CSotD: Welcome to the World of Amusement

(Thank you, Clifford Berryman)

Pearls Before Swine (AMS) makes an excellent point, though there’s more to it. If you go back half a century, the evening network news was half an hour, but so was the local news and there was another half hour before bedtime, for a total of 90 minutes.

Drop back a century and broadcasting in general was just getting under way, but newspapers were thicker and more full of news, so people were still well inundated.

However, news was far less immediate, both in the sense of being at least 24 hours old and in the sense of providing few realistic images, aside from newsreels at the movies.

In discussing the assassination and prolonged death watch of James Garfield in 1881, I would remind kids that, for most people, keeping up with it might mean checking the blackboard outside the newspaper office, but with nearly 3/4 of the population living in rural areas, that might only happen once or twice a week.

OTOH, those folks lived in a world in which a sniffle on Monday could lead to a funeral on Thursday.

They didn’t require trigger warnings to avoid freaking out over what news did get through to them.

Speaking of my editorial cartooning lectures, Big Nate (AMS) has been writing food reviews for his school cafeteria, which reminds me of an odd moment.

I would talk about insightful humor versus stereotypical jokes, and would say that anybody could make jokes about cafeteria food, but the kids themselves could make much better jokes about things at their school that nobody over 17 even knew was going on.

Kid in the front row says, “Actually, our cafeteria food is pretty good.”

Shut up, kid.

But he was right. I usually ate in the cafeteria when I visited schools, and most of them were pretty good, though I remember one place where lunch was rice with a thin Velveeta gruel dribbled over it. I asked the kids at my table if it was typical and they sighed and said yes.

About the time I was ending my years doing that, budgets began getting cut, school kitchens were being shut down and the kids started getting airplane food: Bland, nasty stuff extruded in a centralized kitchen at district HQ and rewarmed for their dining pleasure.

Some humor never goes out of style.

Speaking of perennial humor, Reality Check (AMS) picks up on a complaint that I not only don’t share but feel is silly, given all the self-service innovations of the past few decades.

I remember, for instance, Vance Packard, an oft-cited expert on marketing, saying that self-serve gas pumps wouldn’t catch on, because women would find the process entirely too phallic.

I think the problem with self-check is that while there may be three prices of gas at each pump, and while ATMs have to be able to count deposits, the number of things they need to be able to deal with are quite limited, while self-checks have many things (A) to identify and (B) which have to be programmed in, mostly at local stores.

Meanwhile, (A) unemployment is at 3.9% and stores constantly advertise for workers, so they’re not laying off anyone who can breathe and show up, and (B) the self-checks at most grocery stores are more popular than standing in line for a live clerk.

My favorite grocery has one person watching a dozen self-checks and things run quite smoothly, while the lines of Luddites at the tended registers don’t appear to move much at all. (Maybe it’s because of all the price-checks the clerks have to call for.)

I suspect there is a Yelp! factor at work, by which I mean that — as with the on-line review site — people who hate self-check make far more noise than people who prefer it.

For another modern gag, Non Sequitur (AMS) suggests we might be better off getting rid of crypto specialists, the main joke being that pretend money undermines the real economy and seems like a pyramid scheme, with the extra factor of advancing climate change by overworking computers.

The unspoken joke being that it continues the tradition of sacrificing virgins.

Maybe that’s just my take.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Candorville — KFS

Brewster Rockit — Tribune

I remember running around the neighborhood, including in and out of the forest, at eight years old.

Some families had specific ways of calling us for supper: Stuart’s dad would honk the car horn, though my family had older siblings to send looking for me. And when my kids were little, I’d give a piercing whistle like a boatswain’s pipe that carried for blocks.

I don’t think life is more dangerous today, although (see Pearls strip above) we’re more aware of potential danger and accordingly either more cautious or more paranoid.

As it happens, Carolyn Hax had a wonderful, frightening letter the other day from a woman who used apps to track her kids and her husband, but when the oldest kid went to college, she disabled his app and just tracked him with air tags.

I’m using one of my WashPo gift articles for the month so you can marvel over it yourself, because it’s delightfully disturbing, not so much because she does it but because only youngest child bothered to object.

As did Carolyn, which is why she makes the big bucks. (We’ll get into what’s going on at the Washington Post some time when we’re talking politics. It’s also pretty horrifying.)

Zits (KFS) seemed to be opening up a new term the other day, but the payoff in the story arc was that Mom is always right and Jeremy never listens.

Well, okay, whatever. Still, I think it was worth observing that a tendency to dispatch unwanted, unnecessary advice does not require a Y-chromosome.

Maybe the Zits Guys made a good point: The remedy is not to get all bent out of shape but to simply ignore it.

Guys have done that for years.

I suspect that this bear in Speed Bump (Creators) needs a biology lesson, since AFAIK nearly all cubs are born in winter, though blackies doze rather than truly hibernating.

But it gives me an opening to plug our local bear rehab center, whose Facebook page is a never-ending parade of cuteness.

