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Small-print edition!

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From our friends at Shorpy.com comes this fascinating image of a young woman working in the big city in 1956. Notice the book under her manuscript and the hand-held magnifier next to it.

NYC Career Girl, 1956I suspect the book in the photo above is a variant of the Compact Oxford English dictionary. The one I have is from the 1970s and the pages are set up a little differently. The magnifier that came with my COED is the same as in the Shorpy.com photo.

Because the full OED is 20 volumes, the compact editions are composed of multiple pages reduced so that several pages fit onto a single page, if you follow me. That makes the looking glass essential to reading the entries. Even with the pages crammed in so tiny, my COED is still a bulky two volumes.

OED

Here’s a photo from the Web showing a modern-day COED. The looking glass or magnifier provided with the books nowadays seems to be a nifty round one with no handle.

Compact OED

An amazing resource for us word nerds.

My favorite dictionary for just reading—and you know you’ve got it bad when you collect and, yes, read old dictionaries—is my hardback facsimile of Noah Webster’s first American dictionary, as published in 1828. It’s fun to see how our language has changed since Webster’s day.

American Dictionary of the English Language

 

The Quest: A journal that likes fountain pens!

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It’s that time of year again, when I search for an office journal that is fountain-pen friendly!

Journal with Fountain Pen

As the photo below shows, bleed-through is an annoying problem, as I use both sides of the paper and I also write with medium, wet-writing nibs (usually Sheaffer or Parkers). So please wish me luck on this important quest. My current office journal is nice, but the bleed-through drives me nuts (please; no remarks about what a short little drive that is).

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The notebook I’m currently using is a Gallery Leather Desk Planner 9-1/2″ x 7-1/4″ journal. It has detailed color maps of the world, important toll-free number and website info, and is printed on a pretty cream-colored smooth paper. The leather cover is thin and bendable, which I like, and the pages are gilt-edged, which adds a classy touch. But the bleed-through is a deal-breaker for me. Since I’ll be paying for my journal myself–no freebies at this blog–I won’t be reporting on a wide sample, but you’ll learn how my search progresses. Isn’t this exciting?!?!??!

UPDATE:

After exhaustive research—and I’m not kidding you—I opted for the Black n’ Red Executive Notebook, which is an 11-3/4″ x 8-1/2″ linen-lined hardcover journal with 192 gray-lined pages, 33 lines per page. These have sewn bindings and the pages show—at least with a Mont Blanc fine nib and my favorite Levenger amethyst ink—absolutely no bleed through in the little test I did on a back page. I won’t be using these—I got a couple from Amazon at about $15 a pop—until the new year rolls around, but I have high hopes! These also have color geographic and Metro maps, which are neat if not vital to the mission. They look understated, stylish, and businesslike, and there’s a little red ribbon for keeping track of what day you’re on. I’ll keep updating this blog entry as time goes on so keep an eye out for updates!

Do not hold in hand!

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blackcat firecrackers

Good advice from a package of vintage firecrackers. As kids, my friends and I loved setting off firecrackers. Nowadays, they aren’t something I mess with. My wife hates them, they frighten my dog Murphy, and I live in a state that prohibits their sale and use.

One of the coolest things about firecrackers was the always colorful and usually bizarre art on the packaging. Since almost all the firecrackers we saw were made in China, and there was little difference in the product, the labels were exotic to our eyes and a big factor in which brands we bought.

The only brand I can remember now is Black Cat. So that art comes first in this little retrospective. The other labels came from an informative online article about how the firecrackers were made and sold back in the 1950s and ’60s. Enjoy!

firecrackers_americaneagle-1 firecrackers_anchor firecrackers_blackbat firecrackers_bobcobills firecrackers_bopeep firecrackers_captainkidd firecrackers_catsbrand firecrackers_colt firecrackers_dragontiger firecrackers_fishbrand firecrackers_geogiacrackers firecrackers_giraffe firecrackers_happyman firecrackers_hundredbirds firecrackers_jester firecrackers_junglebrand firecrackers_kingkong firecrackers_ladybrand firecrackers_monkeys firecrackers_nacha firecrackers_navybrand firecrackers_peacock2 firecrackers_redinjun firecrackers_rocket firecrackers_santaclaus firecrackers_spacemissile firecrackers_superatomic firecrackers_typewriter WycMi

Jay Leno: Cool-and-a-half!

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I’m not a television watcher, so I’ve never seen Jay Leno on the Tonight Show or any other program. But I’ve read on the Web about his car collection and that makes him the coolest person in the world.

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Mr. Leno is a couple of years older than I am, and better preserved (damn his eyes), but I’m willing to bet we shared one obsession as we grew up: CARS!

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In my teens, I read every Motor Trend, Hot Rod, Road & Track, or other car-related magazine I could get my hands on. Sitting on the side of my bed in the bedroom I shared with my brother, I’d read and re-read all I could about what was coming out from Detroit or what the kustom karmakers were up to. I sent off for the J.C. Whitney catalogs and read and re-read ‘em.

