Kirn and McIntyre, even closer

A while back I compared Walter Kirn with Oscar Odd McIntyre.

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It struck me that Kirn’s short takes on Twitter are a close modern equivalent of McIntyre’s short takes in print. I tried to find more of McIntyre’s real columns, without luck. Though part of his work was before the Steamboat Willie copyright threshold, his actual work is absent online. There are several good articles about McIntyre, which reinforce the parallel. Both were born in Ohio and both came from eccentric families. Both moved to NYC and applied the eccentric Midwestern viewpoint to their writing about NYC and elites.

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Now we have a more direct comparison. Kirn has written an essay that starts in the dentist’s chair and wanders through a drugged-up tour of NYC.

One of the McIntyre pieces also starts in a NYC dentist’s chair and wanders into a different kind of imaginative universe.

The story is in this episode of Club Car Special, starting at 3 minutes.

The magic lantern lasted longer…

Last year I delved into the intersection of science and entertainment in the 1850s, focusing on the Magic Lantern.

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I had thought the magic lantern was just a slide projector with light furnished by flame instead of electricity. The machine was partly similar, but the ACTUAL USE of the magic lantern before 1900 was interactive and animated, unlike both slides and cinema.

The key to a good magic lantern spectacle was in the slideRs, which were NOT the same thing as slides.

Closeup view of a lantern with a typical slideR mechanism:

The lamp (alcohol or whale oil) was focused by the mirror in back. The tiny cranks drove a miniature conveyor belt, making it possible to move one slider back and forth, or move one smaller slider across a bigger one.

Here the fixed slider is Polistra’s home, and the movable slider is HappySun moving across the horizon.

Sliding and dissolving animations were highly developed in 1850. Many other variations were available, including miniature silhouette figures that danced when you turned the crank. These were about 3 inches high, packing a lot of mechanism into a small space.

Some were intended solely for amusement:

We know what French means, don’t we? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Others were more educational:

The Scientific Lantern is the real interface point of magic and entertainment and science. Magic shows and science shows were the same thing. Serious scientists like Faraday enjoyed creating stage spectacles to illustrate the devices and principles they were developing.

This Scientific Lantern has the lamp as above, but instead of sliders it has a big space between lamp and lens where you could mount various kinds of experiments and displays.

Here the target is a conductivity cell, which would be part of a full experimental setup like this:

The bubbles and reactions in the cell would be visible to the audience.

The platform in the Scientific Lantern could also hold an aquarium or terrarium with critters, preferably transparent or translucent critters.

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Along with the loss of interactivity, there’s a MUCH BIGGER moral to this story. When science was a form of entertainment, everyone could see and ENJOY the actual process of observation and experimentation. When science had user-serviceable parts, everyone could participate in science.

In 1946 science merged with Deepstate and became a tool of surveillance and genocide. We are no longer allowed to see how science works. We no longer get to hear or participate in open descriptions and discussions. Nothing leaks out, nothing is ever displayed or revealed.

We only get to experience the massively evil and demonic ACTIONS of science when it imprisons and binds and gags and kills us by the millions.

ENTERTAINMENT IS THE OPPOSITE OF SECRETS.

ENTERTAINMENT IS THE OPPOSITE OF GENOCIDE.

LAUGHTER IS THE OPPOSITE OF DEATH.

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Surprisingly, the Magic Lantern continued well into the 20th century. A new item at American Radio Library is a science supply catalog from 1915. Along with the expected induction coils and spark gaps, it includes quite a few entertainment items.

Geissler tubes:

‘Fancy tubes’:

Slot cars in 1915! They went away and reappeared in the ’60s.

A book on designing a vaudeville theater. Note the Magic Lantern Act and the opaque projector:

And last but not least, a Medical Coil, recommended for rheumatism, neuralgia, etc.

Zenith

I haven’t made any new graphics in MANY months. I used up my graphics gumption during 2020, in a frantic outpouring of science as entertainment to counterbalance the Nazi torturers misusing “science” as a god of genocide.

