Pall Mall - Smoke in some grass.

The grass is green again, citizens, and that means it's time to think about mowing... but first, take a few minutes to lie face down in your lawn.

And when you're prone, enjoy a fine Pall Mall, for that can-barely-lift-my-head, don't-ask-me-to-get-up feeling. Nothing says nature like humping the lawn with a mild Pall Mall, "wherever particular people congregate": you know, lying on your face out in the yard.


Crisis! How can we store human knowledge?

Crisis! AAAAAaaaaaaa!!!! Fellow humans, we have a problem of pants-moistening urgency! WTF are we supposed to do with all our knowledge, huh??? Where the hell do we put it all? It's almost easier to do everything from scratch every time you need something than to find out how somebody's done it before. How will we remember everything? How will we organize what we remember? Time to lose your shit, everybody! Commence the shit-losing! All shit must be lost by everyone immediately! DOOOOOOMED!

(Full article from November 1962 issue of Popular Mechanics follows.)


A young John Favreau poses with a reel of 35mm data film, four years before he is born.


Ex-Lax - Creating a wartime log.

Apparently, constipation can have effects on your mood - doubly so if you're a sociopath by default average child, as demonstrated in today's 1943 ad. "Be a little soldier and take your laxative!" the ad reads. As any veteran will tell you, basic training is pretty much six weeks of eating laxatives. Huh? If soldiers are so regular, then how do they keep their aggression up?

"If you need a laxative when you have a cold"? What? Since when does having a cold "keep the train in the station", as it were? Man, The Forties were weird.

Ex-Lax was trying to win customers over from the more traditional household super pooper mover, castor oil. Everything I know about castor oil I learned from old cartoons, where it's mostly used as a punishment for naughty children, as seen in the brilliant Tom & Jerry cartoon, Baby Puss. The link takes you straight to the castor oil part, but the whole cartoon is a classic. Do yourself a favor and just watch it. FaceTube is full of truncated and backwards copies of this cartoon, so this link goes to some weird hole-in-the wall hosting service that will probably stop working in a week.


Did someone say "gimme that constipated kid clip art"? No? Okay! Here it comes! We're giving you a Graphic Gift with and without the slightly odd "anger lines" floating in the air around the kid's head. You're welcome!


Along the Way - Mary's dream and the Gingerbread Cooky (sp?).

The Phil Are GO! Garage Sale Assault Force has unearthed another gem of a children's reader. Along the Way was originally published in 1940, but this seems to be the second printing, from 1947. The cover is that fabricky stuff, printed in vivid black-on-very-blackey-blue. We've pumped the levels so you can make out the cover art of a girl practicing her baby shake.

Our copy was owned by 4th grader Rosemary Polito during her stint in the Mitchell Elementary School, which looks like this:

So what was Rosemary into? Making up names for all the kids in the illustrations. We see this on several of the ancient schoolbooks in our collection, all apparently owned by Rosemary The Namer. She's probably around eighty years old now. That's a lot of naming.

Today's story is one of horror. It's about a cooky (This is not the first time we've exposed The Past's weird habit of spelling that word wrong.) trying desperately to escape the ravening jaws of a little girl. No shit. Read for yourself. This children's story may be too intense for children. If you're a children, stop it. If you have children, send them out into the yard for a few minutes. As long as they're out there, have them clean that dead possum out of the gutters. If you don't have children, but maybe some day if you find the right man, woman, or manwoman, just have your gametes turn their heads for a couple of few.

Here are the lessons we learn from today's story..

  •  Chasing someone amounts to little more than leaning forward slightly and waving your arms around a little (p32).
  • Children of The Forties rarely saw more than ten cookies at once (p28).
  •  When threatened with a messy death, offer a deal to betray many more of your kind, in order to save yourself (p33).
  •  Offer to murder anyone that looks sad (p33).
  •  Unless you kill and eat everyone you see, you will lose them (p36).

I hope Rose Polito made it out of the 4th grade okay.


Mixing product.

Joke #1 - "Hold on a second. YOU added one molecule of actual ingredient to our bucket of ordinary water? But I already added the molecule! It's two times too strong! Our homeopathic cure-all is ruined! We'll have to throw it out and start over!"

Joke #2 - "Uuh, Sandra, unless your hand spent a few hours in an autoclave, you probably shouldn't be using it to mix the tonic. I was at the party last night, too."

Joke #3 - "Weird. When my grandpa made moonshine, it wasn't so thick... and sizzly... and 'hand melty'."

Joke #4 - "So, if we're taking another company's milk, and putting it in smaller bottles, and selling it as our own product, we're a dairy farm, right? Just like the way rappers are musicians?"

