Friday, February 29, 2008

Cleaning out the Ephemera

Recently I borrowed a bunch of old brochures from a friend. So far I've only published one post on these: How to Live With Yourself. The problem with them is although they are interesting, the contents are either pretty wordy or just not worth scanning the full booklet. That said, here are a few things I've been sitting on...

True, not one man or woman in a thousand know how to talk effectively. but that's simply all the more reason why the interesting talker is so welcome in this brave new world of our. He brings magic with him, Glamour! Romance! No more silly gossip about the neighbors... no more stupid remarks about the weather... no more tedious complaints about poor health. Instead bright, sparking words that stir the blood and quicken the imagination.
If you take gossip, health complaints and the weather out of people's conversations all that's left to talk about is sex!
This one comes from the Western Electric Booklet Rack Service. It's bright red cover and plup fiction type face must have made this a popular lunchtime read. In fact, this statement on the first page instills the proper 1950's paranoia: This is not a 'reference' booklet. It is not like any other first aid booklet.It deals only with those crucial first few minutes when an accident victim hovers between life and death. Every second counts. You won't have time to consult these pages. THEREFORE, READ THIS BOOKLET NOW. WHAT YOU LEARN NOW MAY SAVE A LIFE!

Oooh-eee. One moment while I stop blogging and read this now! Most of the instructions deal with making perfect carbon copies, making corrections on the carbon copies, and having perfect margins. How did we ever, ever get along without a word processor?
Even more remarkable is the idea that at one time consumers were responsible for fire proofing our own clothes and draperies.

"Sorry Madge, I can't go to lunch today I have to fireproof my ironing board cover...

This booklet has some fun games for long car trips: AUTO LICENSE BINGO. Each player writes down fifteen numbers on a sheet of paper. they may be any numbers from 1 to 99 and a player may list the same number fifteen times if he wishes.

After all the players have written down their selected numbers, an umpire begins the game by calling out the last two digits on the license plate on each truck or car that passes by, and if the numbers he calls are on the sheets of any of the players, they call out that fact, draw a single line through the lucky number, and show it to the referee for verification.

The game continues until someone has crossed off five of his numbers. this is considered "Bingo" and wins the game. The umpire should jot down each number as he calls it so that the winning card may be checked after the game. I'm assuming the umpire should not be the driver.

The most interesting fact is the booklet references the "The Talking Tooth" at the Century of Progress in Chicago 1933.
and speaking of masticating...

Handbook for Emergencies from the Chicago Civil Defense Corps has handy tips on what to do when someone breaks a leg, but their nuclear fallout information seems to be lacking.
Fallout radiation can pass through any material, but some of it is "absorbed" on the way through. Thus, if sufficient shielding is put between you and the fallout, the radiation which comes through will not harm you.

I don't know if they thought putting the word "absorbed" in quotes somehow absolved them from any guilt. But I think you'd be o.k. as long as you had a large red, lead line between you and the fallout.

Also, in all my days, I've never heard that radiation fallout could be Hoovered up.

Again, from the Western Electric Book Rack... "Your Medical Check-Up" let's you know what will happen when you have to go to the doctor. Things like, "Why Do Doctor's Ask So Many Questions". "Why does he need my blood?" "What's a Fluoroscope?" are illustrated by using these Picasso-esqe drawings.
And finally, "Facts About Leprosy" has been in my collection for years. I used to keep it out in the living room along with some old TV Guides. With it's smugged and shockingly frank cover has got many a frightened look from people who didn't know me very well. Hmmm...Maybe that's why I'm single.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A National Treasure
How wonderful is Betty White in this clip. 86 years old and still funny.

As an Oscar Account Betty White tells The Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson what's inside her briefcase and shares her stolen statue. Some of the jokes are pretty lame, but it's all about Betty's tried and true reactions. and a classic last line.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

With Fans Like This...

Last Saturday, Gary and I went to see Linda Eder. It was sort of whim for me since I've only one of her albums, and have only seen her singing that "Man of La Mancha" video at Sidetracks a thousand times. But I thought it would be a fun evening, and considering I didn't have the cash to see Ms. Barbra last year, I felt I owed it to myself to see at least one diva this year.

So I dolled myself in my new job interview clothes (Sears was having a sale) and off we went leaving a lot of extra time for dinner. We were going to go to a local restaurant but then because it was only 5:30, Gary suggested going to Sabatino's. Sabatino's is great; A Chicago tradition with the best Italian food and atmosphere around. However, since I rarely try to eat at family restaurants on weekends we both were in for a surprise. Not only was it packed to the rafters with people with reservations waiting, but they told us the earliest we could get in would be 9:30. I had no idea that people ate so early on Saturdays. Our second choice was another Steak place on Milwaukee, but that too had a line of people waiting to get into the parking lot.

