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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Music Recommendo! - Raymond Scott - Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights.

Music Week continues today, with something for those with a stomach for quirk. No? No quirk stomach? How's your idiosyncratic stomach? "No" on that as well? Umm, you may want to come back tomorrow.

If you stayed... so, maybe you're pretty weird, and you like (small) big band type music but also something old timey, and you want a dose of cartoons in there as well. You're in luck, you musical sociopath, because Raymond Scott has you covered!

If you were a child at one point, and also lived in or near a house with a television set between the years of 1940 and 1990, you will instantly recognize several of Scott's songs. Try this on for size. It's called Powerhouse, and you know it, but not because of the reason you think you do. You may have to wait till 1:28 to get to the familiar part, though.

"Oh yeah! you say. That's the song that what-his-face wrote for the Bugs Bunny cartoons! What's the guy? Carl Stalling! Yeah!" WRONG! You're WRONG! And please sit down!

Carl Stalling sort of "borrowed" Powerhouse along with the rest of Scott's catalog for use in cartoons, due to Scott's sale of his publishing rights to Warner Bros in 1943. You'd be forgiven for thinking Stalling wrote Powerhouse, but Raymond Scott (actual name Harry Warnow) wrote it about ten years earlier. Forget Carl Stalling.

Scott began his career as the pianist in the CBS orchestra in The Thirties. All the while, he wrote music on the side that was altogether crazier and more dense than anything his professional life required of him. He assembled a band out of a few CBS orchestra colleagues and started his six-piece band, the Raymond Scott Quintet.

He called his music "descriptive jazz", which is why the songs have titles like "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals." His brilliant craziness meant that his music found a home in one cartoon after another for decades to come. Scott's music found its way into cartoons like Looney Tunes, Ren & Stimpy, The Simpsons, Animaniacs, Duckman, and others. He wasn't writing music for cartoons. He was just writing music that suited himself,  but cartoon makers have embraced his stuff ever since. The music in his head turned out to be perfect for cartoons. How's that for a weirdness pedigree?

Scott took some heat from musical purists at the time for sometimes incorporating classical melodies into his music. They saw it as a debasement of their musical culture. However, if you, like me, owe your early classical music exposure to cartoons, this is no bad thing. It turns out there are lots of people who first became interested in orchestral music because of its use in cartoons. So, as usual, those people losing their shit were freaking out over nothing.

In 1992, a number of unreleased recordings were discovered and subsequently released on the Columbia label as the album Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights.

Here's an link to Amazon's page for the album, which you can buy on CD for five bucks, or download compressed MP3's for... ten dollars? I say get the disc and you can re-rip it again and again down the road at higher and higher bitrates as storage becomes cheaper and cheaper, but that's just my musical consumption philosophy in general. Physical media, all the way, baby, and don't tell me what I can and can't do with my own files. Okay, editorial complete.

Here are some songs you din't know you knew:

In an Eighteenth-Century Drawing Room, which rankled the snobs because Scott grabbed the melody from Mozart's Piano Sonata in C Major...

The Toy Trumpet, which you may recall from the Ren & Stimpy episode "In the Army" and probably some other places. Don't ask me what's with the people on the train in the picture.

But the big hit everyone recognizes is still Powerhouse. How big? Rush used a little bit of it in their nearly-impossible-to-play-in-one-take song "La Villa Strangiato". In this embedded video, skip to 6:05 to hear the little nod to Powerhouse.

...or just use this handy link that's indexed to the right part of the song at FaceTube.

You can find other compilations of Raymond Scott's music, including the re-recordings by the Dutch jazz group The Beau Hunks, playing faithful versions of Scott's hits on period-correct instruments (jeez!). But Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights is the album that brought Scott back to the record store shelves, and is probably the best place to start.

That can be your good dose of vitamin Crazy for the day.


Music recommendo - Mississippi John hurt. Today!

Guess what, guessers! Wrong! This week is Music Week here at GO! Tower! That means we've pulled five albums from the P.A.G! Twelfth Floor Employee Lounge Close-N-Play Jukebox, and we will present reviews of these albums all week long.

Today we begin Music Week with Mississippi John Hurt, the blues man for the blues-intolerant listener.