Joke #5 - "Man, zoos will pay a fortune for this stuff. Goodbye, student loans! Hey Sandra, where on Earth did you get nine gallons of elephant semen anyway?"

Joke #6 is an enlightened, broad-minded offering from Steve Miller. Thanks, Steve! - "Shut up and kiss me, you fool!"

[Commenter jokes will be added to the post.    -Mgmt.]


Ed Roth's Outlaw Hot Rod

A loyal staffer dropped this two-page spread on my desk this morning, knowing my love of 1960's hot rods. Well done, whateveryournameis. That's why I pay you however much I pay you.

Building hot rods used to be a "from scratch" sort of thing. The current trend in hot rod fabrication (as can be seen on the many car mod programs) mostly consists of this: 1) Pick car. 2) Fix rust. 3) Slam suspension. 4) Bolt on some ghettotastic wagon wheels with one millimeter of tire stretched around them.

Ed Roth was one of the big names on the west coast car scene in the Sixties, and his designs were always berserk and had a good sense of humor. The Outlaw was his first experiment with the new miracle material, fiberglass. Here is Mechanix Illustrated's two page story on the Outlaw from 1960.

Caption: "PROUD OWNER Ed Roth designed and built the door-less Outlaw. Front wheels are converted motorcycle wheels with extra-strong spokes for added safety." Yes, safety. Good thing he made the car totally safe with those spokes.

Good news, everyone! The Outlaw is still around. Here's a nice color photo. I have to say I like the colors he chose.


An Oak Tree, 1973 - The Tate Modern, London.

Last week, some colleagues and I wound up talking about modern art. I was reminded of an exhibit I saw at the Tate Modern museum in London, way back in 2005, by Michael Craig Martin in 1973. There are those who regard all modern art as a waste of time, but in general I love it. The MCA in Chicago and the LACMA in Los Angeles are full with a lot of brilliant stuff. That said, it really can be a haven for the lazy fraud, desperate to be artsy but lacking any kind of actual ability. In other words, wankers.

"An Oak Tree" is a glass of water on a glass shelf mounted about seven feet above the floor, presumably to prevent museum visitors from spitting in the art, or, god forbid, drinking it. There is a printed caption mounted on the wall, explaining why the glass of water is an oak tree, converted by Martin's Powers Of An Artist. If he's having a joke on the art world, the museum doesn't seem to be in on it. I was given to wonder what art works were turned down in favor of displaying An Oak Tree in what is surely some very expensive London real estate.

It's possible one would argue that this art work, of al the exhibits in the Tate, obviously left the strongest impression on my mind, since I talk about little else I saw there at the Tate. I counter that by pointing out that I remember little from the year I spent in Seventh Grade other than the experience of having my nose broken. This doesn't make it a wonderful thing, nor does it mean that I'm happy with my experience of crunching bone and surprising amounts of blood. Leaving a strong impression is setting the bar pretty low for art. Spending a night in a dumpster would leave a strong impression on a person, but that doesn't make it brilliant work of genius. However, if there were people who would regard sleeping in a dumpster as their art, they would definitely find a welcome home for their work at the Tate. It's true that we're still talking about An Oak Tree over Forty years after it's creation, and some would insist this is a fine testament to it's quality. Please remember that we also talk about the Black Death after all these years, but that hardly qualifies it as an achievement. This is not true of all of the exhibits at the Tate. About ten percent of the stuff there is really interesting and/or exciting.

Here is a photo of An Oak Tree, complete with it's caption, the full transcribed text of which appears below the photo.

"Oak tree". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikipedia.

[Begin artist's text.]

Q. To begin with, could you describe this work?

A. Yes, of course. What I've done is change a glass of water into a full-grown oak tree without altering the accidents of the glass of water.

Q. The accidents?

A. Yes. The colour, feel, weight, size ...

Q. Do you mean that the glass of water is a symbol of an oak tree?

A. No. It's not a symbol. I've changed the physical substance of the glass of water into that of an oak tree.

Q. It looks like a glass of water.

A. Of course it does. I didn't change its appearance. But it's not a glass of water, it's an oak tree.

Q. Can you prove what you've claimed to have done?

A. Well, yes and no. I claim to have maintained the physical form of the glass of water and, as you can see, I have. However, as one normally looks for evidence of physical change in terms of altered form, no such proof exists.

Q. Haven't you simply called this glass of water an oak tree?

A. Absolutely not. It is not a glass of water anymore. I have changed its actual substance. It would no longer be accurate to call it a glass of water. One could call it anything one wished but that would not alter the fact that it is an oak tree.

Q. Isn't this just a case of the emperor's new clothes?

A. No. With the emperor's new clothes people claimed to see something that wasn't there because they felt they should. I would be very surprised if anyone told me they saw an oak tree.

