Body By Fisher - A grease-free shine.

Back in Yore, people didn't just walk into a dealership and buy a car. (Note: The sales division of several auto makers now prefers you to call their dealerships "stores". It's more warm and fuzzy. I prefer if you call the sales divisions of several automakers "douchebags". It's more honest.) Instead, you went to a weird type of prom, wearing a dress that looks like a lampshade.

Go ask your mom and dad. (Or if you're sixty or so years old, go ask yourself.) They'll tell you stories about going to a car prom, hoping the car you like will ask you to dance. Or if you're a guy, you'd hope that the car you like would let you slip your hand under the hood during "Satin Doll". If things went well, you could hope to take one of the cars behind the gym and find out what's really in that trunk.

This picture was shot using a filter on the lens that makes bright spots "bloom". One hundred thousand years ago, when I worked at a corporate video sweatshop, we laughed about them, because clients would ask for them and we would have to comply, knowing that they're the height of cheesyness. How cheesy? Nearly every video in the eighties by a band with a girl in it (or any band with a guy that looked like a girl, which was all of them) was shot with a Pro Mist filter on the lens. It gives your footage that humid shot-in-a-swamp look, or the I-never-clean-my-lens look. Remember in Napoleon Dynamite, when Napoleon pulls out the fake picture of his "girlfriend" and shows it to Pedro? That photo had about five filters screwed on the end of the lens. In old black and white movies, they loved to shoot romantic close-ups with filters, or as was more often the case back then, by smearing Vaseline on the lens. Not kidding. The belief was that it looked dreamy and made flesh tones look more even - good for close-ups. Another way of looking at it was that the camera was so close, the actress's breath was fogging up the lens.

In this picture, they used the filter to make the cars look more sparkly. You can buy lots of different most filters that turn any sparkly glints into multi-pointed stars or whatever. But, at the time, all they had was a basic mist filter. Or, it could just as easily be the old Vaseline trick.

There's something weird about this lady's face. She looks stretched or something. The trouble starts just below her nose. I'm in a hurry this morning, so I'll just call her an alien and move on.


Personal Antenna - Loud and clear.

Joke #1 - ...then, Agent Yantzey had to check the hotel room for bugs. You never know who could be listening. There was something very suspicious about that lamp...

Joke#2 - In an attempt to stem the flow of customers moving to the new Verizon iPhone, this week AT&T is expected to announce the release of this signal booster accessory for all customers who purchased an iPhone in the last twelve months, free of charge. The press release claims the device reduces dropped calls by eight percent. However, the benefit drops to four percent if you hold it wrong.

Joke #3 - First successful test of the microwave "Man Detector", 1958.

Joke #4 - Annoyed by isolated pockets of resistance to the force of her will, Oprah Winfrey announced today the installation of these "Empowerment Umbrellas" in the homes of every American woman between the ages of thirty five and eighty. The psionic amplification dishes are intended to "allow Oprah a little 'me-time' in your brain".

Joke #5 -The solar powered Top Ramen Cup-O-Noodles heater lets busy people enjoy a hot, economical lunch "in about several hours".


Emmett Kelly - Writer's block.

Yesterday's post about the "Disappointment" heirloom art plate prompted Craig to mention Emmett Kelly in the comments. I then remembered that I had this Emmett Kelly picture I scanned from a children's book my older brother had in the sixties.
Emmett Kelly was a famous clown that was famous before Bozo was famous for being a famous clown. This was back in the fifties, when you could conceivably become famous just by performing in the circus.

I remembered this picture being funny for some reason, but now I can't remember why, for the life of me. I can't think of a single joke about this picture. It's just an ordinary, wholesome photograph of a clown feeding a hot dog to a young girl. Sorry to let everyone down. Must be writer's block, or maybe I'm losing my touch.

Emmett Kelly's clown character was called "Weary Willie".

It's interesting that Emmett Kelly's son, Emmett Kelly junior, stole some of dad's thunder by also dressing up as a clown called "Weary Willie". Emmett senior didn't care for this sort of thing, and the two didn't speak for years. I guess they made up eventually, before Emmett Sr.'s death in 1979. Strangely, his death was in no way boxcar-related.

