It’s Like An 80s Mystery Click Pic

So we went to a book fair today, and they offered a handful of old magazines for free, so my beautiful wife took a couple of them because she likes to look through them for recipes.

This particular Family Circle from April 27, 1982, has a woman on the cover that just looked kinda like a generic 1980s honey. Until I noticed the caption. Take a quick look, and see if you can guess who it is without having to click it to read the caption. Continue reading “It’s Like An 80s Mystery Click Pic”

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How Old Do You Have To Be To Be A Senior Editor?

On Facebook the other day, I saw a link to a piece entitled How ‘The Fifth Element’ Predicted Lady Gaga And Everything Else About Modern Life—Back in ’97.

I postulate that anyone writing for money on an Internet site is 25 years old or younger. Why? Let’s use this piece as an example.

The article says that The Fifth Element, a fine film that I’ve seen many times, predicts:

  • Yes, a fashion model can carry an entire movie.
    But fashion models have been in films for decades. Ever heard of Racquel Welch? She modeled before she carried films. Jane Fonda? I know, if you’re like me, you think Nat King Cole carried Cat Ballou, but her name was over the title.

    If you go out on the Internet and conduct a search for models who became actresses, those lists written and poached by 25-year-olds do only include fashion models who became actresses in the late 1990s.

  • We love Divas

    Is Diva Plavalaguna from the movie any less weird than Lady Gaga from Earth? Or Nicki Minaj, for that matter?

    What on earth? People who appreciate divas did not appreciate divas before 1997? Good lord amercy, what about Diana Ross? Does he mean only lady singers who look weird? Maybe this writer’s granddad can explain Wendy O. Williams or, frankly, any pop singer from the 1980s to him. Sarah Brightman. Cher. Madonna. Come on, this is where divas started?

  • And cruise ships.

    Behold this howler:

    The cruise ship industry was still in its infancy in 1997.

    Uh, what? 1997 is 20 years after The Love Boat debuted on television. Royal Caribbean was founded in 1967. Carnival Cruise Lines was founded in 1972. That’s a damn long infancy.

  • Terrorists!

    Another howler:

    In 1997, terrorism was something that happened in far away place, to other people.

    Keep in mind, 1997 is four years after the first World Trade Center bombing and two years after the bombing in Oklahoma City. It’s some number of years after the bombings in the late 1960s and 1970s. A couple decades past airplane hijackings in the United States.

    The author goes onto say:

    Since 2001, however, it’s been on the cultural frontburner almost continuously.

    Movies before The Fifth Element didn’t feature terrorists (or fake terrorists)? Uh, Die Hard, Delta Force, Invasion USA, True Lies, and so on and so forth.

    In the news, one never heard about the 1972 Munich Olympics, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, constant kidnappings throughout the Middle East, or the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro (of course the author didn’t hear about this, since it took place on a cruise ship before the industry was in its infancy).

    No, indeed, The Fifth Element was the thing that brought terrorists to our attention.

  • The real estate crisis.

    Silly human, the real estate crisis only involves New York City.

    In future New York, we see that apartments for ordinary people are reduced to tiny cubicles. Not too different from the current New York!

    In 1997, all New York apartments looked like the sets of 1940s films. Every studio was a three-bedroom penthouse. But in 2000, Rudy Guiliani sold 75% of Manhattan to New Jersey to buy its silence in covering his affair with Judith Nathan, which resulted in the small sizes for domiciles that continues to this day. Or something.

  • Reality TV

    People forget that reality TV as we know it now didn’t exist in 1997.

    Cops debuted in 1989. The Real World debuted in 1992. I mean, really. A quick search of Wikipedia gives you a history of reality television. As to shameless self-promoting television hosts, come on. We can go back to Morton Downey, Jr. Or Geraldo, who got his nose broken on his television show in 1988.

    I mean, the Howard Stern show was syndicated eleven years before the film, and it features a hucksterish outrageous personality transmitting his thoughts via radio waves to your receiver.

    Who could have seen this coming? Only the divine oracle that is The Fifth Element.

The other things in the list are about Bruce Willis’s lingering popularity (well, he’s still working, but I wouldn’t say he’s still “huge”) and the lingering popularity of the Leelo costume for Hallowe’en (coincidentally, it covers little of the feminine physique).