Q. Was it difficult to effect the change?

A. No effort at all. But it took me years of work before I realised I could do it.

Q. When precisely did the glass of water become an oak tree?

A. When I put the water in the glass.

Q. Does this happen every time you fill a glass with water?

A. No, of course not. Only when I intend to change it into an oak tree.

Q. Then intention causes the change?

A. I would say it precipitates the change.

Q. You don't know how you do it?

A. It contradicts what I feel I know about cause and effect.

Q. It seems to me that you are claiming to have worked a miracle. Isn't that the case?

A. I'm flattered that you think so.

Q. But aren't you the only person who can do something like this?

A. How could I know?

Q. Could you teach others to do it?

A. No, it's not something one can teach.

Q. Do you consider that changing the glass of water into an oak tree constitutes an art work?

A. Yes.

Q. What precisely is the art work? The glass of water?

A. There is no glass of water anymore.

Q. The process of change?

A. There is no process involved in the change.

Q. The oak tree?

A. Yes. The oak tree.

Q. But the oak tree only exists in the mind.

A. No. The actual oak tree is physically present but in the form of the glass of water. As the glass of water was a particular glass of water, the oak tree is also a particular oak tree. To conceive the category 'oak tree' or to picture a particular oak tree is not to understand and experience what appears to be a glass of water as an oak tree. Just as it is imperceivable it also inconceivable.

Q. Did the particular oak tree exist somewhere else before it took the form of a glass of water?

A. No. This particular oak tree did not exist previously. I should also point out that it does not and will not ever have any other form than that of a glass of water.

Q. How long will it continue to be an oak tree?

A. Until I change it.

[End of artist's text.]

The Wikipedia article on Oak Tree mentions this (below). Gotta love the Australians.

It was once barred by Australian officials from entering the country as "vegetation".[11][12] Craig-Martin was forced to inform them that it was really a glass of water.

Lastly, it seems a strategic mistake for the Tate Modern to place their "donations, please" box at the exit of the museum, as opposed to the entrance. Asking for money after the visitors have seen all the exhibits affords the thinking patron the opportunity to blow a snot rocket into the money slot, and then to shrewdly explain to the angry staff "That's not a lump of snot. That's one hundred pounds. I have converted the snot into money without altering the accidents of the snot rocket. I am a powerful artist. You're welcome."


Dodge Floating - A little extra.

This Dodge ad from 1948 was almost fine the way it was. We have no idea how well the '48 Dodge fared in the marketplace, but let's assume it sold terribly, due to it's pathetic an inadequate two-axle layout. Heroically, ee decided to perfect it with a few extra wheels. You're welcome. If only Dodge had come to us sooner.


Grandpa Porch Lap

Joke #1 - Katie and Billy just wanted to ride the tractor, and Grandpa would let them, but never before listening to one of his stories about the old days. Today, it was a long, teary-eyed soliloquy about how some lady named "Justin Beiber" used to record music, but now she just got arrested all the time. 

Joke #2 - "Ooooh, I'm fine, kids. I just. Sigh. Some days I just , you know, miss your Grandma is all. I... Billy, that's not helping, please stop that."

Joke #3 - Grandpa seemed weird today. Katie and Billy sat in his lap for hours, waiting for him to wake up and tell them a story. His skin was all cold, too. They'd try again for another couple of hours after lunch.

Joke #4 - Katie and Billy couldn't figure out what was bothering Grandpa. He had a sad, far-away look in his eyes. His pulse was normal, and his breathing was slow and regular. Billy said even his prostate seemed fine.

Joke #5 - "Tell us a story, Grandpa Charles Bronson! Tell us Death Wish VI - The Taste of Death!"

Joke #6 - "I'm sorry, kids. My old knee's actin' up a little today. I'm afraid you'll hafta slaughter them pigs on your own."

Joke #7 - "What's with iGramps? I thought it was your turn to charge him. I mean, yeah, he's the thinnest Grandpa on the market, and that's cool and all, but his battery life is terrible. Jeez. When our contract is up, let's get a GrandDroid S6."

Joke #8 - "Come on Grandpa. Cheer up. Let's do that trick where I sing show tunes while you drink a glass of water."

[ Commenter jokes will be added to the post.    -Mgmt. ]


Book recommendo! - Blood Music, by Greg Bear.

Today we bring you that most occasional of things to be found on P.A.G!, a book recommendation. Those looking for a few decent jokes are encouraged to read a different blog entirely, but we should have a few snotty one liners for you on Monday.

Good "hard sci-fi" draws the reader in with its realism. Often, the whole story hinges upon just one (hopefully minor) suspension of disbelief, and the excitement spins out from there, based on likely consequences. In simpler terms, it all starts with one "what if?", and then the reader watches the fun events arising from it.