I know what you're saying. "I want me some blues in my collection, but as a musical form, the blues are too repetitive and simplistic. I get bored listening to the blues! Surely there must be some kind of blues that doesn't follow the predictable chord progressions and stereotypical forms of the genre."

Good thing you're saying that, because Mississippi John Hurt is here to salve the soul.

Mississippi John Hurt has all the blues pedigree you could ask for. Born during the age of the steam engine, check. Self-taught guitarist, check. Sharecropper, check. Played around the deep south throughout the Great Depression, playing dances while working as a farmhand, oh, big check there!

His career would have ended around 1940 or so, except that his music enjoyed a bit of a rediscovery in The Fifties, with the rise of coffee house culture. The album pictured to the left, "Today!", was recorded in 1966, shortly before his death. It's a clean studio recording of Hurt at the end of a long and varied career. So, you won't have the scratchiness of old wax cylinders or anything like that... although there are other Mississippi John albums recorded live, and on questionable equipment, if that's the sound you're after. On "Today!", the only scratchiness will come from Hurt's voice.

"Today!" is a tight thirty minutes or so of Hurt playing pretty much his best songs. The songs are usually a tidy two minutes thirty seconds or so: no longer than they need to be. His playing style was developed kind of in a vacuum, with few outside influences. As a result, he sounds only like himself. His playing is a quiet and intricate picking style that is a departure from any other blues you will find. Also, the structure of his songs bears no resemblance to the predictable and repetitive twelve bar progression that, in my opinion, smothers the interestingness out of almost all other blues.

Here's "Pallet on your Floor", which demonstrates his signature picking style:

Another big favorite of mine is Pay Day. Guess what it's about?

Candy Man is pretty dirty, with the lyrics only thinly veiled in metaphor. Fun enough for you. Safe enough that your kids won't catch on.

You can put on Mississippi John really early in the morning without jarring yourself into waking up too fast, or annoying whoever hasn't gotten out of bed yet. Having a drink before your guests arrive? Mississippi John's your guy. Driving home after a super loud concert? Mississippi John.
Doing some two-beer carpentry in the garage? Oh, you bet Mississippi John.

On other Mississippi John albums, there are some funny songs like "Funky Butt Blues" ("Funky butt, stinky butt, take it away"), but "Today!" is the definitive Hurt album, and may be the only one you really need.

Mississippi John helps you think. It's ten dollars. Buy "Today!", and here's what you'll never say: "God dammit! I wish I hadn't bought that Mississippi John album! What was I thinking?"

Another music tomorrow. See you then!


Body by Fisher - More less, please.

Body by Fisher. Just in case you never got the reference that personal trainers love to make, like "Body by Jake", that's the reference.

If you're expecting incisive wit and savage cleverness from your personal trainer, prepare to be disappointed. See what Jake did there? He took "Body by Fisher" and put his own name in there, because "body" can also mean "body", get it? I know. No wonder he was on TV!

Anyhoo... gosh that's a long car! This ad is just for Fisher, an independent coachbuilder who had a long relationship with GM, so you won't find anything urging you to rush down to your Cadillac dealer and test drive the new 1960 Cadillac De Ville, but that's the land yacht you're looking at. Jeez. It was a different world.

Maybe you really really like a car like this, but can it be even better? Yyyyyep! Less longness and more wheelness, please. Phil Are GO! Graphic Blandishment and Photoshoppery Brigade, ASSEMBLE! Pkshowww!

Background delete - COMPLETE!
Nose separation - COMPLETE!
Nose nudge - COMPLETE!
Tail separation - COMPLETE!
Tail nudge - COMPLETE!
Wheels isolate - COMPLETE!
Wheels duplicate - COMPLETE!
Windows select - COMPLETE!
Windows opacity alter - COMPLETE!
Barely noticeable badge isolate - COMPLETE!
Barely noticeable badge move - COMPLETE!

That's a lot of "complete"s, but this one wasn't too hard. The straight, tapered lines of the De Ville just fall into place when sliding sections around, with only minor scaling needed to make the edges line up again after. Here's a pro Photoshop tip for you: When you're copying a wheel to put right next to itself, don't be lazy. Use the wheel from the other end of the car so you won't have two exact copies of the same wheel sitting right next to each other, looking all samey-samey. You'll probably need to scale it a little to keep the perspective right (because cars are usually shot from a 3/4 angle), but the result will hide your tracks just a little more, and it won't take but a couple of seconds longer to do.

