TWA StarStream - The lost humanity.

Hey, travelers! Can you remember a time when flying was an exciting, sophisticated adventure unto itself? Probably not! Let us help you understand that air travel wasn't always a dehumanizing humiliation.

In our quest to make plane tickets as cheap and accessible as a bus ticket, we are now treated like prisoners by airlines whose only concern is the bottom line, because their profit margins are razor thin.... Whu? One second....

I'm sorry, I've just been told that airlines' profits have been hitting record levels for a few years now.





So, it seems that the airlines aren't being forced to treat humans like cattle. They're choosing to because it's easier to get rich that way. Apparently, there's no profit in happy repeat customers who like to fly on your airplanes because they get to retain a shred of their dignity.

Oh well. Try to enjoy this 1962 TWA ad, from a time when some crazy bastard thought that you should treat people like customers like welcome guests, and not annoyances to be barely tolerated. Then, maybe plan your summer holiday somewhere accessible by rail.


Great Lakes Dragaway, early morning.

So, the plan was to show up at Great Lakes Dragaway on Sunday, to shoot my friends racing their cars at the Memorial Day drag races, which is a three-day event. The weather was rainy and ugly, but a promise is a promise, and I showed up not-bright-and-early... like, before anyone had even gotten up kind of early.

I killed time by getting a coffee at the local McDonald's, where an older gentleman stared hard at me, the scary stranger from out of town scarily drinking coffee and reading the scary newspaper. Really, old dude? What century is this? People drive to places and buy coffee. Get over it.

Back to the raceway, and it was still frikkin' early. Only a couple of security people moseying around, and the sanitation truck guy, coming to vacuum out the bathroom tanks. Apparently, the drag racing crowd like to sleep in. I would later find out that the crowd on Saturday had been huge and lively. This went a little ways to explain the early morning sluggishness of the whole place. There had been some whooping-up, it seemed.

In the end, I found out that the car I had come to shoot had broken a transmission the previous day, and the team had been forced to go home a day early. So, with my friends having been forced to cancel their day's activities, and me with a couple of other things I could suddenly take care of back in Chicago, I chose to skedaddle. But, before I cleared out, I did take some pictures of the nearly-deserted rain-soaked grounds. Also, I bought some really cool t-shirts, once the store opened. The Great Lakes Dragaway was built in 1955, and looks the part. There are signs of new construction, but there are some really cool leftovers from the heyday of The Sixties. Photos follow:

The apostrophe is one of the least-understood grammatical tools, and for sign painters, they are an
enduring mystery. Some sign painters always include them, whenever they have to paint an S, just to be safe. This sign painter don't need no stinking apostrophes. The theoretical proprietor of the establishment supposedly carries a driver's license that says on it "Johnny Midnights".
The coolest evidence of days-gone-by-ness are fiberglass
mascots. There just aren't enough businesspeople dedicated
enough to commission the construction of fiberglass statues
any more, if you ask me. This hot dog man carries on the
great American tradition of food characters excited to be
eaten by happy customers. Think Charlie the Tuna. When I
sent this picture to a friend of mine via SMS, he responded:
"Prepping himself for consumption. I hope I face death with
the same degree of courage." Don't we all, chum.

I wonder how many customers have to explain to their children why the lady is wearing roller skates. Kids probably have no point of reference for a waitress on wheels.
Long ago, there must have been some association between the Great Lakes Dragaway and Volkswagen. VW's aren't exactly known for their domination at the drag strip. Maybe the original owner, "Broadway Bob", as he called himself, was a VW fan?

A wheelie is a wheelie, little pickup.
One of the first things you see when you enter the gate is this derelict concessions truck. It's eerie enough on its own, but the bullet holes in the window are the icing on the cake. Guess somebody doesn't like diet soda.

Possible project for a lazy afternoon some time in the future: Make a full alphabet
of these oxidized letters, to spell out whatever I want with them.

Of course, the weather started to clear up as I went back to the car to go home. By then, people were starting to come to life and walk around, wondering about breakfast. Maybe they could have some rusty popcorn?



Safe deposit box.

Joke #1 - Great, The weirdo who kept old copies of the Sun Times in his safe deposit box was here. If he asked for help with the Jumble one more time, it was time for little Donny to "accidentally" wing his first customer.

Joke #2 - Hmm. That guy was looking at a racing form. Gambling was a sin. Gary felt ready to distribute some divine justice.

Joke #3 - "That's some good guarding posture, son. Soon, you'll be guarding a vault for real, and caressing a real gun, and shooting real people, and making real plea bargains for real slap-on-the-wrist sentences for real administrative leave with pay.