Like so many things, the piece has a certain cultural myopia that can’t see anything before the middle 1990s and comes off, at least to this old man, as annoying because of it.

But it does reflect an adolescent viewpoint that says, “All history began with my birth or self-awareness” that cripples our contemporary society and discourse.


UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Mr. H. I’m not sure if he means I’m not self-aware or not. Which might prove that I am not.

UPDATE: Thanks, also, for the link, Ms. K.

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Book Report: The Stranger by Albert Camus (1946, 1963)

Book coverI read this book early in my college career, when I was cutting classes to hang out and read in the Marquette University Memorial Library. I read Existentialism and Human Emotions (which I reread in 2006), and I was looking for some other Existentialism to sink my teeth into. So I did a library catalog search (on a computer, even then, not on little cards), and I found the Camus. I checked out The Stranger and the book right next to it, The Outsider. When I finished The Stranger and cracked open the other, it was quite deja vu, although it did not make me physically nauseated. The Outsider was a British translation of The Stranger.

So, where was I? Oh, yes. Rereading this bit about Meursault not doing much, killing an Arab, and then getting tried for it.

Well, it’s a bleak little piece, and I don’t find Meursault a particularly unsympathetic character, the pivotal point comes when he, after his suspicious “friend” is in a fight with the Arab, returns to the place where the Arab lingers and, dazzled by the sun and his headache, shoots the man.

He’s like a Forrest Gumpian feather floating along on life, and then an Arab is shot, and he starts thinking deeply, well, Existentialism-deep on things? Bleh. I could have followed along some other path with the man who just lives in the moment without thinking or reacting coming to some other realization, but to have it hinge on a single, unforeshadowed violent act just doesn’t work for me.

I don’t remember what exactly I thought of this book twenty years ago, but as I age, it’s becoming clear to me that French Existentialism is a philosophy for college students and Frenchmen. It relies too much on subjective interpretation of reality to speak to someone older than 24. Or at least me.

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Book Report: Doctor No by Ian Fleming (1958)

Book coverI’m pretty sure I’ve read this book before, but not since I’ve been blogging. I haven’t watched the film too recently, either, so although I was basically familiar with elements of the film and the plot, the exact order of them and many of the details I’d forgotten, so it was more akin to reading anew a book by an author I’ve read a lot of.

This book, written during the Eisenhower administration, finds Bond coming out of convalescence from the things that happened to him in From Russia, With Love. M is not sure that Bond is the agent he once was (sort of like in the film Die Another Day). So M sends Bond to Jamaica to look into the disappearance of the station agent there and his secretary. While the powers-that-be think he’s run off with the woman, Bond looks a little more closely and discovers it’s more related to the secretive island sanctuary of a mysterious Chinese figure, Doctor No. Then hijinks happen and Bond gets quite mauled but wins the day and the girl.

The girl who has the big broken nose, unlike Ursula Andress.

The book departs from my memory of the film, of course, but they’re both independent media, so they’re both enjoyable in their own way. Now that I’ve read the book again, I have the urge to watch the film. Kind of like watching the film The Living Daylights prompted me to pick this book up.

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How Old Am I? The Children Know.

My children are being raised appropriately, which means I’m letting them watch 80s cartoons like Spiderman and His Amazing Friends and The Transformers (“Generation 1” they call them to differentiate them from the later rehashes where Bumblebee is a Cylon).

This morning, my son asked me, “Why does Soundwave’s chest open up and other Transformers come out?”

“Soundwave is an audiocassette player,” I said.

Then I realized he did not know what an audiocassette player or the little tapes that go into it are.

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Step One in Protecting My Hoard of Treasure: Complete!

I’ve completed the first part of my plan to use a golem who asks a riddle to protect my teeming piles of gold coins that sometimes sweat little tinkling individual coins of gold that tumble down for no apparent reason. I have the riddle. Check it out:

What type of man works in two kinds of labs?


Now, I’m not sure which step I should try to tackle next: crafting an unholy facsimile of a man or somehow gathering Himalayan-sized mounds of Andean treasures. Frankly, both sound a little harder than coming up with a riddle. Maybe I’ll click over to Facebook instead.

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DVD Report: Bye Bye Baby (1988)
Beyond Justice (1992)

DVD coverThis DVD is billed as a double feature: A Carol Alt film and a Rutger Hauer film. Closer inspection, that is watching the films, shows that this is actually a Carol Alt double feature since she is the female costar of Beyond Justice as well. Both are Italian pictures.