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Folks like Big Daddy Don Garlits, George Barris, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, and Dean Jeffries were my idols. GM designer Harley Earl was the fellow with the best job in the world.

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My blue-fabric school binder had a Garlits sticker, an STP sticker, a Hooker Headers sticker, Moon eyeballs, Cherry Bomb, and Thrush muffler stickers on it. Of course, I had no car, but once I did, I used STP in it (for whatever it was supposed to do) and one afternoon installed a Cherry Bomb muffler. The cop who pulled me over on the first ride I took with that muffler explained that it wasn’t against the law for me to buy it or own it, but the town of Wonderful Naples on the Gulf wouldn’t allow me to use it on my Corvair!!!

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Back in my youth, cars were amazing. And a bit of the coolness of your car rubbed off on its owner. It’s just the way things were. I remember riding the schoolbus in Port Arthur, Texas, past the Ford dealer and seeing Kraft paper covering all the windows so we couldn’t get a peek at the NEW FORD MUSTANG! God knows, we tried to sneak a peek! I remember walking out of a movie theater in Houma, Louisiana, after seeing A Hard Day’s Night with my gang and seeing my first Studebaker Avanti, gleaming metalflake gold, roll by like a chariot of the gods. Holy crap; what a car!

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My favorite Christmas of my kid days was 1966, when we lived in Marathon, Florida. My favorite gift wasn’t the Man from U.N.C.L.E. plastic briefcase with that snazzy multi-part pistol/rifle, or the green bottle of Hai Karate aftershave. It was the stack of car magazines Santa brought! And what cars there were that year. I read and studied those magazines till they fell to pieces.

The two most astonishing cars, to my eye, were the new Camaro—utter elegance—and the Olds Toronado. That car was just an absolute mind-blower. Looking like an updated coffin-nosed Cord, this was perhaps the most unabashedly masculine car GM ever made. That hood went on forever, those wheelwells were aggressively bold, the rakish rear roofline just screamed speed and arrogance. And it had hide-away headlights and front-wheel drive! Oh, my. I swiped some of my dad’s onionskin typing paper and traced those Toronado magazine photos over and over; trying to discover what made it look so amazingly cool.

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The next year, in spite of my pleading, my mom bought a ’67 Riviera GS. It was a beaut; battleship gray with redlined Kelly Springfield tires. The rolling speedometer went to 160. But I wanted us to have a Toronado! At least my dad didn’t get his way; he wanted us to buy an AMC Ambassador, of all things.

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I knew a guy in his late ‘20s who owned a then-new ’65 Buick Skylark convertible. It was metallic gold or bronze, depending on whether it was in the sun or the shade. He washed and waxed that car every week, and it just gleamed. This fellow was handsome; ripped from working every day on a commercial fishing boat, and if a girl wanted to hang around him, she had to help with his weekly car ritual. That’s just the way it was. And this was no cursory wash and wax; he used that Blue Coral car wax in the tin and he even waxed the inside of the gas-cap door.

No shortcuts allowed on HIS car.

Did I think that guy was cool? You KNOW he was cool. His ride was cool, and that made him just that much cooler.

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And when I saw a little segment on the Web that showed Jay Leno with his metalflaked-gold customized ’66 Toronado, I was stunned. The segment went on to show a large garage Mr. Leno has, filled with beautiful and well-cared-for cars, and I knew that, to my way of thinking, Mr. Jay Leno is the coolest guy in the world. He earned his money and spent it wisely and all the coolness of all those cars transfers coolness to him. That’s just the way it is.

A great instrument instructs the player . . .

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One of my more unusual guitars is a Hallmark Barris Kustom from Bob Shade. This guitar is shaped and painted to replicate custom-hotrod-builder George Barris’ personal crest. Barris, a buddy of Shade, is the fellow who designed what I consider to be the koolest kar ever made: The TV show Batmobile:

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Barris is called the King of the Kustomizers; he also designed and built the Munster Koach, the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck, the Kitt car, the Dukes of Hazzard General Lee, and the MonkeeMobile, among a host of others:

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Back to this guitar. Bob, whom I’ve known for 20 years, has given me some good deals and trades on guitars and in return I’ve given him my trifling skills as a photographer, writer, and/or sketch artist/designer. We have fun together because we love guitars and kool kars and we both have a wacky sense of humor. Since the Barris Kustom guitar Bob made as a six-stringed version of Barris’ crest is either a prototype or a mistake, it doesn’t have exactly the same control circuitry his production models have. It has a single knob for volume and a single Shade-recreation of the early 1950s Carvin AP6 pickup. No tone control.

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That being said, it is one of the best-sounding and playing guitars I have. It has a maple/rosewood neck of the Tele/Strat scale, though bound. It’s a solid body and fairly lightweight. It comes with Bob’s version of the old Mosrite tremolo. The Carvin-clone pickup gives it a spanky yet very articulate sound, especially since I use LaBella light-gauge flatwound strings on all of my electric guitars. It sure doesn’t look like a run-of-the-mill guitar, does it?

