Sunday, February 26, 2017

Vintage TV ads: in twenty seconds or less!

As usual, this was a process. For reasons unknown, something popped into my head today. Years ago, in a compilation of "classic" TV ads, I saw a very brief spot for a certain type of cooker that I hadn't seen before. I just remembered that the announcer was British, and the cooker cooked things at some sort of supernatural speed. You could do a chicken in 5 seconds or something. I also remembered the type of energy used was weird - thermonuclear or something? Thermodynamic? Convectional? I could NOT remember the name, only the weird feeling it gave me, as if it would emit radiation or something.

It took a lot of googling and search terms and switching back and forth from YouTube to Google images, but I finally found it - and I knew I would recognize the name the minute I saw it! It was INFRARED. For some reason, the idea of an infrared cooker scared the hell out of me. It sounded like it should come with its own Geiger counter.

Once I knew the name of it, it wasn't hard to find the ad on YouTube. It was the same one, except I had remembered it a little bit wrong, as something with a glass dome. In truth, it's a sort of prototype for the George Foreman grill, or one of those thingies that awful Southern lady pushes in the infomercials.

Having noticed how mercifully brief the ad was, I thought: what if I did a whole post on ten-second-long "classic" commercials? I didn't get too far. Soon I was up to 20 seconds. Most of them are at least within 30.  I love things that get right to the point.

Reese Witherspoon animation!

In my ever-more-demonic attempts to make things move, I took this picture of Reese Witherspoon from Legally Blonde - that DOES have an "e" on it, doesn't it? - and made her talk. Well, sort of. It's hard to mess with facial features and have them come out looking more-or-less natural. They don't here, but that's all part of the fun, isn't it? The idea to make her eyes move was an afterthought. I'd have her filing her nails, tossing her hair back, giving herself a mani-pedi, etc., but hell, I don't want to push my luck.

This was taken from an image I put together for the thumbnail of my YouTube video, Whatever Happened to the Popular Girl? Everyone says a good thumbnail attracts more views. Ha. YOUR thumbnail, maybe. I make personalized thumbnails because they're fun to make. And it's even more fun to make them talk.

Bentley does nothing - to music!

Cats Doing Nothing, Part 496: Bentley does what he does best - to the tune of Leroy Anderson's charming classic, The Waltzing Cat.

Whatever happened to the popular girl?

Late one night, my thoughts began rambling, and I turned on the video camera. I've been trying to figure some things out about internet popularity, and popularity/lack of it in general, what it means, why people crave it - and whatever happened to that girl who seemingly had everything, the one who had not friends, but an entourage, when she was fourteen years old. 

Surprisingly, I DID find out what happened to her! Literally, I found out. I got a Facebook message from The Popular Girl, and in this video I tell you what it is. This was simply amazing. I have the answer, folks, so you have to watch this.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Movie night! Hercules in New York (1970) Bear fight

"Oh my God!" Northern lights of Norway

God, you're moody today

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Sleepy panda (animation)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Just a tiny porcupine called Wilbur eating a slice of banana

"Don't go!!!!": Tourists rate the wonders of Scotland

What's the point of going abroad if you're just another tourist carted around in buses surrounded by sweaty mindless oafs from Kettering and Coventry in their cloth caps and their cardigans and their transistor radios and their Sunday Mirrors, complaining about the tea - 'Oh they don't make it properly here, do they, not like at home' - and stopping at Majorcan bodegas selling fish and chips and Watney's Red Barrel and calamaris and two veg and sitting in their cotton frocks squirting Timothy White's suncream all over their puffy raw swollen purulent flesh 'cos they 'overdid it on the first day.' And being herded into endless Hotel Miramars and Bellvueses and Bontinentales with their modern international luxury roomettes and draught Red Barrel and swimming pools full of fat German businessmen pretending they're acrobats forming pyramids and frightening the children and barging into queues and if you're not at your table spot on seven you miss the bowl of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, the first item on the menu of International Cuisine, and every Thursday night the hotel has a bloody cabaret in the bar, featuring a tiny emaciated dago with nine-inch hips and some bloated fat tart with her hair brylcreemed down and a big arse presenting Flamenco for Foreigners. And then some adenoidal typists from Birmingham with flabby white legs and diarrhoea trying to pick up hairy bandy-legged wop waiters called Manuel and once a week there's an excursion to the local Roman Ruins to buy cherryade and melted ice cream and bleeding Watney's Red Barrel and one evening you visit the so called typical restaurant with local colour and atmosphere and you sit next to a party from Rhyl who keep singing 'Torremolinos, torremolinos' and complaining about the food - 'It's so greasy here, isn't it?' - and you get cornered by some drunken greengrocer from Luton with an Instamatic camera and Dr. Scholl sandals and last Tuesday's Daily Express and he drones on and on and on about how Mr. Smith should be running this country and how many languages Enoch Powell can speak and then he throws up over the Cuba Libres. And sending tinted postcards of places they don't realise they haven't even visited to 'All at number 22, weather wonderful, our room is marked with an 'X'. Food very greasy but we've found a charming little local place hidden away in the back streets where they serve Watney's Red Barrel and cheese and onion crisps and the accordionist plays 'Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner'.