16 thoughts on “CSotD: Welcome to the World of Amusement

  1. I read Ms. Hax’s column and was horrified. Thank God this tech didn’t exist when I was in college (late 1970s).

    My former employer had a great cafeteria with a lot of choices, at least before the pandemic. (Budget cuts afterward cut back on the variety.) But my students complained about the “lack of choices.” I told them that as an undergrad, we’d have two choices (three if you count breakfast cereal available every meal). You pushed that plastic tray down the rails, and the lunch ladies labeled it onto your plate. Actually, that’s why most students joined a frat or sorority. The Greek houses each had their own cook and you ate family-style for lunch and dinner at a set time.

    OTOH, it’s what they grew up with. Today’s students are used to a much larger range of food choices, so they expect to see more options in school as well. Grocery stores now are at least three times the size of a 1970s “supermarket” with choices we’d never dreamed of, and the variety of food available in restaurants is light years beyond what I had access to in a decent-sized rustbelt city in the ’60s and ’70s.

  2. A few notes on news-cycles:

    (1) US network television news shows in fact were even shorter in the 1950s, typically being 15-minute reports. The Huntley-Brinkley Report, for example, was 15 minutes from 1956 to 1963, expanding a week after The CBS Evening News did, and John Cameron Swayze and Douglas Edwards had 15 minute shows throughout the 50s (ABC didn’t go half-hour until 1967);

    (2) Network radio did have a mix of news programs (CBS World News Roundup, for example, after ca. 1938) and a lot of analysis programs (Kaltenborn Edits the News, Raymond Gram Swing, e.g.), so while you didn’t have the visual impact of the news unless you saw the newsreel (as you point out), the news-cycles did get sped up quite a bit, with folks at home hearing the air raid sirens and bombs in back of Edward R. Murrow nearly live.

    1. I thought of those 15 minute shows, which generally paired with 15 minutes local for a half hour, but didn’t think they went on as long as you indicate. Worth noting that some of those 15 minutes included John Cameron Swayze trying to sell you a Timex watch, and I think others peddled cigarettes. There was a lot of freewheeling and experimentation that made for great innovations, but anchors shilling for sponsors wasn’t one of them.

      1. TV newscasts had commercials back then, but I think some time in the 80s or so, newscasts had to become profit centers.

        That was the turning point for the news, I think, or at least A turning point. Unregulated capitalism conquers everything else, why not the news?

      2. I got out of TV in ’78 but by then local news had long been a profit center, not because the anchors shilled for sponsors but because it was relevant to the local community. Journalists had long since quick acting as spokesmodels, which is why it’s generally the weatherperson who goes out to do livecasts from the county fair or whatever. Meteorologists are considered in a special category of visible faces that don’t have to feign neutrality, since what they report is pretty objective.

      3. Swayze’s news show was called “The Camel News Caravan” for a few years. I can’t immediately recall if Timex sponsored his evening news show, or if, separately, he was the pitchman for the watches.

  3. (Slight correction — Murrow’s broadcasts were live, since CBS didn’t use recordings. Some of the memoirs you read of radio broadcasters, like Shirer or Howard K. Smith, that broadcast from Europe indicated that sometimes, because of weather conditions, their broadcasts wouldn’t go through, and nothing could be done.)

  4. It’s been 60 years, but I still hunger for the ground steak on a hard roll with butter “hamburgers” we were served every other week in the seventh grade. I’ve compared every burger I’ve eaten since then to it, and none have ever been as tasty. And I grew up eating turkey a la king weekly, and I’ve never been able to find any since I left school. My mom was a great cook, and these are simple things to make, but she never had those recipes in her quiver because she never ate at my school. Sadly, since my stroke destroyed my taste buds, I’ll never be able to seek out a restaurant that serves their equivalent. Nonetheless, those pleasures still live in my memory, and both were due to the universally derided school lunch program. Whether that’s good or bad cannot be determined.

    1. It’s been 70 years for me, but I will always remember that hard roll with real butter when real butter was a luxury.

  5. I am amazed at the massive quantity of ‘news’ and the incredible paucity of quality (and honesty) in it. Most of the ‘main-stream-news’ is so incomplete and inaccurate, It is difficult to keep from throwing-up (my hands in despair) when ingesting it. Apparently huge numbers of people get their ‘news’ from tik-tok?!

    If you mess with crypto it’s likely you’ll lose your assets.
    Below is just another reason crypto-currency is corrupt and dangerous
    https://earthjustice.org/article/cleaning-up-crypto
    Crypto Miners Bought Their Own Power Plant. It’s a Climate Disaster.
    September 27, 2023. A New York State judge agreed with environmental regulators that a company’s operation of a fossil fuel power plant to mine cryptocurrency was inconsistent with the state’s landmark 2019 climate law.

    1. I eat my peas with honey: I’ve done it all my life. It makes’em taste real funny, but it keeps’em on my knife.

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