Virgil Ulum, a biotechnologist working at a private research facility, works on his own pet projects after hours. The lab is trying to develop "biochips", but Virgil sees their research as going down the wrong path. His own ideas lead him to use "junk DNA" in lymphocytes extracted from his own blood to rapidly and easily code for data storage. This makes them, essentially, microscopic logic circuits, with each cell having the rough intelligence of a dog, and the ability to alter their own genetic code to store and process data. The lymphocytes display cooperative behavior, working together in clusters, and before long, their intelligence is hovering somewhere around the level of chimpanzees.

Once the bosses find out about his extracurricular experiments, Virgil is fired, and ordered to destroy his samples. But, like any good marginalized genius, Virgil views the cells as his "children", and, determined to continue his work at a later date, smuggles the lymphocytes out of the lab by.... wait for it.... injecting them into his own body. Wheeeeeee!!!!! That there is your "what if".

Naturally, we can assume that once intelligent microbes are colonizing Virgil's body, everything is hunky dory and nothing gets weird, right? Not right. Initially, he feels like a hundred bucks. He no longer needs glasses, and his chronic back pain goes away. It turns out, his spine has been not just repaired, but redesigned, with triangular sections of interlocking bone structures like a box girder bridge or a crane. Before long, the "noocytes" cross the blood-brain barrier and become self-aware. It takes the colony three days to figure out language, and after that, it's game on. They start talking to Virgil, and asking him adorable questions.

Going from being a tiny speck in an infinite universe to essentially becoming a universe unto yourself will tend to have an effect on one's mind. "Interospection" stops being just an occasional distraction and before long, Virgil becomes a little grandiose. One day after talking with a doctor friend of his, the noocytes ask Virgil who he was talking to. "Other. Body shape. Talk. Like self?" and he has to explain to them the concepts of empty space and "other people". Following this exchange, Virgil hears from the noocytes what the author describes as a "long, profound silence".

That's less than halfway through the book, so there's plenty of room for more freaky consequences. The weirdness is just picking up speed, and it doesn't end "right back where we started" like a sitcom.

Greg Bear, like always, gets the science underneath his science fiction right enough that my B.S. detector never makes a peep, which is increasingly rare in the post-Michael Bay era in which you are quickly shouted down for questioning why robots from space are shaped like Earth cars. Granted, my advanced degree in biology is not only rusty, but also slightly nonexistent, but it's fair to say the science dialogue in the book doesn't sound dumbed down. There's no substance in Blood Music with names like "unobtanium", for example. Making a story smart does not make it worse, nor any less of a roller coaster ride of eye-popping weirdness. So, your time spent reading Blood Music won't be wasted with unnecessary eye-rolling.

Blood Music's drama forms a very linear progression that starts quiet and moves in a straight line towards freaky-deaky stuff that makes it really hard to put down. I read the paper version in college and have listened to the audio version about three times since then. This is about as strong a recommendation as I can manage.

 Here's a link to Asthmazon, which has pretty much any version you could want. Papery-flexybook, papery-stiffbook, talky-book, and electro-book. Apparently, there's some other novel with the same title, by a Somebody Hunter. That's not this book. You want the Greg Bear one.


If anybody does read Blood Music, feel free to leave a note in the comments.


Neighbors and Helpers - Turkeys

Today we bring you a pair of bone-chilling tales of adventure and peril, wherein we learn that, when you're afraid of something, the best strategy is to provoke it until it tries to kill you, thereby verifying your initial assumption and sparing you the psychological trauma of possibly being wrong. These macabre stories come to us from the ancient pages of Neighbors and Helpers, the 1939 schoolbook that has taught us so much about the world that brought us World War II.

And now the part where we find out that Billy is a piece of shit...


Dania's Billboard - Aaaarg, such a sale!

Have you seen the billboards advertising Dania Furniture's sale? They seem pretty excited about it, and they seem to want us to be really excited about it. In fact, their ads imply that we will love their sale so much that we may suffer a case of spontaneous cherubism and go full Robert Zdar. See?

It's great that cherubism sufferers can still have careers in modeling, but Dania seems to imply that we might contract the disorder via huge savings. This is untrue. Cherubism is inherited genetically, and cannot be transmitted through amazing bargains. If one or both of your parents are an amazing bargain, well, chances are higher that you'll develop it.

Robert Zdar, Yes, that's his real face.
Dania has showrooms across the country, but they seem especially thick on the ground here in Chicago.  If you think you may accidentally shop there, feel free to save as much as you want. There is little to no risk that you'll become Robert Zdar.

If Dania wants to avoid confusion, they'll re-design their ad. Here, let me get that for you. This one's on the house...