During most of 2021 I was just weary, bombarded with especially awful weather along with the torture. 2022 is definitely back to normal on the weather front, and it looks like the Nazis will grant us a brief reprieve starting in late March, before the next horrible fake imaginary fictional “threat” requires even more deadly and vicious and grotesque torture and murder to “protect” us from living, and to provide glorious sexual joy for the demons.

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I’ve been doing some C++ programming this month, updating my first and best courseware project to add more features and run on newer Windows. After reaching a point of satisfying semi-completion, I got hungry for graphics again, so decided to run up a couple of personally resonant items. I’ve been wanting to make these Zeniths for a long time.

The first is a Zenith ‘shutter’ or ‘clamshell’ radio. I owned one of these in ’68, and threw it away when I went to jail in ’69. The ‘shutter’ chassis was built in several forms and fitted into all sorts of cabinets. It was THE best radio in the late ’30s. Only the super-custom jobs by Scott were supposedly better; but I’ve never seen or heard a Scott so can’t judge.

Zenith specialized in fancy mechanisms, and the shutter chassis reached an absolute zenith of wonderful gadgetry. The band switch used a series of cams to push the ‘shutters’ aside. The other controls had dials visible through arc-shaped slots instead of plain old labels on the front of the set. Tuning was clock-style with a fast-moving second hand on a 0-60 scale and a slow-moving minute hand on the actual frequencies. The tuning knob had a big flywheel so you could throw it across the dial with one good spin. And of course the Magic Eye tube showed you when you were tuned in.

The Magic Eye presaged TV in some ways. Fancy dials with Magic Eyes gave you something to look at as you imagined the visual part of the show. TV ruined its initial promise by destroying your visual imagination.

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The second Zenith is the TransOceanic. Zenith carried this brand through four decades from 1941 to 1981, morphing from tube to discrete transistor. It was built in Chicago until 1979, one of the last consumer electronic products built here and very likely the last with discrete transistors and real wiring. The final version from ’79 to ’81 succumbed to ICs and digitalism and offshoring.

Wikipedia says the TransOceanic was inspired by Zenith’s CEO, a navigator and outdoorsman who wanted a portable. So the TransOceanic was not designed for room-filling volume or mechanical gimmicks; it was a rugged portable SW receiver for camp or boat, enclosed in a suitcase for weather protection. It had a choice of battery or AC power, switched by a toggle switch on the back.

The version I’ve made is the most familiar of the postwar types, the G500. This radio served me and helped me just after I got out of jail, so these two Zeniths form a sort of symmetrical pair.

I installed A and B batteries (which could still be bought at hardware stores) but never used the battery mode. Oklahoma didn’t have power outages. I also didn’t take advantage of the gimmicky separable WaveMagnet antenna, which could be removed and mounted on a window with suction cups. Oklahoma had excellent SW reception, so I just left the WaveMagnet on the lid.

I treasured the TransOceanic as a reassuring companion in those first few months as I was resuming life ‘on the bricks’. Open doors, bicycling, cooking my own food, not being raped.

In 1970 US media was in one of its crazy spells. Not nearly up to 2020 standards, but plenty bad enough. The ogre of Nixon and the “threat” of Antiwar Terrorists were filling the air in the same way as the ogre of Trump and the “threat” of Antivax Terrorists now. Several Euro SW broadcasters were neutral and objective on Vietnam. BBC and Lisbon and Nederland served as unwavering beacons while US Deepstate and media thrashed around in a partisan frenzy.

I’m not sure what happened to my TransOceanic after those first few months. In the next location I can remember, I was listening to a big Philco console, then dropped down to an uninteresting but competent Radio Shack transistor receiver in the ’80s. In 1990 I moved to Spokane, a dead spot for SW propagation, and then SW broadcasting itself died.

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Since I’m in Zenith mode, might as well turn out a couple other iconic Zeniths.

This AM-FM table model was the most popular Zenith in the late ’50s. For some reason it was more often seen in stores and workshops than in homes.

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And finally, this ‘owl-eyes’ clock radio just struck me as fun. Zenith got into the ’50s plastic styles with a vengeance.

