The Sad Allure of The Vermont Country Store

For me, browsing the offerings of The Vermont Country Store is a little like clearing out the house of an elderly relative who’s died.

Tender sentiments and pity mingle with embarrassment and faint revulsion.
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File under: Legendary Rowers

Meet my friend Pat Quesnel, the first person to row solo across the Pacific . . .

I was looking around for photos for a project using these terms: man and boat, man and row boat, small boat and man, arctic row boat, Faroes row boat, falling row boat, row boat tiny, row boat at sea, row boat ocean, rowing archive, rowing museum, Faroes metal boats tiny Ocean, skiff, skiff and man, high-walled skiff, and Faroes skiff. This photo turned up on ebay and I thought “Well, maybe. It’s a newspaper photo, rights should be reasonable,” and so I saved a copy in my project folder. I rejected the photo for the job but bothered to read the caption before I tossed it and, fuck a Roosevelt Elk, it’s my old friend Pat Quesnel from Kodiak, the first person to row solo across the Pacific. I have not contacted him in years but I still miss his company.
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The United Typothetae of America (and Its Future)

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”

They were what you might call a guild of master printers.

On September 27, 1900, they pondered their future and they et. They started off with Blue Points, a splash of sherry, something called Essence of White Sage Hen, olives, salted almonds, and celery. Then turbans of black bass, sliced cucumbers, and potatoes marquises. And/or diamondback terrapin (in case). And/or lamp chops with asparagus tips. (And Parisian potatoes!) Washed down with various 1884 Sauternes.

There was an interval of sherbet crème de menthe (to cleanse the palate?) and cigarettes, followed by roast stuffed quail (imperiale) with corn cake and guava jelly. Plus lettuce and tomato, filled with celery and mayonnaise. A gulp or so of Moët & Chandon.

Ice cream (en surprise) and assorted cakes for afters. A cheese course of Roquefort cheese and “saline wafers.” And a wee nip of Chartreuse. Topped off by café noir and cigars.

(From the wonderful NYPL Menu Collection.)

Artists’ protest letter to James Johnson Sweeney, New York, N.Y., 1956

In honor of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday: a 1956 artists’ letter of protest against his design for the Guggenheim Museum, which “indicates a callous disregard for the fundamental rectilinear frame of reference necessary for the adequate visual contemplation of works of art.”

Texas Charm and an iPhone

When I was growing up, I was afraid of two things: my mother and Russians. We had to practice duck-and-cover drills, and even as a grade school student I had to swear each year on a form that I was not a communist. I had nightmares of bombs falling from the sky. I still do sometimes, though I know Commies are now a symbol for other threats in my life.

I don’t think anybody other than Mitt Romney now thinks Russia is a threat to anybody. I think we mostly feel sorry for them — they seem rather pathetic, don’t they? And I don’t mean that in a mean way (not even after yesterday). I mean it more in a southern “bless your heart” kind of way. Mean, no — condescending, probably.

By the time my friend Lou Thompson asks the rhetorical question, “I mean really, do I look like I’d start trouble? Just wait before you answer that,” I bet you will want to read all the way through to the end of her post from The City Formerly Known as Leningrad, St. Petersburg.

Your Memorial Day tune: A More Perfect Union (Titus Andronicus)

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, instituted after the American Civil War to commemorate fallen Union soldiers.

So here is a song for the day. A More Perfect Union. Titus Andronicus. From 2010.

A Timeline of Toronto Storefronts

100 Adelaide St. E. March 1989/April 1998 by Patrick Cummins.

Toronto photographer and archivist Patrick Cummins has documented his city’s vernacular architecture by photographing the same addresses over the span of at least three decades.

Cummin’s photographs are featured in a new book, Full Frontal T.O., featuring text by Shawn Mecallef; there’s an exhibition as well.

And an Atlantic interview with Patrick Cummins.

(Thanks to clusterflock friend, Toronto photographer Jan Normandale.)

Do you have Prince Albert in a can?

Unless it turns out that Alexander Graham Bell didn’t really want to see Watson — that he was just goofing on the guy — then the first documented prank phone call would appear to have occurred about eight years after that famous 1876 exchange . . . and at the expense of an undertaker in Providence, R.I.

RIP Richard Harding, Owner of Chicago’s Quiet Knight . . .

. . . and before that, Poor Richard’s.

Good stuff in this Sun-Times obit on the Chicago scene, mid-sixties through seventies:

Los Angeles had the Troubador. Chicago had the Quiet Knight.

Personal note: In July 1978, after seeing the Stones at Soldier Field, the ex and I were walking down Belmont Avenue, right past the Quiet Knight, en route to our friend Mark’s apartment. Mark lived in a garret atop Schuba’s (still going strong at Belmont and Southport).

And that, children, was the night the Stones, along with Willie Dixon, paid a visit to the Quiet Knight and jammed with Muddy Waters. The night we walked on by, oblivious, and missed it.

Sally Cruikshank: “Make Me Psychic” (1978)

What got me started was the discovery that animation artist Sally Cruikshank has an Etsy shop where she’s selling watercolors.

Cruikshank is probably best known for Quasi at the Quackadero (1975), which is now listed on the United States National Film Registry. Or you may have seen the animated sequences she contributed to Sesame Street in the nineties.

My favorite, though, has always been Make Me Psychic. “Which way to the we-fwesh-ments?”

(Many of Cruikshank’s films are available for viewing on her YouTube channel, laughingsal, as well as on a DVD you can buy from her Etsy shop.)

