 'open relationship', if you know what she means."

Joke #2: "Barbara, please don't be so obvious. I'm sure he'll come home with us. Just let me get him drunk first."

Joke #3: "Please pardon my wife. She's never cheated on me with a dark-haired man before."

Joke #4: "Please pardon my wife. I used to leave the window open a crack, but she just smeared up the glass with Maybelline."

Joke #5: "You'll have to excuse my wife. We just decided we're swingers, and she's rather more excited about it than I am."

Joke #6: "Excuse me, sir. My wife would like to know if you're done with the Tempo section. She likes to do the Jumble."

Joke #7: "Hiya, Frodo of the Shire... one who has seen the eye!" Frodo, Celeborn, and Galadriel, in a scene from "Oh Lord, Such Rings! - The Musical."

Joke #8: "Dale, I 'd like you to meet my wife, Gina. She'd get out of the car, but I told her the ground is hot lava."


Borden - Yikes, dollface!

When we last saw the Borden anthropomorphic cow family, they were only a painting - a terrifying vision of gene-splicing gone hideously wrong. In this ad, they're freaky little dolls, hoping to tempt you into eating some food made from juices squozen from their very bodies. Brace yourself.
Because I'm a genius, I didn't put a date on the previous Borden post, so I don't know what year it was published, but I seem to remember it being from 1951 or so. This one is from 1957, and I want to believe that Borden switched to dimensional characters because of overwhelming negative feedback on their painted characters, who all looked like they had masses of loose skin due to their recent gastric bypass surgery. That would make sense, since the Cow family apparently take great delight in eating rich foods made from their own bodily fluids.

These are clearly dolls. Borden seems to have abandoned the effort to paint lovable humanoid cows. Well done. These new dimensional versions seem to have had some retouching on their faces, just to "plus them up" as they say in the ad biz. They look like zombies. The retouching is most evident on Mom Cow. Click the full picture above to see her at high resolution. Dad cow, pictured at left, is simply the most terrifying of the three. He looks like he's craving delicious brains, made only with Borden's wholesome dairy products, of course.

I've always been unsettled and confused by the practice of making up a mascot for your food corporation whose products are made from the mascot. For example, Charlie the Tuna craves nothing so much as to be killed, ground into a pulp, packed in a can, and eaten by humans. When I look at Mother Cow holding the cake, it's hard not to imagine her back in the kitchen making the cake, squatting over the bowl, squeezing her dugs directly into the batter for the freshest cake possible. Bleah. Thankfully, this doesn't interfere with my love of milk. I just try not to think about what it took to bring it to my table. Even if I do imagine the goings on at a dairy farm, it's only "a little weird". By contrast, I find the idea of a sentient, part-human cow-woman milking herself for the Borden company absolutely disgusting. What I've learned is this: advertising simply ceases to work once you start thinking anything through.

Know what, though? That cake looks really really good. I wish it didn't.


Rice Krispies - Snap, Crackle, and Popgun

Here’s something we don’t see any more: overtly aggressive wartime ads. In 1943, it was all about the war effort. WWII wasn’t an ambiguous war, or one that was hard to sell to the American public. Hitler was a guy who was very clear about wanting to take over the world. This made it very safe for advertisers to depict their mascots as angry killers.

Here, we see Snap, Crackle, and Pop with rifles, tearing across the water in a shore craft, ready to fight for the American way of breakfast. It’s okay to stare. We haven’t seen anything like this in sixty years. Even considering the “all for one” attitude that was prevalent at the time, it’s hard to think that nobody looked at this ad and said “Hey, settle down, guys. It’s just cereal.”

But wait there’s more. Easily missed in the lower left of the illustration is a little fish, fleeing the Rice Krispy guys. The fish is an obvious caricature of Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister of Japan from 1941-44. Is it possible to draw a caricature of someone from a different racial background without resorting to racism? I think it is, and this illustrator definitely took the easy way out. Of course, at the time, the U.S. wasn’t really worried about being racially insensitive to the Japanese, considering the whole Pearl Harbor thing. But from a modern perspective, it’s just really weird to see major advertisers putting this kind of stuff in cereal ads. Actually, the fish could be almost any Japanese caricature. This is pretty much the standard WWII method to draw any Japanese person. Lots of old wartime cartoons depicted the Japanese exactly like this. Even after the war, it would be a few decades before everyone decided that it wasn’t cool to be casually racist for the purposes of light humor.

This ad features one of my pet peeves: Intentional misspelling for an easy trade mark. “Crispy” is spelled with a “C”, see? But you can’t put a trade mark on a single word unless it’s a new nonsense word you made up. So, spell “crispy” with a “K” and you can stick your flag in it for exclusive advertising use. This is fine, so long as the victim- err… consumer knows better. Otherwise, the advertiser is just teaching ignorance to a population that is already made up of terrible spellers. Dodge once made a version of the forgettable Neon compact car called the “Expresso”. Do you know how many people think the italian coffee is actually called “expresso”? MOST people! Once and for all, it’s called ”espresso”, and Dodge wasn’t helping people to seem less stupid by mangling the word for the sake of a trade mark. This phenomena is still in heavy favor, especially with the letter “Z”. “cray-zee”, “boyz”, “fanz”. Fortunately, nobody thinks these words are properly spelled this way… yet. That’s America for you: always willing to spread a little ignorance to move some product. “YOU EZZ AY!” YOU EZZ AY!”


Parade of Patents - Good ideas gone to waste.

Get ready to do a lot of beholding! The 1960 Parade of New Patents is here! No time to explain why you should give a crap! Just hurry up and give a crap! The parade is starting!

Behold the Adjustable Umbrella Holder. William Conrad’s very simple and nearly invisible doohickey is worn over the shoulders at all times. In sunny weather, the detachable umbrella section is stowed unobtrusively across the back. At the first sign of rain, the user removes the device to un-stow the umbrella section, inserts the umbrella section into the socket, tightens the wingnut, places the device back on the shoulders, and adjusts the swivel ball joint for optimum angle. Having done this, the wearer can now light a pipe or cigarette. With the umbrella section removed and stowed in back (in "nice weather mode"), others will hardly notice the bracket at all as they ask if you’ve been in a car accident.

 Behold the Tie-On Ice or Water bag, by Leona E. Prietzsch. With this new marvel, the dream of wearing favorite liquids of all kinds pressed to the forehead becomes reality, with only ordinary agony and cranial hemorrhage as side effects. Happily anticipate your own grimace of delight!

Behold the Powered Pogo Stick. Gordon Spitzmesser realized that ordinary pogo sticks were far too simple, light and silent. He designed a pogo stick with a single-cylinder engine, triggered by impact with the ground. The motorized design can achieve greater height and noise than traditional pogo sticks. The device only requires simple 16-hour annual maintenance for years of fun. Each fall, the oil must be drained and replaced. Battery must be trickle-charged over winter. Fuel additive is required to avoid varnish build up in the fuel lines during disuse. The powered Pogo Stick can be operated safely with one hand, with the use of a special stabilizer tie, available in three patterns and colors.