Bye Bye Baby is billed as a comedy. At least, that’s what I get because the DVD box says it has more than one uproarious scene. I didn’t see any of that. It’s the story of an Italian businessman with an attractive woman doctor wife (Alt) who throws him out. After the divorce, which she doesn’t really want, he goes onto a relationship with a professional pool player (Brigitte Nielsen), and she gets involved with a doctor at the hospital where she works. Eventually, she and he rediscover their passion for each other and they (uproariously!) try to get their current mates to fall for each other as the former spouses get back together (while still seeing their new relations). Then, he gets hit by a car. But doesn’t die. So there’s hope they’ll get back together. The end. Not a lot of laughs, but a lot of Carol Alt ca. 1988. Which might be worth a watching just for that.

Beyond Justice is an eighties action film a couple years past the 1980s. The son of an American businesswoman is kidnapped by Arabs, and her ex-husband knows more about it than he lets on. Seems he’s the son of a northern African emir, and when the boy turns 13, he’s supposed to be returned to his tribe to begin his real education with the tribe. Rutger Hauer is Rutger Hauer, and he agrees to help find the boy. Along the way, guns are shot, respect is gained for former adversaries as they band together in the face of new threats, and Omar Sharif. The film has more depth than one would expect given its lineage, but not bad at all.

The offshoot is that I’ve achieved a certain balance in my life that not many people have: I have watched as many Carol Alt films as Kathy Ireland films (those being Necessary Roughness and National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon I).

And as an off-shoot, I also have the urge to look into the spaghetti Rambo films that I might have missed until now. And, maybe, the Carol Alt films. It looks as though she’s done a lot of work in Italy.

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Book Report: The Lowbrow Guide to World History by Michael Powell (2004)

Book coverI did not care for this book.

It’s a short but of small, blog-sized pieces about different historical topics. Some are round-ups of topics, like the history of toilet paper and codpieces. Some are more focused, such as the chapter on who would win in an arm-wrestling contest between Atilla the Hun and Ghengis Khan or which of Henry VIII’s wives was most bedable.

It’s a bit snarky, and I’ve determined that if you’re not in on the snark, you’re not going to enjoy it. The author looks down on a lot of his subject matter (“Where the Conquistadors Stupid Or What?” and “Could Christopher Columbus Navigate His Way out of a Paper Bag?” and so on).

I guess the title should have given the game away, but do I listen? No.

Skip this one and read a real history book instead.

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Nebulous Definition Yields Unclear Results

I forget where I saw the link to the chart at Guess What’s the Fastest-Adopted Gadget of the Last 50 Years:

When we think about the great consumer electronics technologies of our time, the cellular phone probably springs to mind. If we go farther back, perhaps we’d pick the color television or the digital camera. But none of those products were adopted as fast by the American people as the boom box.

That factoid is a sidenote in a 2011 paper that I stumbled on from the Journal of Management and Marketing Research. Author Tarique Hossain included data from the Consumer Electronics Manufacturing Association on the “observed penetration rate at the end of the 7th year” for all the technologies listed above. Hossain’s data didn’t include the starting years for these seven-year periods, but I’m assuming they mark the introduction of the boom box in the mid-1970s. That would mean that by the early 1980s, more than 60 percent of American households owned some kind of portable cassette player with speakers attached to it.

That’s the guy at the Atlantic’s definition of “boom box,” not one found in the study. Here’s one from Wikipedia:

Technically a boombox is, at its simplest, two or more loudspeakers, an amplifier, a radio tuner, and a cassette and/or CD player component, all housed in a single plastic or metal case, with a handle for portability. Most units can be powered by AC or DC cables, as well as batteries.

Note some of the other things on the chart at the Atlantic: CD Player, Portable CD Player. Color Television/Stereo Color Television. But Boombox is nebulous. It could mean a radio receiver with two speakers, it could mean a cassette player with two speakers, it could mean a compact shelf system with detachable speakers. What else could it mean in the minds of respondents? Mono cassette players? Transistor radios?

It’s the only technology referred to by its slang nickname. So no doubt it did the best.

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DVD Report: The Living Daylights (1987)

Book coverI could not make it through this film in a single viewing.