Here's a photograph of Weary Willie Jr., that I stole from Wikipedia. I think this picture should also be hilarious, but man, I've got nothing. Maybe it's part of the ineffable magic of clowns that they can make the most innocent situation funny in a way that transcends culture or social zeitgeist. That sentence sounds true, but then why is it that I hate clowns?

Sorry this is such an off day for me. I'll try to find something funny to post tomorrow.


Disappointment Plate - Treasure the moment.

Today, the Phil Are Go! Decorative Bric-A-Brac and Miscellaneous Festoonery team bring you a very special offer, direct from some yard sale or something. This offer comes from our best-selling "Anguish of Children" collection.
"Disappointment" tells a story - one we're all familiar with - lovingly rendered in crayon by Frances Hook, legendary American artist in the medium of waifish despair. A boy has walked out the door to go to work, only to realize he has locked his keys in the house. All he can do is stare forlornly through the window at his keys on the credenza, next to the TV Guide. They are only a few feet away, yet a world apart.
What happens next in the plate's narrative we can only guess... but he probably grabs a concrete frog from the garden and throws it through the window to get back in. What would you do? What would your child do? Well, you probably wouldn't look as adorably miserable as this absent-minded little man.

This plate is number 1836B in a limited run of however many we can sell in 1986. It has been masterfully reproduced on the finest Knowles China, which is a brand somebody has probably heard of. "Disappointment" would make a charming addition to your family room gallery of childhood sadness, next to your plate depicting clowns performing corrective spinal surgery on orphans, or possibly in the garage on the workbench, holding a treasured fistful of washers and half a roll of electrical tape.

To take advantage of this rare offer, please draw yourself an order form on white paper, cut it out, and lovingly send a check or money order for 6¢, plus $15 for shipping, handling and satire, to this address:

"Disappointment" Plate offer.
#12 Go! Tower
Go! Plaza
Chicago, IL

UPDATE: I just found out that Frances Hook also painted this kind-of famous picture of jesus that my mom has in her house. Another plate has just been added to the available collection: "Restraining Order Jesus".


White Goop - Love from above.

Joke #1 - Sixty cups bleached flour. 140 teaspoons baking powder. Forty teaspoons salt. 40 Tablespoons granulated sugar. 50 tablespoons sugar. Forty eggs. Five pounds butter. Two pounds Oxycontin. One pound excellence in broadcasting: Recipe for Rush Limbaugh's "hooray for me" pancakes.

Joke #2 - Ken sighed. Great... the machine had jammed again. Now he had to interrupt the bolus with the stick and check the rectoform analyzer. He didn't look forward to shoving his arm up the colonizer to clear the blockage. He'd be late for dinner, not that he'd be able to eat. Some days, working as an excretion monitor at SphinctroTech wasn't all that is was cracked up to be.

Joke #3 - "... and if you'll all follow me into the next room, you can all see where we add the 'elfin magic', which is my favorite part of the tour!"

Joke #4 - "Each mail box flag is coated in a protective layer of paint, to keep the wood from drying out. The drain pan catches the overflow paint, where it is checked for cigarette butts before being sequestered at the bottom of Onondaga Lake."

Joke #5 - The hog slurry now emerges from the mixing vat and is deposited in pans to cool a few degrees. Then, pot ash and recycled phone books are added as extenders. The resulting "meat blanks" are then carved into their final shape by Oscar Meyer's carefully trained Bologna Artisans.

Joke #6 - During the development of safety glass, Owens-Corning tested many materials for use in automotive windshields. Here we see an early prototype being poured from molten peanut butter. Crash tests determined the windshield to be "dangerously delicious".

Joke #7 has been brought to you by the letter Craig. Thanks Craig! - Great Moments in Marshmallow Fluff History: Prior to the discovery of sandwiches, scientists at the Los Alamos National Fluff Laboratory experimented with Fluff as a bonding agent.


Daystrom Furniture - Like, tubular.

So that's who made those chromed steel and aluminum kitchen sets with tubular legs. Daystrom. This stuff has been tarred and feathered with the stigma of lameness so that it's hard - even for me - to like it. But I still find a way. Shocking, huh?
In crime-type TV shows, the investigators generally track down an accomplice to his trailer home with three flat tires. I promise you that when the agents the startled perp will be in his kitchenette cooking a spoonful of crack, sitting at a daystrom dinette set. This is nice, because when you're strung out on drugs and hiding from johnny law, you don't have the time or energy to clean your furniture. That's where Daystrom's easy-to-care-for line of Masland Duran bright vinyl upholstery comes in.