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Played through one of my old Fender tube amps at jams and such, this guitar is amazing. Like an acoustic guitar, the lack of tone controls or a second pickup forces the player to make any sound changes with his fingers: Where the pick or fingers strike the strings, how hard, how frequently. With that AP6-type pickup, all those dynamics come through and it just sounds great in any mix and on any song, whether it’s Blind Albert Reed, Buddy Holly, or John Denver.

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Kool guitar!!! Thanks, Bob and George!!!

How many “Z’s” are in the word “inept?”

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For the third time, the Pizza Hut in Hyattsville, Maryland, has tripped over their own feet when it comes to delivering what their parent company spends millions of dollars, presumably, to promote: Pizza Hut: Make it great!

More like Pizza Hut: Make it WRONG!!!

For the third time, we have ordered online, as part of our family-dinner order, a large Super Supreme, hand-tossed, with extra cheese. The automatons at their Queens Chapel Road facility, for the third time, have delivered a large plain pizza instead of what we ordered and paid for.

Once, I called, and spoke for half an hour with a belligerent and defensive manager at that Pizza Hut facility, and he offered to send out another, properly prepared, pizza if I would hand the driver the earlier incorrect one. I finally agreed. After a two-hour wait, their delivery person delivered ANOTHER LARGE PLAIN PIZZA!

Astonishingly inept.

I think what trips these folks up is when you order an additional ingredient to their standard offerings. They see “extra cheese” and forget the primary choice, Super Supreme. Or they are so overworked they simply don’t give a damn.

I will never give another nickel to Pizza Hut. They aren’t ready for prime time. They are inept. Three strikes and you are OUT!

Never let your customer be your quality-control department. There are other vendors out there who can get it right.

 

There’s big money in television, or, how Jimmy got his new bicycle

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The above ad ran in small-publisher comic books in the early 1950s, when TV was the new amazing thing. After decades of getting their mass-market entertainment from movies and radio, TV was just astonishing to most Americans. The shows broadcast in those days were primitive by our standards, but hey; the novelty of the medium trumped finesse in execution.

We’ll save that discussion for later, as today we’re examining coin banks with a television motif. The idea was that your friends and relatives would be so smitten by the TV bank that they couldn’t resist dropping their money into it, thus fronting you the money for your new bike or pony or, if you were a smart kid, shares of IBM or Polaroid stock.

I love the copy in this ad. The art is so-so, from the Bazooka Joe school of kid gangs with funny hats and funnier hair. The text, though, is something wonderful.

LIGHTS UP! LIKE BIGGEST, COSTLIEST TELEVISION SETS! Well, true, if lighting up is what you look to a television set for. The heart of a TV is a large and educated light bulb. Most people, though, feel there’s more to the equation.

A couple of the bullet points are strangely worded:
HITS EVERY TELEVISION HIGH . . . FIGHTS AND ALL! Boxing was a major draw in the early days of TV. It moved, you see.

THRILLS YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS POP-EYED! I can’t imagine how the copywriter came up with this one. I don’t think I’d want to be thrilled pop-eyed; it sounds like it might hurt.

IT’S A HONEY IN EVERY DETAIL! I have to agree, I suppose.

Here are the six little pictures that light up on this bank when you drop in your (or your mom’s) coin, in the words of the ad:
• a fight
• a hilarious cartoon
• a tense rodeo scene
• a swell skater
• a dramatic dance team, and
• a circus clown with his trick dog!

The six exciting pictures pretty much cover what TV was all about in those days!

Thanks to the miracle of eBay, we can see this and other great TV banks from the mid 20th century. Here’s the bank touted in the ad, and this example was going for about $160:

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A nice-looking unit. I guess it would hold a lot of coins.

A closeup of the all-important picture, showing the tense rodeo scene. I hope your eyes are still in your head after seeing that:
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Here’s another type of TV bank. The low-resolution picture shows a little girl or a puppet or a doll with a curious parachute-like skirt. It’s a nice-looking bank, though:

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This example is from a Danish eBay auction. The bank has just one scene: a speeding cowboy (see the velocity lines coming off the legs of his horse?) chasing and attempting to rope another horse. Note that there are three slots on this one for the various sized coins that might find their way into your TV bank. Not sure that is a compelling feature; one big slot would work for all the coins and they’re going to get jumbled and commingled once they go through the slot anyway.
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Some of the TV banks celebrate particular TV shows of the era. Here’s a Romper Room TV bank, with perhaps the world’s most insincere clown:
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This TV bank shows an oddly blasé Howdy Doody, who was a hugely popular marionette from those times. This appears to be one of those ceramic banks that you had to smash to get your coins. I didn’t like that concept:
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Our last TV bank looks to me as though it’s a repurposed radio bank, with a black-and-white paper photo pasted over the radio dial to make it look like a TV:
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So find yourself a TV bank and start saving up those coins; you know you want to impress the gang with your new bike!!!

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