I started watching it three or so years ago, back when I lived in Old Trees, and I got probably 2/3 of the way through before I thought of something better to do, or before my wife returned from wherever she was and I spent the time with her instead.

So the second viewing, the film had a certain familiarity with it. It was like a movie I’d seen before.

The plot: James Bond, with Timothy Dalton at the helm, helps a high-level Russian defect only to see the Russian snatched back after explaining the plot of another Russian honcho to start killing British and American spies. Bond knows the plotting Russian and thinks him incapable of the betrayal, so Bond goes roguish with a Russian cello player to find out what the Russians are up to.

Dalton’s low on my list of Bonds, so he doesn’t get that much of my innate affection that I feel for the franchise. I made it through the second viewing, but I won’t watch it over and over again.

Strange, though, how squicky these films make one feel 25 years later. Remember when those plucky Afghan freedom fighters were the good guys? James Bond helped them. Rambo helped them. Only a quarter century later and those plucky Afghan freedom fighters are blowing up Americans, and it’s hard to sympathize with them.

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Book Report: Axin’ Her Father by O.E. Young (1901)

Book cover Given the recent Tom Hanks was near someone in blackface scandal, it seemed the very time to read this little one-act skit that I picked up somewhere.

It’s a short, 25 minute skit from 1901 for a minstrel show, wherein I guess a white guy would put on black face and make humor from the mannerisms of colored folk. This piece features five characters: An older father who is hard of hearing; an eldest daughter who has caught a man to marry, a wealthy man; a middle daughter who is a romantic and sees the match through that prism; the youngest daughter, who has a sharp tongue; and the “wealthy” man who has just come into an inheritance of $44.75 and some shoes and who is being henpecked into the marriage by the eldest daughter.

The piece is written heavily in Negro dialect, or at least that which the author would call Negro dialect. It’s harder to read even than some of Kipling’s argot, which might be why I found a bookmark halfway through its fifteen pages. It’s not very funny, either, but I’m a hundred years past the target audience. I can see some of the gags, though, the more clever ones that don’t rely on the basic comedy elements of the father mishearing the courtier or the continual repeating of the fortune that the young man has inherited.

Meh. It comes from a whole series, which proves that before radio, television, the movies, and the Internet, people would watch anything.

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Federal Government Again Recommends Fewer Medical Tests

In a stunning turn of events, the Federal Government has decided that women are getting too darn many pap smears:

Many women will need to get Pap smears only every five years under new national guidelines released this month.

“We’re going to be able to identify a subset of women that we can put at ease,” said Dr. Rosanna Gray-Swain, a obstetrician/gynecologist with BJC HealthCare. “If they have normal Pap smears and are negative for (human papillomavirus) … they have essentially zero chance of developing cervical cancer in five years.”

Essentially zero is not equal to zero. Following these guidelines, a small number of women will develop cervical cancer that could have been caught by more frequent pap smears. To the United States government, these are acceptable losses.

This new recommendation to cut testing that would catch cancer earlier mirrors the 2009 guideline that also recommended fewer mammograms which would mean breast cancer would go undetected longer in some women.

One wonders why we don’t hear about the United States Preventive Services Task Force’s War on Women, since its governmental actions put women at greater risk of advanced cancer and death.

Contrast this with the Republican “war on women” which thinks men and women should pay for their own contraception and abortifacients or insurance plan that covers them.

(Fun fact: Abortifacients in animal breeding are called mismating shots. How would it frame the debate if we used that term instead of the scientific and rational sounding “abortifacient”?)

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Suburban St. Louis Candidates Oppose TIF Financing

I find it an encouraging sign that candidates running for mayor of Ellisville oppose a TIF proposal designed to give a land developer buckets of money:

Sansone has asked for an $11 million in tax-increment financing assistance and $4 million other tax subsidies. The city’s TIF proposal would let Sansone keep 100 percent of new property taxes and 50 percent of new sales taxes generated at the site to use for development-related costs. It would last for up to 23 years but is expected to be retired in 14 years.

Two of the four candidates oppose the TIF outright, although one is against it because it would include a Walmart, and the candidate says:

He also opposes Walmart moving to the site and says it would hurt local businesses. He added that Walmart often moves on in seven to 10 years to another city offering tax assistance.