The jpeg here is displaying really crapfully, but I promise that the file is much cleaner than it looks. If you don't believe me, go on and click through it. I'll wait right here.

There. Don't you feel like jerk now?

A quick search reveals that Daystrom still exists, but the vast majority of the images that pop up show their older stuff. This either means that they still make things like this, or the company was known for their modern designs and is now known for being mostly unknown. I suspect that Daystrom was mod in the fifties and sixties, groovy in the seventies, cocaine-y the eighties and anonymous in the present. It's just a feeling I get.

They do have a website, but as is so often the case, they're owned by a larger company called LADD, and it's furniture is marketed under the names American Drew, American of Martinsville, Barclay, Clayton Marcus, Design Horizons, Kenbridge, Lea, Pennsylvania House and Pilliod. I think I get it: the party's over. Here's a sad little statistic: Daystrom is alleged to currently employ 1-4 employees, according to this business profile.

One little ray of interestingness is that LADD is one of the biggest suppliers of institutional furniture to hotels, hospitals, and stuff. I've always wanted to find old furniture from a hospital or hotel super cheap at an auction or something. One hundred and six years ago, when I lived in California, I found four chairs from a doctor's waiting room at a thrift store, which found their way into my living room. I wish I'd brought them back with me.

Blah blah blah. yeah, whatever. Look how happy the lady is with her chair! The photographer caught her in a candid moment having a waltz with her beloved chair. "Wheeeee! Chair! I love chair! Tra-la- ha-ha-haaaa!" Man, that's great. She has a special relationship with chair and she doesn't care who knows it. File her under "overposed".


Test Tubes - Drips and drabs.

Joke #1 - Lab notes for UrineBlast prototype cola test batch number 46. Still tastes like piss. May try changing the name.

Joke #2 - As late as 1994, Guy Laroche was still working on a formulation of Drakkar Noir that didn't smell like the inside of a Pontiac Grand Am. Phone messages of promotional offers from GM went unanswered while Guy desperately tried to leave the eighties behind. During this difficult time, his companion Bryce was his only comfort.

Joke #3 - A rare look inside the test kitchen at PepsiCo during the annual fine-tuning of the Mountain Dew recipe. The conclusion: add some more sugar.

Joke #4 - Danny Kaye's most ambitious project came to light in 1953: the distillation of pure joy without the need for production of dance-related films.

Joke #5 - A rare look inside the test kitchen at Pepsico during the annual fine-tuning of the Aquafina recipe. The conclusion: the two atoms of H are good, but perhaps the O should be switched to Osmium? Marketing believes it would still be profitable at $1 a bottle.

Joke #6 - A Papal chemist, hard at work in the Vatican laboratory, trying to find the formula for The Milk of Human Kindness that will allow the dismantling of the human milking farms.


Little Ads - Purely prurient.

Pay attention to the ads in any magazine or TV show and you'll get a clear picture of who the producers think you are. Once awakened, this sensitivity is usually insulting. You're welcome.
Say, fellows! Use the illustrations in these cartoon booklets to help you imagine what it may be like to hold a woman in your arms! Get used to imagining it.

I'm not sure why he's sitting on a keg of black powder, but I think I'm okay with guys like this being exploded.

In 1945, Nazi Germany was breeding a race of indestructible super-indians which , had the war gone on a little longer, may have turned the tide of battle. Now, we can't GIVE these things away. Make us an offer.*
Judging by the skill demonstrated in this drawing, I'm unconvinced that the publishers understand how I like my illustrations.

It's good to see customers of one ad feeding the need of customers for a different ad. But, apart from this drawing, I don't get that "this guy used a live model as reference" feeling when I look at them.

*The swastika emblem is much older than Nazi Germany, and had many non-sinister meanings before World War II. However, once Hitler came along and stunk up the joint, it ruined the bendy cross for everyone.


Mercury Meteor - Runs for a while.