Joke #4 - "Okay, Donny, we'll see what the customer wants together. But, let me do the talking. One more of your expensive misunderstandings and the department will ask me to justify giving a firearm to a nine-year-old.

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


Vito Belt - Exqueeze me?

How long have doctors been generally in favor of some kind of exercise? Kinda long, right? Well, it seems that, in 1939, the Hamilton Belt Company (makers of the Vito Belt) surveyed all doctors and - whattya know? - the safest way to get slim was to use their product!

"...excessive exercise may strain his heart" (so don't even try) "... dieting and drugs may be dangerous" (so don't try that either). "Why not take care of that ugly paunch the safe way... with a Vito Belt?"

Right there in the ad, it says that abdominal muscles can become stretched. True enough. However, to actually get rid of a pot belly involving abdominal muscle stretching would require an overall exercise regimen, involving anaerobic and aerobic exercise and abdominal crunches to strengthen the abdominal muscles. Crazy, huh?

But we shouldn't be too hard on this goofy little ad in the April 1939 issue of Popular Science, a magazine which I'm sure was widely read by people of every single body type, and in no way could be said to have a readership made up mostly of flabby nerds. Absolutely not.

After all, it's not like pseudoscience and snake willful ignorance have vanished, here in the bright and shiny information-is-practically-free future we live in. Jenny McCarthy ("Shut up, science, I know what I know, because I'm a mom."), Doctor Oz ("Was that 'Hippocratic' or 'hypocritical'" oath?") and Gwyneth Paltrow ("Magic potions!") spring nauseatingly to mind.

After all, I'm sure the rubber belt worked as advertised. It squoze your belly, which is more than can be said for Dr. Oz's "miracle" drugs or Gwyneth's vagina steamer. Rule of thumb: don't take medical advice from someone trying to sell you something at the same time.


Peugeot - Mouche du coche?

This 1964 ad for Peugeot seems to be trying to convince us that their cars are built to a high standard. Go ask any car geek you know and ask them if Peugeots are famous for their build quality and reliability. Innovation? Quirkiness? Clever design? Ten out of ten. Rock-solid construction? Errrr...... no. More knowledgeable understanders of Gallic carness are free to contradict this assertion in the comments, of course.

Ask Google to translate the idiom "busybody" into French, and it'll come back with "mouche du coche", which, directly translated back to English, means "fly in the coach". Hmm. Interesting. Do a search on "mouche du coche", and French dictionary sites will tell you it means "kibitzer" or "busy bee". So, it looks as though Google's translation feature is getting pretty good at understanding figures of speech and other non-literally-translatable phrases. That could be handy in the future.

The picky Frenchman in the picture could be useful in your graphical adventures some day too, n'est-ce pas? Let's have the Phil Are GO! Graphic Blandishment and Photoshoppery Brigade (PAGGBPB) pop him out of his native ad, complete his beret for him, and save him out as a PNG on an alpha channel backgorund.

Aah yes, just like that. But what if somebody doesn't want the naturally-yellowed version, and just wants him in pure black and white?

Can do. Hop to it, team....

Formidable! Right click that picky frog onto your "disque dur" for safe keeping, do you can use him to help convince people of your attention to detail, just like the build quality of French cars sort of doesn't.

What? More??? Jeez! Fine. Here's a new t-shirt in our shop, made from stuff we pulled from this ad. now you can show everyone how proud you are of your Peugeot 106, sitting back home in the garage, waiting for a new fuel pump to arrive on the slow boat from Nice.

Link to the Peugeot shirt at our Spreadshirt shop.

Yep. Those cars are sort of arranged in the colors of the French flag. Clever, huh? Yep, that's that attention to detail the French are famous for.

Lastly, you know what's interesting? While, yes, Peugeot does still make cars and bicycles, they make a surprising number of high-end salt and pepper shakers, for some reason. Next time you're in a reasonably fancy restaurant, and you notice the shakers are made of stainless steel (not glass, for some reason), look at the bottom while you're adding some big flavor to your soup and see if there's a Peugeot logo down there. Then you can make the face like the guy in this ad, because you noticed a detail.



BSA Gold Vase - Greatest Sports Model Ever

"Who?" I know what you mean. Apparently BSA made bicycles. If you're a Yank, you could be forgiven for never having heard of BSA, as they haven't had a presence in the U.S. market for a bunch of years, but they were a major player in England.

BSA stands for Birmingham Small Arms. They got their start way back in 1861, making guns. Unsurprisingly, a factory that made gun parts was pretty easily adaptable for making bicycle parts - you know, precision machining metal parts for long service life.

So, in 1880, BSA branched out into bicycle manufacture, with the Otto Dicycle, which looked like this....

Yikes. Perhaps BSA recognized that they could do better for themselves. Instead of building the kooky "Dicycle" for another company, they began making the more conventionally-designed "safety bicycle" under their own brand, later in the 1880s.