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For Poser users, the four radios plus Orby are now at ShareCG.

The missing element

After being relatively inactive for a couple months, American Radio Library is flooding their website with new and interesting materials. In previous post I was reading some Education in Radio journals from an arrogantly elitist group. Now a larger pile of more general discussions has appeared.

From 1922 to 1952 to 2022, one crucial element has NEVER been part of the distance education package, whether by radio or TV or Wi-Fi.

ENTERTAINMENT and PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE have been absent.

Educational radio and TV and computers have always tried to provide access to the “best” teachers and the “best” classical symphonies and the “best” classical science experiments. They do an excellent job of passive access, but they stop there.

Before radio, distance education by mail order was full of Kits and Packs and Sets for all subjects from meteorology to electricity to biology.. These Kits were still available from outfits like Gilbert and Edmund and Tinkertoy in the ’50s, but they were not included or used or mentioned in the radio and TV offerings. There was no opportunity or invitation to run your own experiments and have your own fun.

Commercial programs did a MUCH better job of providing and using low-cost interactive materials, most of which were genuinely educational AND entertaining.

Betty Boop said it best, in 1938 of course.

Extinct chords

Singing used to be universal. Everybody knew how to sing, and performers could count on an audience to sing together accurately if not in complex harmony.

When competence starts early, extreme expertise gets a head start. I was discussing this point in journalism, and it also applies to music. With skills that require practice, a higher baseline elevates the average and the maximum.

For instance,

This super-intense harmony was common in the 20s and 30s, especially among sister acts and brother acts. Genetically similar larynxes and resonators can mutually adapt to sharpen the harmony.

It’s totally gone now, and even basic tune-carrying is gone now. Singing has been outsourced to tech. “Professional” “singers” are expert users of synthesizers.

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Later note: This recording of Irving Berlin’s ‘Lazy’ includes a couple of verses that aren’t in the online lyrics I’ve found so far. I can’t catch all the words, but some lines are clear:

I hate to hurry, don’t like to worry,
I’ll be so glad when I am
among the chickens, with Mister Dickens,
or Mister Omar Khayyam.

To keep me company, when I’m tired of poetry,
I’m gonna be there dozing, with birds composing,
a pillowy willowy melody.

And when it showers, the trees and flowers,
will be my umberellas,
and till it’s over, and in the clover,
I’ll dream of Rockefella,
A busy enemy,
selling oil to you and me,
I pity that man, what an oilcan
he turned out to be.

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Do you suppose a modern pop “singer” would mock Mister Bezos in the way that the Brox Sisters were mocking Mister Rockefeller?

A sharp rebuke to drabness

A sharp rebuke from Lulu Meservey, one of the Substack executives.

Technology is magical. But the language of technology has become generic and sterile:

“User”
“Creator”
“Device”
“Content”
We should go back to the days of Greek and Latin:
“Television” (far-seeing)
“ Automobile” (self-moving)
“Facsimile” (made alike)
Words that sound magical.

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The worst part of the tech names is that they don’t even fit. A drab acronym is applied to a theoretical distinction, then it specializes to one physical implementation of the distinction, then further variations are just tacked on without thinking about function or metaphor.

Random-access memory (RAM) originally described matrix-style magnetic memory. There was nothing random about it, but some drab theoretician called it random-access because you could pick any cell in it by activating the right combination of X and Y wires. This was meant to distinguish it from sequential-access memory such as paper tape or magnetic tape, where you have to wind through a bunch of unneeded parts to reach the item you need. For some reason SAM never became an acronym, so RAM was a distinction without an opposite.

Random-access then applied to any matrix-type memory, including a matrix of hardwired connections that could only be read, not written. Read-only memory (ROM) then expanded to include semiconductors that could be written exactly once, Programmable Read-Only Memory or PROM. Some PROMS could be erased by exposure to UV light and then rewritten, which should have turned them back into RAM, but because of the way they were written they were called Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory or EPROM. Later some EPROMS were erasable by an electric pulse instead of exposure to light, so they were Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memories or EEPROMS.