The candidate apparently opposes inexpensive consumer goods for Ellisville residents. As to his assertion that Walmart moves on, I have to ask: Have you ever known a Walmart to move like this? The Walmarts of my youth out in Jefferson and St. Louis County are still in their original spots after 30 years, but they were built before free government money was the norm.

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They’ll Sell Software Interface Controls To You Wholesale

Need a check box? You can order one from this toll free number. Now you can offer your users the ability to select more than one answer for a question!

Need a check box?  Order now!

Seriously, though, when I received a check order last week, instead of putting the checks into little chipboard boxes and wrapping them for mailing, Deluxe (not living up to its name) put the checks between two sheets of chipboard and into a large plastic envelope to mail them out.

For the environment, of course. Because now instead of some cellophane and some reusable little boxes, Deluxe, like Puma, has redesigned its packaging to lower its costs and then tries to convince us it’s for the environment.

Unlike Puma, though, “Deluxe” offers to sell us the former packaging for an additional cost. Apparently, Deluxe is ready to throw over the environment if there’s an additional buck to be made.

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Pinnacle Falls Short On Its Promises

The city of St. Louis chose Pinnacle Entertainment to build a casino (Lumière Place) after extracting promises that the developer would pour an additional $50 million dollars in urban Renaissance development in the city.

Well, it got a profitable casino. But Pinnacle has not delivered on the promised Renaissance development:

In 2004, Pinnacle Entertainment made a deal with the city to invest $50 million in revitalizing the riverfront area within five years of opening its $507 million Lumière Place casino.

A year later, Pinnacle promised a $25 million condo tower on Laclede’s Landing. In 2006, the company announced plans to build stores and additional condos as part of a second phase of Lumière Place, which opened in December 2007.

But the recession hit — and the projects were canceled.

Pinnacle now faces a December deadline. Its only investment outside of its casino complex: the $9.8 million Stamping Lofts project. And even though it is getting full credit for the project, its financial investment was just $2 million.

To recap how these gilded deals play out:

  • Pinnacle promises urban Renaissance development if it gets to build a casino first. Pinnacle builds the casino, then does not meet its other promises. 
  • The St. Louis Cardinals promise a $550 million dollar urban Renaissance development if they can build a new tax-subsidized stadium first. The new ballpark opened in 2006. Six years later, the promised mixed use development is coming soon. After additional tax subsidies, please. 
  • A series of developers promise to urban Renaissant (we might as well coin a verb for it) with a series of tax credits, incentives, loans, and the city of Springfield’s construction of parking garages. (The saga unfolds here.) Decades after the first attempts at public/private glory, the building remains boarded up at city expense, but the parking garages and their debt and annual maintenance costs are there.

What happens over and over: The private developer gets what it wants and breaks its promises. The iron-clad contracts to which the city thinks it has bound the developer are renegotiated when the developer is going to not meet them to save face for the city, or the developer walks away from the contracts entirely.

Sadly, the lesson tomorrow’s leaders won’t learn a lesson that these sorts of agreements benefit the private at the expense of the public. The lesson they will learn is to make their iron-clad contracts iron-cladder as they continue the same pattern.

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Justification Forevermore

Last year, when I was staining my deck, I found a little hook screwed into the outside of the deck. A small hook, not something big enough to hang a plant on, but bigger than a small eyehook screw. I had no use for it, so I took it off of the deck, and I thought I might throw it away.

Well, you know me.

Since the hook was only partially oxidized, I threw it into the drawer amongst my tools that holds miscellaneous screws, eyehooks, s hooks, and whatnot.

So we have a woodburned sign that hangs from a post beside our driveway with our family name on it (“Welcome to the Smith-Wessons”). In the recent (and by recent, I mean “a couple weeks ago) wind storm, the sign blew off the post, from which it was hanging by a couple of chain links between hooks on the post and hooks on the sign. As is the wont of our woodwork in the wind, the hook from the post was missing.

So as I was rooting in the drawer for an eyehook screw to replace the missing hook, I came across the still only partially oxidized recycled screw from the deck. And I found that it was actually the same style of hook as the missing hook from the post. So a couple bits of broken toothpick and a bit of twisting later, and the sign is back up until the next windstorm.

But using that recycled screw is now going to be all the justification I need for my normal packrattery. All the times I through something in a drawer instead of into a trash can because I might use it someday (but seemingly never do) are trumped by this one time where, yes, I did actually use it.

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