Archive | July 2018

Reprise: This Much I Know

An entry from 2008.

Twelve years of Internet and six (?) of Wikipedia have made me very flabby mentally.

Once upon a time, if I wanted to know something, I would gladly scour libraries’ card catalogs for many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. Now I just Google, and if it’s not there, it’s not there.

Nevertheless there are at least a couple of things NOT found in Google or Wikipedia or YouTube:

1) The mid-1950s M&Ms TV commercial. I know I’ve seen this, years afterwards, possibly at the Museum of Broadcasting.  It starts with a live-action shot of a little girl with a dirty face. A male voiceover goes, Susie! You’re a chocolate mess! You should eat M&Ms chocolate candies! Switch to an animated cartoon of the talking Plain and Peanut candies. The Peanut is lying in a chaise longue by a swimming pool, sunning herself and talking in a Southern Belle voice. I’m an M&Ms Peanut. Fresh roasted to a golden tan, then drenched in creamy milk chocolate—whereupon she jumps off a diving board into the milk-chocolate swimming pool.

2) Conjecturism. This was a somewhat cranky mail-order art-history course, advertised in places like the NY Herald Tribune Book Review, circa 1960. Don’t Learn About Art This Way! was the hed, above a Fitzpatrick-style heavy-ink-style editorial cartoon showing the rear view of a big thug wielding a club before a cowering little man and saying, Now look, I’m an Authority on Art, so you better listen to me—or else. The National Lampoon or some other publication did a parody of this back in the 70s, when it was still fondly remembered. But you can’t find any reference to Conjecturism on the Net these days. At least I can’t.

Possibly 1) was plunked down the memory hole for reasons of taste and political correctness. Ive written the M&Ms people for the whereabouts of the commercial, but have received no reply. Even the Prelinger Archives have no record of it. But what happened to 2)? Surely Conjecturism was no flakier than Esthetic Realism.

Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

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POSTSCRIPT: Well whaddya know? I Google again and there in the December 1964 issue of Commentary magazine—in amongst the ads for self-help books, flash cards, and Bank Leumi—we have an elaborate two-page spread for Conjecturism! Alas, the double-truck does not include the thug with the club. But fascinating.

Mr. Theodore L. Shaw, it would appear, had a certain amount of money and an unlimited grudge against some long-departed art-history teacher he crossed swords with around 1923. Surely there’s a book in this.

Reprise: The Great Impostor (2010)

Preserved from an old blog.

To the Algonquin for a lunch in the Round Table Room today. A dinky little place, the Algonquin, full of dinky undistinguished-looking people, but that is part of its appeal. My event today was a literary MeetUp group that a rotund little lady put together in impromptu fashion, mainly by contacting her Twitter pals. I’m not sure how I got on her list. Anyway, there were 60 or 70 of us, mostly women, mostly Caucasian, mostly middle-aged. Arriving just before luncheon was served, I got put at one of the outlier tables, boasting several younger-than-average people and two women of color, one of them in a wheelchair.

For the main course we could choose between mustard salmon en croûte and chicken paillard. Most people had the salmon. It wasn’t that great.

This is what it’s like when you get old, I guess, I remarked to the young publishing bunny on my left. Lunch with lots of women and hardly any men.

That’s the publishing world, she cheerfully replied. Mostly women. (Is this because it doesn’t pay for shit, or because it’s so femmed up that any male in publishing feels he should be a fag?)

One of the published authors at the table was a lady diesel engineer who has piloted both a tugboat and riverboat. She definitely had the most interesting story to tell, though like a tugboat her tale was modest in size and kept close to home. The one male at the table kept urging her to read a really ripping book he’d picked up recently. Life on the Mississippi, by Mr. Mark Twain. Tugboat Annie made a note.

Me. I explained I did a little copyediting for Penguin Putnam, but that paid little under the best of circumstances, so mostly I worked in ad agencies as a Flash developer. Amazingly, most of my companions seemed to know what that was. So I warmed to the theme: I am the world’s worst Flash developer! Yes, ladies and gent. I get jobs and then lose them when my employers discover my incompetence. This usually takes a few weeks. Fortunately there are many many ad agencies doing pharma Flash development, and they can’t afford to be too picky.

The colored woman in the wheelchair and the PR bunny were wide-eyed at my brazenness. How do you get away with it? Don’t they test you or anything when you start?

Test! Who has time to test? Ha ha! You know, this is a pretty good idea for a book!

And they all agreed that yes indeed it was.