To make it even more fun, some RAMs can hold their memory without refreshing, which makes them Static Random-Access Memories or SRAM. By the original distinction, SRAMs should be called ROMs and EEPROMS should be called RAMs, but by then the chain of drab dull expansion was stuck. Never return to the original, always tack on more letters.

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The auto industry used vastly more imagination and metaphor, often brazenly sexual.

GM had creative names for EVERYTHING, down to a new system of valve adjustments. Many of the names became famous:

Most people called the Buffer Bombs Dagmars, but this was not the official name.

Even frugal Nash enjoyed metaphorical names. The lovely and generous Miss America revealed the ’54 Metropolitan:

And the Met’s distinctive door dips were also called Reveals.

And in case you still didn’t get the points….

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Science and technology were explicitly magical before 1900. Science was a form of entertainment, not a holocaust of tyranny and torture.

WE NEED TO RETURN TO MAGIC.

Arnades of Christmas Past

Looking through American Radio History as usual, trying for some nostalgic connection with WIBW, my nocturnal input in the ’50s.

In one of WIBW’s program guides from ’55, found this intriguing brief item.

During the recent snowstorm we had an interesting personality visit our staff. Walter E. Divine, with long hair and beard, is riding his bicycle from coast to coast spreading good cheer, playing his harmonica, visiting with the governors of each state and making friends with everyone in general. He was snowbound while in Topeka and through the generosity of
JIMMIE PIERSON, he found his “bed and board.” The boys on the staff enjoyed
visiting with Walter and listening to his various experiences. He played the harmonica on several of the early morning shows … then JIMMIE took him home as his guest and he remained with the friendly PIERSONS until he was able to hop on his bike and be on his way … perhaps to new adventures and to meeting new friends … but none better, I’ll bet.

Beardos were weirdos in 1955. A sure sign of Beatnik Commies. But Walter clearly wasn’t a proper Beatnik if he was able to meet with governors. What was he doing? He obviously knew how to gain and use publicity. He’s mentioned several times in online sources from the period. Here’s the best from 1964:

Devine, not Divine. Bike with homemade motor, not exactly bike. Pretty impressive record, 14 years and 100k miles.

What was he doing? Still no answers. Others, including Steinbeck, were doing the Arnade thing and writing books. Walter apparently didn’t write anything. Maybe he was just having fun? Or a spy? Long-term wanderers who seem to have plenty of money are often working for Deepstate directly or indirectly.

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Later: Here’s a somewhat better but still incomplete explanation, from a book about a publicity-seeking horseback wanderer. Walter met the horsie girl and discussed their mutual ‘occupation’, including sponsorship. He claimed to be sponsored by an unnamed quiz show, which might have been Truth or Consequences or You Asked For It. I doubt it. Those shows kept their projects short, no more than a month.

The whole scene was a bit unlikely in Annie’s view. She was mounted on Rex, and each photographer wanted the same shot of the cyclist shaking her hand. Devine, determined to show his face for the photograph, turned his back toward her as he grinned for the camera.

…. as he was also doing in the above photo.

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Since I’m thinking about WIBW, here’s a completely unrelated puzzle. WIBW was founded by Arthur Capper as an adjunct to his newspaper empire. He published the Topeka Capitol-Journal, and later became a senator. He basically owned Topeka. When he wanted a radio station, he bought an expired license from a station in Indiana, which explains why WIBW is a W instead of a K. From a 1925 listing:

The call was then briefly owned by CL Carrell, location listed as ‘Portable’, who owned a half dozen other calls. Carrell was presumably a callsign trader, and Capper must have bought it from him.

Nothing unusual, except it’s NOT the same story the station was telling on the air in the late ’50s. They said the station (like many others) had started on a college campus, specifically Washburn. The call letters honored Washburn’s founder, Ichabod B. Washburn.

Why invent a myth when the real story was so well known? Was this an April Fool that I mistook for serious history? Radio announcers love to put together parodic ‘airchecks’, often quite elaborate and professionally produced.