''Horse'' for the Tandy MC-10

New cat animation: breakthrough!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Monet's Pond, Seki City, Japan.

My beautiful Bentley!

Ghost horse


Cigarette psychology

There was a time (think Mad Men) when smoking was so entrenched in culture as to be expected, even required.  A non-smoker was a social pariah, an oddball who lived on wheat germ and drank only celery tonic. Maybe he belonged to the Oddfellows (whatever that is). Old movies abound with cigarette symbolism, usually sexual in nature. It's all part of the art of seduction. Think Bette Davis and Paul Henreid blowing smoke in each other's faces.

Nobody mentions coughing your lungs out in a cancer ward.

The following little slice of post-war wisdom came from one of those oddity sites, so I felt free to borrow it. No doubt they did, too. Let's zero in on it some more. . . 

Even without reading the text, we can already see that hand position is paramount, even if the meaning isn't crystal-clear. The middle position is kind of baffling to me. I've never in my life seen anyone hold a cigarette like that. It's positively weaponlike. Is it meant as a sort of ash catapult, or an enemy smoke-wafter?

All of these photos remind me of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, for some reason. He was constantly smoking in that one, just as EVERYONE was constantly smoking (and drinking). In every picture he made, the cigarette was his signature. But we all know how it ended. One might say that it cost him a lot.

Here the good doctor goes into detail about how smoking style reveals a man's personality. Man's. Not woman's:

OK then. So where do I start?  For one thing, that Dr. Neutra thing is suspicious to me. I think of Mr. Neutron in Monty Python. . .

. . .  and of course the words neutral and neuter. And a nutria, which is a kind of large beaverlike rodent made into coats (and other things).

But the reason women's smoking gestures aren't considered significant is obvious to Dr. Neutron (or whoever he is): "Women are so affected naturally in their regular posture that they're more often than not too conscious of how they hold a cigarette, and therefore useless as subjects for this experiment."

Useless? Affected? I can think of something to do with my cigarette. Dr. Neutron: sit on this and rotate!

But there's more of this shit to trudge through:

Note that the descriptions of women are devastating, even abusive, whereas he goes fairly easy on the men. If they put on airs, they're not "affected" but "sort of the Texas millionaire type". It's obvious the vast majority of the adjectives to describe men are positive (intellectual, brainy, contemplative, direct, straight-forward, hail fellow well-met, daring, calculating, dreamer, replete with business caution). As for women, any analysis is "just a guess" because they are so "affected": "insecure, afraid to lose that cigarette" (? They come in packs, don't they?). "She probably holds on to her man like glue." Greedy, graspy, possessive!  But the next one is worse: "Typical grasp of a female bored with her date. She has to concentrate on the tip to keep from yawning." One has to wonder if this Dr. Neutron has a filthy Freudian mind and sees prick-symbols everywhere he looks.

Is this whole thing a joke, a bit of satire to send up people's smoking habits? I think not! I believe it's drenched with misogyny and contempt for women, and trivializes everything about them.

So what is the conclusion? While you're busy rotting your lungs and throat with terminal cancer, boys, make sure you hold your cigarette in the proper way. Cultivate it for a good impression. Grasp it properly so that the tip is sticking straight up. And good luck in the heart-and-lung ward.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

This will give you hope


I have a few fetishes, like cars from the 1940s (maybe you've noticed). Obsolete technology is definitely one of them. Fortunately I have the bliss of YouTube (which is also full of crap - maybe you've noticed that, too?), from which to make gifs. I've made thousands of them, literally,                 but one of my chief obsessions is old TV and movie logos. These giff up real good because they're so short, and lend themselves to the endless-loop format. I've pulled out some of my all-time favorites here. In some cases here, I cheat a bit and include TV show beginnings and endings that are just too good to leave out.

This fierce-looking ABC logo lights up from below, but it looks as if someone is manually raising a curtain on it. Either that, or they're using a flashlight. REALLY old shows had captions and titles that looked like they were on a long roll of paper or canvas that was rolled up and down like an old window blind. 

I LOVE DUMONT. I love everything about Dumont! I even love the low-tech-sounding name. Clips from this defunct network are few, because almost everything went out live back then, but a few kinescopes were made. We still have kinescopes: what this means is that people just make a video of what is on their TV screen. This gets 50,000 views, no matter how shaky the picture or how crappy the content. I don't know why this is, because I get 5 or 6 views at best for videos I spend hours on. 