Get your rude finger ready to right click this silly little confection into growing the multi-car pileup on your hard drive in three, two, one... RIGHTCLICK NOW!

There. Isn't that better? Aww, thanks. You always say the perfect thing, sweetheart.

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Bell Telephone System - Just for fun

You don't call your out-of-townies enough. you should get in touch. Call them tonight. And, why aren't you calling them right now?

Donna Reed sure looks like she's having a ball, hearing a friend's voice and having the fun of sharing everyday news. "There's no need to hurry your call. the cost is small."

The next time you have to call an ambulance for your mom or dad because they heard what you pay monthly for your smartyphone bill, whip out this ad - best done on your smartyphone, just for the sake of irony. Then, enjoy their face while they have another grabber right there after seeing what they were paying for long distance in 1957... corrected for inflation, of course.

My mom used to love shaking her head at what they have the nerve to charge for a magazine "nowadays". The copy of LIFE that this was scanned from has a cover price of a quarter. Yeah, three bucks is more than a quarter, mom. What did you make per hour in 1957? Here. Let me get that for you. The average salary was about $3,600 per year. That's 2080 hours per year, which comes out to like $1.73 per hour. Roughly.

Assuming the CPI Inflation Calculator isn't completely off its nut, the price table from this Bell telephone ad would look like this, if you were paying these same rates in today's money:

So, your pocket computer wonderdevice, which probably costs you about $100 per month, allows you to talk to anybody in the country infinitely at no extra charge. While it is maddening that cellular carriers can be willing to try and charge you per text message, when the data burden on their network for a text message is almost unmeasurably small, in general, smart phones are pretty incredible. Also, ad no additional charge, you get a semi-functional robot voice that can look up nearly anything in the whole of the multiverse just by talking to it, and also a global co-pilot that can tell you how to get anywhere without asking for directions and possibly avoid getting involuntarily butt-sexed in the backwoods of Alabama because you spilled coffee on your hand drawn map.

I wonder: How many minutes of talk time would one hundred crisp, new,  modern dollars buy you back then? Well, $100 in current FutureBucks equals $11.79 in rusty old 1957 money. That would get you a little over three minutes of talk time from Miami to Pittsburgh with the Bell Telephone System.

CORRECTION! Thanks to Alert But Polite Reader Tim, it has been brought to our attention that I ran the math wrong. Derr! I'll let Tim explain...

"...when you say that is a little more than what 3 minutes on the phone with your steel magnate uncle before stepping out to the DuPont Plaza, you are using Futurebuck pricing with mid-50's money. You could talk to Uncle Walter for more than half an hour!"

Right you are, Tim! Thanks for keeping me honest, and for not being all snarky about it, which is more than one could typically say for me. Numbers are hard! Garr, my brain! Still, I'll leave the next paragraph as it was, because it's still a decent bit about the not-The-San-Diego-Chicken.

Wowzers. I don't know anybody in Pittburgh I want to talk to that badly... except maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates' mascot, the Pittsburgh Parrot. Could he explain to me in three minutes or less how his all-baby diet has been working for him? It may be worth $100 to hear him try. And, I could probably record the conversation on my smartyphone and post it on faceTube... OR, simply threaten to post the damning conversation and thereby extort $100 from the Pittsburgh Parrot, recouping my $100 loss for the phone call... and then I would then have a great story to tell people, gotten for free, effectively.

My mom would probably tell me that stories about talking to baby-eating mascots cost much less than free in her day.


Camping Tips!

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Sunkist - Lemon and Water: Rich in lemons and water!

The ad reads "For Health - AVOID HARSH LAXATIVES!" One excellent way to avoid harsh laxatives is to drink lemon water, believing it is a laxative.

Since when is lemon a laxative? Since never. Drinking hot water with lemon in it is still promoted by magical-thinking celebrity health idiots like Gwyneth Paltrow, who, it must be said, also believes that steam-cleaning her vagina makes her magically more healthy. Maybe she's got a terrible wine spill she's trying to clean out?