Apart from featuring a car I'd never heard of, this ad for a 1961 Mercury Meteor had little to recommend it as post fodder, until I read the copy.
Now, you may know an old man who grumps about computers, technology, and modern cars. I do. here are some favorite grumps that spring to mind:

-They're too hard to work on.
-They're too complicated.
-They all look the same.
-The wheels are too round.

As far as identical styling goes, I think this is relative. I can generally tell a Pontiac from a BMW from a Honda in a second. However, if you lined up a 1938 Packard, Ford, and an Edsel. I'd tell you that they all look like a carton of eggs, and I'd need the badges to help me guess the manufacturer. Sometimes dad would accede my point, depending on his mood and coffee level. I know a different old man who would punch me if I made the same argument. Fortunately, the punch would be one of those radio punches where they announce for the listeners at home their violent intentions: "Why, you... Take THAT! And THAT!" Aside: I love old radio programs. Their tropes are ridiculously great and greatly ridiculous.

Anyway, I'd never heard of this "Mercury Meteor", although I'm sure Mr. Craigson will register some unbelievably detailed trivia in the comments. So, apart from some nice Chrome rendering on the wheels, I had nothing to talk about. But look at the terms of the "extended" warranty...

A year. That's "extended". The standard warranty just says "lunch time". Citizens, don't let any cranky old fossil tell you cars were better back in the whatever old days. Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of NPR's Car Talk, routinely remind callers-in that cars keep getting better and better. Dealerships have been losing income from repairs in recent decades because cars break less. Computers and sensors keep an eye on engine functions and can perform adjustments on the fly that used to require a Saturday afternoon and nine beers to take care of. Even bad cars (you know who you are) are better than the best cars of the past. Consumer Reports has to regularly adjust their ratings scale because cars keep improving.

In closing, here are some things said by Craig Craigson a few weeks ago regarding spark plugs. As much as I regret making an argument from authority, his profession is car-related. This doesn't make him infallible on the subject, but he knows some stuff. I do remember my dad spending regular nights in the garage dikcing around with the carburetor on my mom's Galaxie 500, when he would rather have been on the couch watching NOVA.

I love old cars, but here are a few things you needed to contend with:

- Six-volt electrical systems: Largely vanished by the early 1960s, but circa 1950 when this ad was produced, 6-volt systems were still all the rage. They had enough power to turn the engine about four times, and you couldn't use the headlamps with any other accessory.

- Carburetors: While relatively simple, carburetors were also smashingly inefficient. It would be as if you consumed food by having it shot across the room at you by a catapult. You could get a cheeseburger in your mouth, but you'd have to throw 62 of them to get the job done.

- Points ignition: Until the advent of solid state ignition in the 1970s, every driver had to carry around a kit with a little screwdriver a wrench and a points file to keep the energy from the coil flowing in correct time. Awful.

Between the points and the lousy 6-volt system, and the imprecise fuel metering, spark plugs fouled all the time. You can go a hundred thousand miles without ever changing plugs now, but in those days, annual tuneups were mandatory.

Once again, citizens, we are spoilt.


Fleischmann's Whiskey - Big drinker.

I like this goofy ad for Fleischmann's whiskey. They're just going for the "memorable image" angle with this ad campaign. Nobody's going to look at the ad and be motivated on a rational level to try Fleischmann's brand of booze. "They make a valid point. That bottle is really big, and 90 proof will get me intoxicated very quickly. I think I'll switch to this cartoony brand of booze."
My favorite part is the woman leering at the man. She's clearly becoming smitten with this mysterious stranger carrying an enormous bottle of whiskey. "Hmm. Looks like the party is definitely happening at that fellow's house tonight. My spank bank has just been refilled!"

He looks so serious, but I know what kind of evening he'll have. He'll probably be getting out his giant glass to go with his cartoon-sized bottle. Then, once he's cartoonfully drunk, he'll be hiccuping while the wacky trumpet plays "How Dry I Am" from out of nowhere. He'll fall asleep with his tongue hanging out and those little exes on his eyes. His wife will find him on the kitchen floor and she'll hit him with a rolling pin, or possibly a frying pan. This is how cartoon drinking wrecks marriages.