Sea creatures

Perfectly preserved specimens from an epoch when the Driftless Region was the bed of a vast sea.

R.I.P. Levon Helm

“The music starts around eight o’clock, and it’s over when it’s over,” he said of the Midnight Rambles at his home in Woodstock, New York.

I’ve been meditating on Levon Helm since his daughter’s recent announcement that the end was near. Wondering why I felt so torn up over his impending demise.

Now he has passed over, and I’m still working on it.

Eat and run, please!

Brisk modern style, in the form of cubist decor and streamlined furniture, provided assistance in the late 1920s and 1930s [to restaurant owners seeking quick customer turnover]. Artist and industrial designer John Vassos, who illustrated the book Phobia, felt he understood psychology well and successfully applied it in his 1931 design of NYC’s Rismont Tea Room, where the tables were a bit too small and chair seats were triangular. “The chairs are comfortable — if one doesn’t sit too long on them,” he wrote. [See photo.]

Uncomfortable chairs would become known in the restaurant industry as “15-minute chairs.” Charles Eames’ fiberglass scoop chair might be an example, offering little possibility of posture realignment.

Shanghai Food Shop Incorporated

Nineteen varieties of chop suey — plus liver and onions and American cheese sandwiches at the Shanghai Food Shop (1938).

From the NYPL Menu Collection.

Entirely music

If you’ve been hanging out with me on clusterflock for a while, you may know that I am crazy-mad for Van Dyke Parks.

Okay, there is this interview and it focuses on VDP’s career as a child actor and it is really good and one of the things I like best is a recollected exchange between VDP and Lillian Gish.
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Gavin Bryars — The Sinking of the Titanic

I could wait till the weekend to post this, but why?

Performed live by the Wordless Music Orchestra on Jan. 16, 2008, at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City.

Originally written in 1969, Gavin Bryars’ first major composition, The Sinking of the Titanic, still sounds just as vital, fresh, and forward-thinking now as it did then. In a concert from the Wordless Music Series, recorded by WNYC, the piece was performed live by the Wordless Music Orchestra on Jan. 16, 2008, at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City. Conductor Brad Lubman led the ensemble.

Imported Frankfurter, 16 cents

Full listing includes prices at Brooklyn markets on this day in 1910 for jack rabbit, Bermuda parsley, Tunis dates, squab, and spring lamb.

Courtesy of @nypl_menus.

Also, premium bologna.

Your Tuesday Duck Hunt

Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937). Directed by Tex Avery.

Just because.

Note that in 1937 Porky was not Porky Piggin’ it.

Welcome to the before time before the before time

These are my goods, which I found in the place where I go and take what I need.

I feel like Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I found the goods in the ravine out back, but I ain’t telling exactly where.

Any idea what they is?

The Emigrant Irish (Eavan Boland)

Like oil lamps, we put them out the back,

of our houses, of our minds. We had lights
better than, newer than and then

a time came, this time and now
we need them. Their dread, makeshift example.

(Undye-ing gratitude to @Howlinow for her tip to the full text of Boland’s poem.)

À propos storytelling and reportage

Turns out that 2012 marks the centenary of the birth of Studs Terkel and that a retrospective of film, video and documentary programming spanning his television career will be among the highlights of a yearlong Chicago salute.

Of special interest to the media community will be the Studs Terkel Video and Film Festival, described by curator Tom Weinberg as “a free series of breakthrough events for people of all ages to see and enjoy both the remarkable man and his role as a TV pioneer.” Confirmed dates include June 2 at the Chicago History Museum and June 17 at the Claudia Cassidy Theater in the Chicago Cultural Center.

Weinberg, who was a close friend of Terkel and founder of the Media Burn Independent Video Archive, said the festival will include screenings of seven episodes of the landmark series Studs’ Place that have not been seen since 1951. Sixteen-millimeter kinescopes were discovered earlier this year in the basement of the Uptown home Terkel shared with his wife Ida, who died in 1999.

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Edible Artistry

This recreation of a Victorian Belgrave jelly looks a little like something scary James Cameron might expect to see when he descends to the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep.

Equally remarkable, and generally less frightening, are the other examples of edible artistry at Food History Jottings.

R.I.P. Peter Bergman (1939-2012)

Writer and comedian Peter Bergman, best known as a member of the Firesign Theatre, died last night of complications from leukemia. He was 72.

Richard Metzger on Peter Bergman:

The last time I talked to Peter was a few weeks ago. I’d picked up the Albert Ayler Holy Ghost box set, and there, on one of the live discs recorded in Cleveland in 1966, was Peter introducing the band! I called him up that morning and he excitedly told me about that event and we laughed a lot and I told him that he just HAD to write his autobiography.

“Pete, you’re the ‘Zelig’ of the rock era! You’ve been in a film with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Farrah Fawcett. You coined the terms “love-in.” You smoked a joint with Bob Marley and the Wailers when they were your opening act [True, the Wailers opened for Procter and Bergman in Boston. Pete told me the joint was “arm-sized”!]. You guys gigged with the Buffalo Springfield. You’ve worked with Spike Milligan, and now here you are with Albert Ayler, for god’s sake! I mean, come on! You have to do this!”


My mother was one of the many who visited the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. I asked her once about the Futurama, a kind of ride into the future twenty years hence.

“You rode the Futurama?” I asked her.

“Yes. Of course.”

“Wow! What was it like?”

[Dismissively.] “Oh, we just sat in little cars that we didn’t drive. We rode around on tracks and looked at the future.”

California may legalize driverless cars.

tweet of the day

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