Doing a Google search looking for actual evidence about lemon water brings a lot of hits from sites with names like "natural organic nature" and "treehumper health network". Very suspect.

Lifehack's article doesn't cite any sources or evidence at all, relying only on our steadfast faith in the wisdom of its author, Krissy Brady, who admittedly is a fully qualified "women's health + lifestyle writer". Nope.

ABC News' article cites as it's only source Michele Promaulayko ,the editor in chief of Yahoo! Health, which routinely promotes non-evidence-based, unscientific hand-waving woo as fact. Nope.

This Telegraph article references an actual nutritionist, along side Gwyneth and other celebrity geniuses. Fiona Smith, nutritionist, points out that lemons have vitamins, but there's no scientific evidence that drinking lemon water is better for you than tap water first thing in the morning.

Livestrong insists that drinking lemon water as soon as you get up increases your water intake. So, lemon water does contain water. Well spotted. Other than that, the article mentions vitamins and citric acid, which are nutrients. Their article has some actual sciencey sources, which is nice.

What's WebMD say? Citric acid helps prevent kidney stones. Lemon water helps reduce symptoms of Meniere's disease, if you have that. Lemon water will treat scurvy, if you're a pirate. Lemon water decreases swelling, if you're swollen. Lastly, lemon water increases your urine, because, once again, drinking water is drinking something.

Nobody ever found that lemon water helps you have a dump. However, that doesn't mean that Gwyneth won't put it in her next lifestyle book with her picture on the cover. How brave of her. Rest assured, though, that her vagina is steaming mad at dirt.

But hey, you can't blame Sunkist for trying to sell fruit on false pretenses, can you? I dunno. A lie is a lie. Also, good clip art is good clip art. Who wants some good clip art? I promise you that looking at this jpeg is every bit an effective laxative as drinking lemon water. Maybe if we tell her it will cure pelvic rabies and other imaginary problems, we can get Gwyneth to stick this file up her hoo-ha?


The Office.

Dear readers,

We have concocted a brief list of quips that the figures in the below-presented Illustration may be saying, or may be said about them. We think you and your family will find our japes witty and hilarious!

Jape #1 - Miss Spratt couldn't be sure, but she suspected Mr. Fishfingle had moved his chair ever so slightly closer to hers. Was this some of that "sexual harassment" she had read about? She would glance up at his chair again after lunch to check again.

Jape #2 - "Mis Spratt, do call Mr. Hogarth and ask him if he remembers leaving his brain on my desk this morning. It doesn't quite look like mine."

Jape #3 - The tension in the air could be cut with a knife. Mr. Fishfingle's heart pounded in his chest. "Miss Spratt," he stammered, "there have been... uuh... times, err, in the past, when I have, errrr.... pictured your ankles in my mind." There! He had said it! Now all he had to do was leap out of the window for shame.

Jape #4 - "'Dear Penthouse Letters. Once, of a summer's afternoon, I caught a glimpse of my neighbor's petticoats as they hung on the line, drying in the sun.' Good heavens, Miss Spratt! What filth is this that you have brought into my office? You Jezebel!"

Jape #5 - "Miss Spratt, I have decided it's too dull around here. After lunch, we will swap the pictures onto the opposite walls! Delightfully devilish, don't you think?"

Jape #6 - "Miss Spratt, take a note: 'Dear proprietors of the New Permissiveness Jazz Club which has moved into the ground floor of our very office building. Please cease at once your early practising of all musics during normal business hours. The infernal horn honking and toot-noodling has provided no end of unproductive distraction during these, our conventional hours of operation. After the hour of five-and-thirty of the evening, please feel free to commence rehearsing the Devil's music as loudly as you may choose, with the exception of the song Minnie The Moocher, which I find wholly unacceptible entertainment at any hour of the day, as would any reasonable personage of respectable upbringing. You improvident scoundrels. Yours, etc. Mr. James Fishfingle, proprietor Fishfingle, Vinderdint, & Fishfingle, attorneys at law.' There. Now please read that back to me, Miss Spratt."