Now, this was 1960, remember, and Photoshop didn't exist. So, this enormous bottle was painted on an enlargement of the photo. The workmanship is good. The thing I'm gratified to see they got right is the nice clear drop shadow the bottle is casting on his coat. Often, a photo retoucher will lack the confidence to paint a hard-edged shadow, choosing instead to make a vague fuzzy shape because they have trouble determining the exact shape of the drop shadow.
However, the man's fingers kind of look like they're being clipped off by the back edge of the bottle. The horizon of his fingers is perfectly parallel with the horizon of the bottle. While this is perfectly plausible, it does looks a little suspicious. The sad fact about art is that it has to look the way people expect. Nobody would question it if it were 100% photographic, but that bottle's painted, and subject to scrutiny and must be idealized. So, I'd make the fingers ignore the edge of the bottle like this:

My old boss Jon McClenahan used to say "It doesn't have to BE right, but it has to LOOK right". The artist's job isn't to match reality, but to match people's EXPECTATIONS of reality, which, as we all know, often have very little to do with reality itself.


Fire Aftermath - A time to reflect.

Joke #1 - "Uh-oh. Looks like your house burned down, my son. Too bad you quit coming to Church or you'd have someone to pray to. See you there next Sunday?"

Joke #2 - "I'm sorry son. I had to burn your hose down. I had no choice. I heard your wife is a communist. You know, how she wears pants instead of skirts?"

Joke #3 - "Well, you know what they say: 'If you love something, set it on fire. If it burns, it was never meant to be.' Right? Or maybe that was only about women. I forget. Well, the really terrible thing is, your family's dead. See you in Church next Sunday?"

Joke #4 - "If it makes you feel any better, your house isn't really destroyed. Its various materials merely oxidized, combining their molecules with oxygen molecules in the air. ... and you like oxygen, right?"

Joke #5 - "Gosh, your house may have been saved if only those firemen had sprayed it with the hose, instead of whatever's over there to the left of your house. Won't you consider contributing to the annual firemen's dinner dance fund this year?"

Joke #7 - "Look at it this way... it's all part of God's plan, my son. Therefore, you must have done something to make Him angry. Why are you such a terrible person?"

Joke #8 - "I want you to know that the parish is here for you, in your time of need. Look deep into my black, soulless pits and tell me you understand."

In comes Sue with the topical Valentine's Day joke. ZAM!...
Joke #9 - "I'm sorry, son. I know you already bought her something, and the 'my house burned down with your present in it' excuse is REALLY good. But, you're going to have to run out and get her something for Valentine's Day again or you'll never hear the end of it!"

Joke #10 from Craig. Take THAT, defenseless old picture! "Say, thanks for inviting us to the cookout, Bob. Sorry I got drunk and burned your house down, but you know me!"


Pontiac Grand Prix - Wide like us.

I used to hate cars like this '69 Grand Prix. Back in the early nineteen ninety somethings, I loved bulbous designs like the '91 Ceclica. I thought cars with ovoid windows looked futuristic. Then the whole jelly bean thing caught on, and while there were some downright fetching executions of the rounded look, most were clueless "me too" designs with no inspiration. Just trend followers.
In the same way, there are countless cars on the road right now trying to do the "creases and edges" thing, and failing horribly. For example, anything designed by Chris Bangle, like the BMW Z4, makes me want to scoop my eyes out with a melon baller. But if I was really thinking, I'd scoop out Chris Bangle's eyes.

UPDATE: Upon reflection, it is possible that Chris Bangle has already had his eyes scooped out. That would certainly help explain the styling of the Z4.

Also, the timeless horror of the Pontiac Aztek still makes young mothers shield their children's eyes when it drives by.

So, now that I'm all old and wise, the Pontiac Grand Prix in this ad looks pretty good, I think. It's got definite edges, but they're not irrational. It's chunky and slablike, but it still looks sort of classy. It is pretty hilarious, however, that a car thirty feet long can be called a "coupe", but that's 1969 for you. You could just as easily build a shopping mall with only two doors. "Shall we go shopping this afternoon?" "Yes! Let's go to that new mall. It's a coupe you know, which means it's sporty."

The pictures probably started as photographs, which were then painted over and idealized by an artist. The green one is lit especially nicely. Dark studio. One big light above and behind, to get the light to bounce off the hood, right into the lens. Then there are a few reflectors off to the right and behind the camera so we can see the wheel arches and grille. The swirls on the hood are no accident. I expect there were carefully arranged cards hung from the ceiling to block the light and throw shadows that warp so excitingly over the planes of the hood. They probably spent hours lighting the set.