Then I remembered a really good Polish restaurant called the Golden Duck. There pork chops were amazing, and they had mash potatoes to die for! So we drove by there and it was open and looked empty.

We walked in and all the tables were empty. We sat down and someone from the bar came over and said: Can I get you something to drink. Gary said he was going to wait and could he see a menu.

"We don't have any menus".
"Huh, well what kind of food are you serving".
"We don't have any food...just drinks."

We were back on the road again. I was no assuming that we'd be making that 9:30 Sabatino's meal after-all.

In Rosemont, near the theatre we found Gibsons. Again it was packed, but we were stuck. While we were waiting we looked at their wall of signed celebrity photos. Sinatra, Tom Selleck, Billy Joel, Elizabeth Taylor, etc... So I figured this place has to be good. And it was one of the most amazing steak dinners I've ever had in my life. One funny thing was when we sat down after we'd gotten over the initial sticker shock of the prices, our impossibly handsome waiter suddenly showed up with this enormous plate of raw meat. It would have been a vegetarian's nightmare! Just goes to show I don't go to these fancy eatin' places very often. I had no idea that I would be able to pick my own cut of meat.

Anyway, dinner, as I said, was amazing. So off we were right on time to the Rosemont to see Ms. Eder. It had been a while since I'd been to the Rosemont Theatre, but I didn't remember it being so, so suburban. It was mix of the bland and the over the top gaudy. The lobby has all the charm of an airport terminal, except with a huge chandelier hanging in the middle of it. It was as if they spent all the money on the chandelier and couldn't put even the minimal amount of decoration into any other part of the theatre. There are these glass cases built into the wall that hold ostentatiously hideous porcelain figurines. One filled with several Santa heads, another with some Cinderella fantasy all polished and sparkly. I had the uncontrollable urge to smash them. The auditorium has evem less character than the lobby; Just grey walls, and plain stage. It had the feel like the whole place could be all packed up in boxes and shipped somewhere the next day.

Ms. Eder was playing with the Chicago Pops Orchestra. Like all Pop's Orchestras they did the standard 'Footlight Favorites', Harry Potter theme music, and the overture to "Funny Girl". I figured that they were pandering to all the gay men in the audience with that one. It's always happy to see a huge orchestra. All those people playing together to making amazing sounds that you could only otherwise hear on an Andre Kostelentez album. However, like the theatre, the orchestra sounded flattened. My guess is the auditorium has almost no really acoustics to speak of and everything has to be miked. It sounded processed and they might as well could have played a record. But this isn't Orchestra Hall. Oh, the other thing was the conductor seemed to be terrified to speak. Either that or he had Parkinson's Disease. He was just shaking when he was introducing the numbers. He was fine with conducting. (Watch I find out he has some horrible illness he's bravely fighting and then I'll feel like a jerk.)

Linda Eder came out for the second half of the program wearing the ugliest purple-ish dress which made her look like she had just been a bride's maid that afternoon. But the girl can sing, even though she seemed tired. She explained that she had been caught in the snow storm that hit the East Coast so I'm assuming that was part of it. Her stage presence is a little lacking too and consists of standing and singing. We both agreed she needs some writers to help her with the non-standing and singing parts of her act.

So anyway, this leads me to why I started this post in the first place. The crazy audience member... Linda's songs are for the most part pretty dramatic. And most have that American Idol moment when she pauses and takes a big breath to let out that big moment when she is going to Streisand-ize the end of the song. Well during every one of these moments this one fan used this as his cue to scream his head off. "We love you Linda". "Go Linda". or just an irrigating "Wooh!". Now we were in the balcony in this theatre that has no acoustics to speak of, where the horn section had to be miked and he sounded loud in the balcony where we were sitting. I can't imagine what it was like down by the stage. What could Linda Eder be thinking right now... except 'where are the ushers?'

The next day Gary found this website with this guy Jason Heath who was playing bass that night. To hear his side of this story click HERE. He tells a funny story... and his other video stories are pretty good too.

So that was my Saturday. Makes me sort of glad I'm not a famous diva.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hats and Bags with Extra Bling Shake off the Winter Blues!
If the cold days of winter are getting you down, maybe it's time to stop being a gloomy gus and think about your what new spring hats you are going wear in April. So, put down that Prosac, and just put on one of these fabulous hats!

Lots of fun ideas in this issue of Coats & Clark's Hats and Bags.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

My New Crush...

It's Not Perfect...

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Variety -- November of 2006:
VHS, 30, dies of loneliness
Home Ent News: The home-entertainment format lived a fruitful life -- After a long illness, the groundbreaking home-entertainment format VHS has died of natural causes in the United States. The format was 30 years old.