Quite a treat, Dear readers! Our Jim D., who has quite a flair for narrative, has penned a quip for today's picto-post! Such a quip! Thanks, Jim! jape #7 - Fishfingle was frankly flummoxed. The HOURS he'd spent imagining Miss Spratt's reaction to the desktop hedgehog and the trophy he'd won for keeping it in his trousers longer than any other contestant in the Winnetka Hedgehog-Legging Competition! The CARE with which he'd devised and practiced his casual-sounding, yet utterly louche rejoinder to what he was SURE would be her obvious questions! But no, she kept that lovely little head steadfastly down, eyes on her work, nose to the grindstone, maddeningly all business, as usual! He could feel the leg wounds suppurating within the hot, confining legs of his wool trousers . . . Well, he decided, when she takes her lunch I'll move either the hedgehog or the trophy to her chair. Then she'll HAVE to react!

[Quips submitted by our Dear Readers shall be included in the Picto-Post.  -Mgmt.]

Click this photo-graph with your electro-
pointer for a larger version of this very


Little ads, 1925

"Electricity at your finger ends." Continue reading with the forward portion of your eye holes for
even greater word-make of more eloquenceness.

If you can figure out what product the Flash Sales Corp'n is selling, you should get it for free. The logo kind of makes you expect a free eggroll with every order.

Joke #1 - "Return maill will bring Free Trial Plapao". Seems a bit cruel to name the product after the sound a hernia makes.

Joke #2 - "The Trial of Plapao" was also a landmark war crimes tribunal held in The Hague just after the Vietnam war.


This is not a post.

No post today. Sorry. Many crazy mornings lately. Instead of a proper post, please accept this idea for the name of a store selling golf equipment:

The Putt Hole

Normal post tomorrow. Thanks for reading.



Quality Courts - At the Sign of the Prancing Pony.

Joke #1 - "There it is, gang. 'The Prancing Pony'. Everybody try to act casual, keep en eye out for Gandalf, and for chrissakes, Jeffy, don't put on that damned ring!"

Joke #2 - Don wished Jeffy didn't get so excited every time they found a motel with cable. Too many nights, he had woken to find Jeffy staring deep into the jittering scramble of OnTV.

Joke #3 - "Look, there's a Quality Courts, honey! ...And so conveniently located next to the Lake Erie tire fire! We won't have to make two stops!"

Joke #4 - Everyone was excited except Don. Why did they have to stop at the very same Quality Courts where Don always met his pimp? This could be awkward.

Joke #5 - "Finally! A motel! Oh dear god, Carrot Top is playing here, and Geechy Guy is the opener. Don, keep driving!"

Joke #6 - They found the motel at last. According to the marquee, there was also a municipal drainage commission symposium here this week. Jeffy was a little too excited about that. Don had better keep a close eye on him.

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

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Seagram's 5 Crown - Sabo-termites.

It's never too early to start using patriotic jingoism to sell your product. In 1943, World War II was yankin' and crankin', and there was already Hitler imagery used as a universal villain.

In this Seagram's ad, "toughness" needed a face. So, naturally, Hitler's was the go-to puss. The war wasn't even over yet, and Hitler's face was being used to sell whiskey. Weird. Imagine seeing a cartoon of Bin Laden's face in a beer ad. How soon would be too soon for that? 9/11 was almost exactly fourteen years ago, and not even Advertising is dumb enough to try that.

 So what's different now? Political correctness? Is everyone just afraid of being publicly shamed by the "taste police". The answer is probably pretty complicated, which means it would take someone smarter than me to put a finger on it. Discuss amongst yourselves.

So what's a "sabo-termite"? Encyclopedia.com says it' short for "sabotage". Makes sense. Okay, then why "termite"? Are termites a threat to gardens, or to whiskey production? The garden is probably meant to be a victory garden. I guess termites are a threat to sort of everything, from the point of view of a domesticated human. Hitler was a threat to everything. It's still a bit of a jumble of metaphors. Gardens don't have much to do with making whiskey. Maybe the wall of metaphor wouldn't have been as impenetrable if the ad weren't seventy-two years removed from context?

Imagine some brain in a jar trying to make sense of an ad for Outpost.com in the year 2087.

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Farberware Electric Cookware - A look in the mirror?

1959. The near-zenith of the Mad men era, when baffling sexism was plentiful - so plentiful, in fact, that no one ever even had to go shopping for sexism, or harvest sexism out in the fields. It just appeared everywhere if you just sat around long enough. Behold! Farberware's electric cookware line!