But never mind. I love Dumont!  I have milked the few available clips for all they are worth. Here the Dumont logo seems to fall down violently with a big clunk. No doubt it was just a piece of cardboard that somebody dropped by hand.

Oh, this is weird. It's a version of the militaristic ABC logo attached to an old circus show, but this time a FACE pops up in the middle of it. Who IS that, anyway? (Why should we care? Imagine how long he has been dead.)

This is the famous ender for a well-known TV show. I have always loved its elegance, the silken heart, and the way the beautiful script writes itself. The CBS aperture/eye is a nice touch. It's spooky, as if you are going right inside it.

I don't know much about this. It was in one of those compilations. I wonder if it isn't a radio thing that someone has tinkered with to make it look like TV. No kidding. I saw a beautiful Buick thing that had a bright light flashing on and off all through it, like a strobe light, no doubt to make it look more "vintage". It ruined it, basically. Leave it alone, people. A masterpiece is a masterpiece.

This is more of a show title than a logo, but it was too good NOT to include. I love the distortion that indicates the degeneration/decay of the film, and the titles are definitely printed on a roll of something that is being cranked. The sponsors go on and on (and WHAT is Double Danderine?), and then comes the title, Okay Mother, starring Dennis James, who is nobody's mother.

This appeared at the end of very early Popeye cartoons. Only a few of them, the ones from the mid-1930s. When my kids were pre-teens, we were "into" Popeye and videotaped them from a show that aired them very early in the morning. If we saw one that had the pen-and-ink logo, we tried to "freeze" the tape on it with the VCR. I don't know if we ever succeeded. It is, of course, easy to freeze on a DVD of it, or even a YouTube video. 

I think of it now, and it gets to me. We watched St. Elsewhere together, and a few other things. Mad About You was another one. I remember they called it Love Sucks. They were about the same age then as my granddaughter Caitlin. For reasons unknown - for no reason at all that I can figure out - she will no longer give me the time of day. She will no longer say hi to me, or look at me or acknowledge me at all. I feel as if I am not even there. 

I don't get it, but it breaks my heart. Only a few years ago, we used to watch old commercials together - hours of them, it seemed. I was hopeful that she would share my love of the vintage and the obsolete.  I still have DVD boxed sets of old ads that we watched when the kids came here for sleepovers. For a couple of years we made YouTube videos together, which was one of the best times of my life. Sometimes I honestly wonder if she sees me as being too out of step with technology to bother with. Has my love of the obsolete made ME obsolete in her eyes?

But I digress.

I love the Pathe rooster! I didn't even know about it until relatively recently. I may have seen it on a logo somewhere, but I had no idea there was one that flapped around while standing on the world. It's pretty bizarre.

You have to watch this for a while for the payoff, but it is well worth it. Obviously this is very early TV, right around the turn of the '50s.  Kinescopes always seem to wobble up and down. (Come to that, so do those abominable videos that get tens of thousands of views.) You can tell someone is filming the monitor, which is the only way they could keep a record of shows. Obviously this is one of the earliest TV incarnations of the comic legend.

I don't think this needs any comment at all.

I just like this one.

Oh, now this is weird, and a recent find. Carl Laemmle (and how I hope I am spelling that right) was a Hollywood producer, but I had no idea he put his smiling face on things. This may well have been from the silent era.

This Universal logo showed up seemingly hundreds of times in compilations, with that wonderful grindy motor-sound that I talked about. This one was likely silent, but it is very elegant.

This is long, but yet another example of the classineses of those Universal titles. They had all the others beat. 

This might just be my favorite. It's startling and unexpected to see that Pathe rooster popping out of the Warner Brothers logo (which zooms out until it is right in your face). I had no idea chickens were so important to the film industry.

But there is one more I want to tack on. This is so strange that it doesn't fit anywhere.

These are from an unsold pilot for a game show (Pass the Line) from 1954. It looks like it was made on a budget of about $25.00. I might try to post it elsewhere, in case someone is interested in 27 minutes of agony. 

It makes no sense whatsoever. Someone, some kind of "artist" (in this case, the host's next-door neighbor) draws a picture. For some reason, it has to be in just ten lines. The first panelist has to copy it. The next panelist has to copy the copy. And so on. No one knows the point of this. It's one big muddle. At the end, the host exhorts the folks at home to "join right in", which is hard to do when you don't know what the hell is going on. The only thing that makes it interesting is that Jonathan Winters shows up. He has no idea what is going on either. But the end credits, again on cardboard, are fascinating. They are a whole new definition of "crawl".