As is my fashion I'm often doing pieces on recently deceased celebrities that have had some sort of effect on my development as a person, i.e. Mike Douglas, Robert Goulet, Mr. Whipple. So after I read a really interesting article in the New York Times about the new film Be Kind Rewind, which recently premiered at the Sundance Festival, I began to reminisce about this odd piece of technology. I've not been without one since the purchase of my first VCR in 1983 (Gold Star, purchased at Zayre for $299), it changed the way I spent my free time, introduced me to hundreds of films, changed the way I watched television shows, saved my life during times when I thought I couldn't get through another boring day living at home; and yet now it's disappeared and I can hardly say that I miss it. These themes of the life and times of the VCR are well stated in the article which can be accessed here: INSTANT NOSTALGIA, LET'S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE.

For this post I asked some of my favorite bloggers and commenters to read the article and then give their own views on their memories of home video...

It was sometime in the 1970's when I remember hearing for the first time that you could actually play "movies in your home". Video discs were being talked about in Popular Mechanics. Yes, soon you'd be able to own and watch such hits as "Hello Dolly" or "Airport". They were in the same issues that predicted cars that ran on air and had articles on how to build your own solar paneled garage. So, it seemed impossible, improbable that it would ever be something that everyone would have. Bill Mackey, a friend of my parents, had the very first home video system that I can remember. This must have been in the mid-1970s because I remember going there with my parents to watch tapes he'd made of the Carol Burnett Show. He'd been taping all the Eunice sketches. I vaguely recalling my mother saying what a waste of money it was, because who would want to watch those things over and over.

It wasn't until 1979 when Paul Szumski's parents bought one that I had my first video rental experience. There was only one video store in the neighborhood. As I recall it was part video store, part head shop. There might have been fifty or so titles to choose from. Paul's parents were out of town and he had the house to himself. So he'd had invited 'the guys' over to watch movies. We got "Barbarella" and a John Leslie porno... "Dracula Sucks". I Kid You Not! So on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon I sat in a Southside living room watching my first home video movie and porno with six teenage guys. Talk about uncomfortable!

Then the father of some high school friends got one. Brian and Julie's father was a huge movie buff and would often rent three movies a night and I spent many a evening there, whether they liked it or not. Home video gave people the first chance to watch newer movies that were just out at the theatre a few months before. And it also gave everyone the chance to comment during the movies. I've fond memories of their mother's hilarious and insightful comments about holes in plot points, or praising someone's performance saying, "That's how people really are..." No longer was watching a movie something that was done in the dark, but was now a group activity that everyone was sharing.

A favorite memory was when their parent's Sis and Dik, decided to have the neighbors over to watch "Deep Throat". We 'kids' were all forced out of the house, so all we could do was peek in the front window and watch 'the adults', watching Deep Throat. The looks on their faces were priceless. Years and years later I inherited that first VCR from Dik. It was huge, weighed about 25lbs. Through the years I gave it away to friends who didn't have a VCR, when they would move or get an upgrade, I would always get it back. I swear this happened at least three times. It just felt like something you just couldn't throw out. Finally when I moved into my current place 14 years ago I put it on top of the garbage can and said goodbye to this sturdy friend who had given me so many fun times. I don't know if I could ever have the same feelings for a DVD player.

Wondrous, to hit a slick, jet-black button and begin to save what I'm seeing. Television is no longer ephemeral. I can collect snippets and chunks of colorful time, bright ribbons of sound and motion. Out of static, out of the void will emerge voices in mid-sentence, commercials unedited, entire shows unwind until they hit the end of the tape, the end of the line. Rewinding, fastforwarding, movement blurs like hummingbird wings, speech turns to high-pitched squeaks and clicks. Pause freezes and stutters. The electronic veil over reality is as thin as mylar and magnetized motes of iron, and I can mummify all media in its spools. -- Graeme Udd

Learning2Share is an amazing site of ephemera. Since I knew that Jim and I were both collectors of the useless and the sublime I wanted his memories: Visit his site HERE (LEARNING2SHARE)