"Give her 'cooking without looking!'" Nice. Of course, no man would ever prepare food, just as no woman knew what end of a hammer you should hold while using it to house train the dog. Even flipping through old magazines like this all the frikkin time, you still find yourself muttering to yourself "Jeez, guys! really?"

Anyway, these shiny steel cookwares present an interesting opportunity to look into the photo studio where they shot the ad.

When they're taking pictures of reflective objects, they always have to think about a few extra things. How do they dress the set to make sure the product looks good? How do they hide the camera? Here, they went with a pretty standard white box approach.

If you place the shiny thing in a rough box made of white boards, and then fill the set with light, your coffee tureen will look pretty good. The shading of the corners of the box will still communicate the curves of the metal object while still looking very bright and clean.

"But,", you say, "if we can see everything, where's the camera? My god!!! Where's the camera! AAAAA!!!".

First, try it again but with more energy and bigger hand gestures. Second, the lens is probably peeking into the white box through that black gap inbetween the two walls of the box. Or, it could be that shorter, thinner, teardrop shape toward the center of the decanter. If they had cut a lens-shaped hole in the board and poked the lens through it, it might look like that shape there, allowing for the distortion of the compound curves in the surface of the coffee thingy.

Lastly, let's just point out the irony of this ad concerning itself with the photography of reflective objects while simultaneously being as blind and non-self-aware about sexism as everyone else was at that time in history.

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Popular Science, September 1931 - Why Astrology is a fake.

You could be forgiven for assuming that the Age of Reason started some time around 1960, when humans started looking seriously at going into space. However, there actually was an apparently robust community of rational thinkers, way back in 1931. Also consider that we in The Future still wrestle with the problems of willful ignorance and superstition (the GMO debate, anti-vaxxers, the Texas Board of Education, acupuncture, homeopathy, and the herbal supplement industry being notable examples that spring easily to mind).

But dig this: an article from the September 1931 issue of Popular Science explaining why astrology is bogus. Turns out there have been clear-thinking people as long as there have been credulous people who believe in magic.

A sidebar on Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams (You can skip on down to the PopSci article if you like).

This reminds me of one of the plot lines in Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams. It pretty elegantly points out why astrology can't possibly work. A race of aliens, the grebulons, are stranded on a recently discovered tenth planet of our solar system called Rupert. Due to a technical problem with their ship, they have lost all computer records, as well as their own memories, which were stored in the ship's computer. They don't know anything other than they are meant to observe Earth. And so they have been watching our television and radio broadcasts for decades. Naturally, they're clueless as a result. The Grebulons approach a TV news reporter called Tricia McMillan (with an advanced degree in mathematics) to, among other things, help them learn their future using astrology.

This is where Adams' trademark cleverness comes into play. Astrology is based on the idea that the positions of planets govern our lives. So, how could that work when we didn't even know about Pluto until 1930? Were all astrological predictions before that time thrown out after it's discovery? We now regard Pluto as a "dwarf planet". Surely there are large asteroids that approach Pluto's size out in the Kuiper belt. Why should we concern ourselves with the motions of tiny planets and disregard really big asteroids also in our neck of the woods? Shouldn't the expansion of our understanding of astronomy alter our "understanding" of astrology?

In Mostly Harmless, Tricia, trying to humor the Grebulons, is forced to calculate the positions and orbits of all the heavenly bodies in the sky from the point of view on the Grebulon home world in order to come up with some kind of astrological prediction for them. The effort basically falls apart and can't be done, because it's a fool's errand. That part of the book constitutes a satirical and effective disassembly of the whole notion of astrology.

This is trademark Adams: clever, insightful, and wildly entertaining, just like his argument against intelligent design, as found in the posthumous collection of his essays and talks "The Salmon of Doubt". It goes like this:

This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

The puddle feels that the hole was made to fit Puddle, when it's the puddle that adapts to the shape of the hole, which is why it seems to fit so nicely. The world wasn't made for the puddle. Puddle is just a product of the world, which will barely notice when it's gone.

Please enjoy this article, bearing in mind that some of their astronomical references may be out of date, as science is a self-correcting endeavor and has probably come a little ways in the intervening years.

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