This led kind of naturally to building motorcycles under the Triumph brand, peaking in the 1950's and 60's. Later, when BSA got out of bicycles, selling off that part of their business to Raleigh.

Before they gave up on making bikes, BSA did make one of the best internally-geared hubs in history. Sturmey-Archer hubs were brilliant and nearly indestructible three-speed hubs that demanded nearly zero maintenance. They were on the best bikes back in The Fifties. You know Pee-Wee Herman's precious red bike? It probably had a Sturmey-Archer rear hub on it.

This ad proclaims the Gold Vase (the model pictured in the ad) as "The greatest sports model ever". Look at the size of that saddle bag. What did people carry around in 1950 when they were out "sporting"? You could put a loaf of bread in that bag... or a pair of shoes... or a pair of breadshoes.

Maybe you're feeling a little nostalgic for the BSA you had when you were a kid, and also English? Well, the Phil Are GO! Graphic Blandishment and Photoshoppery Brigade have harvested a couple of elements from today's ad and made up a shirt, which you can actually buy and actually wear, if that's what you're into. Maybe yellow's not your thing, or being a lady? Other colors and a bunch of different kinds of shirt are also up there, including man stuff. Here's the link.



Easy Funeral Hits


Murder Whiskey


Book Recommendo - We Are Legion / Bobiverse Book 1

Science fiction often lives or dies on the strength of the ideas laid out in the story. It would be easy to assume that any narrative that takes place in the future with spaceships and robots is therefore science fiction. I insist that this isn't true. Star Wars is an action movie. Alien is a horror movie. What determines a story's genre is the nature of the story, not the time period in which it takes place.

Anyway, interesting ideas are the bread and butter of sci-fi, and quite often, interesting characters are few and far between. Science fiction fans generally accept this as standard. Hey, if there's enough compelling stuff taking place, you can overlook the fact that the people they're happening to are a bit flat. Maybe?

There are, of course notable exceptions to this. In recent years, Andy Weir's The Martian presented the reader with an interesting situation (guy stranded on Mars), and a protagonist with, oddly enough, a little personality (supersmart and resourceful astronaut with a cheeky sense of humor and lots of grit) that you actually root for. Let's hope there's more where this came from.

We Are Legion is book one of the newly-launched Bobiverse trilogy, and one could be forgiven for thinking is was also written by Andy Weir, for all the right reasons.

The reader is introduced to Bob Johansson just as he sells his tech startup for a gigantic profit, effectively cashing out after a career of innovation and self-won achievement. He's a scientist and entrepreneur who's earned every penny, and now he wants to relax for a few decades. He also has a tank of liquid nitrogen with his name on it, having bought himself a spot with a cryonics company, because with a strong belief in science and all the money he could ever want, why wouldn't he? That same afternoon, he's hit by a truck while crossing the street, and wakes up a century or so in the future.

A lot changes in a century. The United States is run by a totalitarian theocracy that has declared "corpsicles" to be immoral and an abomination. Also, all rejuvenated human minds have no rights and are the property of the State. Bob wakes up as a disembodied mind installed in a computer, and finds out he's been selected to be the operating system on a space probe designed to find new habitable worlds, because apparently war and destruction continue, even if the U.S. is run by Superchristians (Crazy. I know.). If Bob chooses to decline this opportunity, he'll just be deleted and they'll find someone else. That right there is the interesting "what if?" premise for the story.

It's also interesting and compelling in the same way that The Martian is: A really smart and resourceful protagonist presented with a shit sandwich of a situation. Fortunately, like The Martian's Mark Watney, Bob Johansson determines to think himself out of any problem. He spends nearly zero time freaking out, throwing a tantrum. He's pragmatic, with a good bit of humor to keep himself sane.

It's also helpful that, as the AI on a spacehsip in the year twenty one something-or-other, he can 3D print anything he needs, and can make copies of himself to cooperate with. (Talk about your team building exercises. Woooo!) Also, he can speed up or slow down his perception of time by adjusting the clock speed of his CPU, which is handy in those long, boring stretches of space exploration. There's still the bickering nations of Earth to deal with, as they continue having wars, ruin what's left of the habitable regions of the planet, and generally behave like schoolchildren. So it's not all a simple milk run for Bob.

One might wonder why Bob would feel any loyalty at all to the dillholes of Earth who put him in this situation and who bitch constantly that he's not finding habitable planets fast enough, or giving special treatment to one nation or another. But, maybe that's just me. It may also be why I'm not an immortal artificial intelligence expected to save humanity.


Animal on the Street - Huge pay TV losses in Q1 2017.




Gosh Darn Car Repair