Remembering back to the early days of home video, the machinations of the first movie rental places that began popping up all seem sort of quaint in retrospect. It seemed every store had a different flawed system of operation. - - Also, this was in those pre-internet days when you were lucky if you could find a good guide book to movies, and felt blessed if you had a well-stocked eclectic video store with knowledgeable staff. ("Do you have '8½'?" "We have 'Nine 1/2 Weeks'...) Somehow the technology and the VHS / Beta format wars all seemed pretty unspectacular to me. I remember being much more impressed by the ancient gigantic bulky early video cassettes and 'reel-to-reel' video tapes that would pop-up occasionally back in the days of elementary school and junior high. I did a year or two in the middle school AV Squad, but never got to run one. When VHS came in, it was the home recording aspect that really floated my boat. Immediately I was compiling tapes of cartoons and old movies and old TV shows. It was the obsession du jour for me. I still have some of them, though I weeded out a bunch that I ruled superfluous as DVDs came in. Is there anything sadder than old home- recorded video cassettes full of crappy '80's movies taped off of HBO at the 'ep' speed? I still have my rock-solid Mitsubishi 4-Head VCR, too. It's still a champ, though I think it's available calendar settings only went as far as 2007. I'll have to get creative next time I try to program it. Thankfully I never had the Laserdisc bug. How much longer 'til we're turning in our DVDs to upgrade to the next format? (or did I already miss the memo?) Thus far I remain a-scared of Tivo and whatever the newer innovations might be... Cheers, Jim (aka 'The In Crowd')

Dave who is transcribing his mother's 1945-46 diaries is a comrade of mine in our common love of old movies and showing them largely projected in yards or on livingroom walls. Visit his site HERE (Dorothy's Diary)

I remember going into a new store at 96th & Cicero, Classic Video, in about 1979-80. About the size of my living room. Three rows of glass shelves, with a thin selection of boxes, one of which caught my eye. "Notorious". I asked the one and only clerk (the owner), "Are these tapes for sale?". I didn't have a machine, but I soon got one: a big Panasonic with piano-type keys, weighed about 25 lbs. and was about $500.

I was on a Hitchcock binge at the time. There were a bunch I had never seen. So glimpsing "Notorious" on the shelf of that store really sparked the videotape craze for me. I got obsessive about it. I'd rent three tapes for $10 for three days. Returning to the store every three days for more. The guy once asked me how I could be watching all those films. I bought dozens of blank T-120s. The Ampex were the cheapest at about $12-14. The Scotch or Maxells were more--about $15-16 each. It really got to be an addiction. My next door neighbor and I would borrow each other's machines and make copies--for our own use (not to resell). I'd record two or three movies on a tape. Made intricate replicas of the movie posters on self-adhesive labels. I began to stockpile a big, themed collection. Hence the nearly 200-plus tapes that eat up space in my closet today.

Chris Ligon is a fantastic singer/songwriter. His music has been featured on the TV show "Weeds". You can buy his album at this site HERE (CRAZY DAZE). Do it... You won't be sorry! He and his wife, cartoonist Heather McAdams, are unique in that they are purists in the world of media and still collect 16mm films which they project at their shows. I was curious what he remembered about the avent of home video.

I remember when my family first got a video recorder I was so excited that I wouldn't have to record tv shows with a crummy little cassette tape recorder anymore. For years I would tape comedians like John Byner on The Tonight Show just to preserve their bits. I even made a reel to reel tape recording of Plan 9 From Outer Space that I used to listen to in the 70's! Sometimes I would shoot Super 8 movies of tv shows and I still have tons of photos I took of tv shows like Gilligans Island and SCTV. Somehow these still seem more precious than pristene DVD copies of "everything in the world". It's kind of like getting that tiny little handful of cashews for a quarter out of a machine. They tasted so much better than they do now that I can buy and eat an entire can. Chris Ligon

Mike Lynch is a very accomplished cartoonist and his site is a wealth of information for fellow cartoonists. And he's really funny. Visit his site: MIKE LYNCH CARTOONS. When Mike sent me his cartoon he said that he said that he mentioned this idea a couple other cartoonists over lunch. One of which is syndicated cartoonist Stephanie Piro. Her cartoon sums up my memories of VHS tapes... Visit her site HERE:

As time goes on I imagine that VCR tapes will be only be seen in racks in Salvation Army stores. Imagine the landfills crowded with classic deluxe box-sets of The Prisoner and Gone with the Wind. I still have a problem letting some of mine go...

Recently I ran into Doris, my senior citizen neighbor, and her boyfriend. She asked me if I wanted to borrow any of the VHS tapes she'd recently bought at an estate sale. "They were only fifty cents a piece, " she beamed. "Did you get a DVD player yet?" I asked. Her boyfriend scowled and said, "I hate those things. You can't rewind on them..." Blink, blink.... I decided not to argue.

Thanks to everyone who helped with this post... I'll win one of those blogger awards yet...!!!

Photos of VCR's from Total Rewind Everything you'd ever want to know about home video.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

From the Desk of the WTF Department

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Some great lost old ads of some jobs that weren't even on Sally Struthers’ home list of opportunities from ICS Correspondence Classes.

Lots more at

h/t Land-o-Links