Once again, the people are completely rendered. I promise you they weren't there in the studio. To keep the focus on the car, they were painted kind of loosey-goosey, without much detail. The artist probably just grabbed some stock photography as reference and knocked out the happy couple in an hour or so. I couldn't do it nearly that fast, of course, but these guys were super pros.

If I had a rumpus room full of sacks of gold, I'd probably do the Neil Young thing and find one of these old boats, have it restored cosmetically and have the guts replaced with an electric drive train.


Swanson Chicken Carnival - Peter Max jumps the shark.

Sometimes an interesting thing happens. Sometimes, a fad is made of the interesting thing, putting the interesting thing on borrowed time. Then, advertising gets it's hands on the fad, and the once interesting thing is ruined and can officially be said to have "run it's course". Case in point: Peter Max.
We've mentioned Peter Max before, so a complete history lesson isn't in order here. Just think of him as the guy whose art style became synonymous with late-era Beatles music (you know - when the Beatles became good). After the whole Yellow Submarine thing in '68, popular culture was all crazy with the Max look.

This ad appeared in 1969, so the world had been going coo coo for coco puffs about Peter max for only a year when mass marketing arrived at the party and officially put the last nail in the coffin of Peter Max's coolness.

"Hi everybody! I'm advertising! I only just heard about this whole Beatles party, but boy it sure is great! Anybody see Yellow Submarine? What a trip, huh? Is anyone going to finish this beer? Anybody wanna buy some chicken?"

Once we begin to see chicken ads looking like The Beatles' famous movie, the party is over. Shut off the music and carry the empties out to the garage. Time to go home. Thanks advertising, for stinking up the joint, like always. Who invited you, anyway?

It seems to me that one year is an awfully short time to measure the lifespan of a subculture event, but here's the proof. As of 1969, Peter Max's style was played out. Sad, really.

Does anybody not know the origin of the term "jumping the shark"? Here it is: It's a phrase used to describe the point at which a fad has worn itself out. It refers to an episode of Happy Days in which The Fonz, for some reason or other, jumps his motorcycle over a small swimming pool with a shark in it. That episode is generally regarded as the point at which the Happy Days writers ran out of ideas and just gave up, choosing to do a two-episode semi-drama aping the Evel Knievel fad, which was big in the seventies. So now, when something interesting or exciting becomes overexposed and tired, it is said to have "jumped the shark". At that point, it's time to move on to something else, until advertising uses it to sell toilet cleaner, that is.


A ride in a space capsule.


Little Ads - Tips from Science.

We can teach you to mount birds, birdsquirrels, birdfish, birdfrogs, and birdbobcats. Amaze the fellows. Send for free ghoulish book.

Fistula's sufferers are about to recieve justice. Aquaman has found her secret lair and has summoned the creatures of the sea to defeat her. That really was a great issue.

Record player built in a drum. Simultaneously ruin two fun toys. Also in this issue: tips for apologizing to your children.


Reporters - So many scoops.

Joke #1 - "Hi honey! Uuh, listen. How much of that roast have we got left? A friend or two may be coming for dinner."

Joke #2 - "Uh huh, uh huh. Okay, now I'm flipping you over and licking your back. What does that feel like? Hang on, can you speak up a little?"

Joke #3 - "Okay, that's the 'galant'' desk in birch. It comes flat-packed, right? No, that's fine: I have plenty of help. Expedited shipping, please. I don't know how long this old one can hold up."

Joke #4 - Twitter, 1945.

Joke #5 - "So in the last panel, Charlie brown says 'Oh good grief' Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hah! I know, isn't it? That's why I called! Ha ha ha ha..."

Joke #6 - "Gasp! The police say the call came from INSIDE THIS ROOM!"

Joke #7 from Craig. Thanks Craig! HAH!... Scoop Croton-on Hudson.

"Hello? You say you're looking for 'Scoop?' We've got a Scoop Jackson, Scoop Smith, Scoop Yuzaka, Scoop Rosenbaum, Scoop Walker, Sir Scoop Croton-on-Hudson, Scoop ǃXoon from Botswana. Can you be more specific?"