The props.

Finally saw “Swingtown.” Snap judgment: It doesn’t have legs, but I give them credit for trying. There’s no reason to let premium cable have all the shows about adults; broadcast has to find something outside of the police/law procedural and the escalating CSI grossfest.

One of the things that bothers me is the ostentatious “hey, we’re in the ’70s now” shots. Sure, the people are going to wear ’70s clothes and the men are going to have ’70s sideburns and the women are going to drink Tab. But when I saw a quick closeup of these, I thought they were trying way too hard:

Closeups of shoes are for significant-to-the-plot shoes, and unless those Dr. Scholl’s Exercise Sandals are going to be very important in a future episode, this was just show-offy. I do have an idea of how Dr. Scholl’s might be the pivot upon which the plot turns; after all, like every other woman who was young in that era, I owned a succession of pairs. They were my default shoe all summer long, and I loved them beyond all reason.

You bought them in drugstores, along with other fine Dr. Scholl’s products. They cost $15, and had their own end-cap display, at the bottom of which was a series of molded plastic footprints you used to find your size. The “exercise” gimmick said that if you wore them, your feet had to clench the toe ridge with every step, thus exercising your legs. Huh. Whatever. I never noticed any specific toning action, but maybe I wasn’t clenching them correctly. For me, they were wooden flip-flops, and by midsummer the rubber had worn off the heel and everywhere you went, your shoes announced you before your arrival. In the era’s shag carpet, it was no biggie, but on wooden floors it was like beating a drum. I can still hear my friend’s grandmother’s crabby voice ringing in my ears, complaining about our “clompy shoes” as we came inside their summer cottage for our endless supplies of Dr. Pepper and turkey sandwiches.

Maybe the teenage-girl character who wears these will stumble upon her parents and their new neighbors in dishabille, struggling into their Qiana fashions after hearing her clomp-clomp approach. That would justify the closeup.

By the way, Dr. Scholl’s started making them again a few years ago. Back in the day they came in three colors — navy, red and bone. I was a bone girl. But in a spasm of credit card-enabled nostalgia, I just visited the Dr. Scholl’s website and I see they’ve expanded their color palette; now they’re available in such racy colors as Cheeky Pink and Wine. I thought about it for a long time and opted for tan. It was the only color on sale, and the shoes are no longer offered in bone. Once a bone girl, always a bone girl. (I suffer the Curse of Neutrals.)

So, some Monday bloggage?

Neely Tucker finds one of the oddest car clubs in America — for the misbegotten, better-off-dead Chevy Cavalier. I liked it because, down low in a lengthy story, he gets to the point of custom-car culture. It’s not about buying something fancy off the showroom floor. It’s about finding something cheap, something you can afford, and little by little, turning it into something all your own:

A quick history of customized cars in pop-culture America:

After World War II, GIs came home with a little money in their pocket and a new sense of working with mechanics. Out in Southern California, they bought old beaters, mostly from Ford. Like a ’29 Model A Roadster, or anything after ’32 with the flathead V-8. Something wasn’t right with the engine but, hell, they could fix that. Get out the tools, ratchet, ratchet. Honey, crank it when I tell you to. Right. Give it some gas. Good. Good. Slam hood, wipe hands on a rag. Take it out on the strip and turn the quarter faster than anything else alive.

The hot rod was born out of reworked junk. That was part of the glory of it, the great young male joke on respectable society.

We mentioned the Dymaxion House a few weeks back, so this seems apt: A New Yorker profile of Buckminster Fuller, which answers a lot of questions for me:

Fuller was fond of neologisms. He coined the word “livingry,” as the opposite of “weaponry”—which he called “killingry”—and popularized the term “spaceship earth.” (He claimed to have invented “debunk,” but probably did not.) Another one of his coinages was “ephemeralization,” which meant, roughly speaking, “dematerialization.” Fuller was a strong believer in the notion that “less is more,” and not just in the aestheticized, Miesian sense of the phrase. He imagined that buildings would eventually be “ephemeralized” to such an extent that construction materials would be dispensed with altogether, and builders would instead rely on “electrical field and other utterly invisible environment controls.”

Wow. I wonder what it would be like to take a shower in that house.

Cops storm a Detroit art gallery. It’s almost too rich with possibility for words, but it turns out, they were only looking for after-hours drinking. In commando gear. Because, you know, in a city like Detroit, after-hours drinking in an art gallery is a crime that requires a SWAT response.

You know why people think raising kids is so expensive? Because they read shit like this, about the nursery for the Pitt-Jolie royal twins:

They even installed two pink crystal chandeliers for the girls at a cost of $899 each.

I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t regret not getting a pink crystal chandelier for my nursery. She had to make do with one of those dumb infant-stimulation crib mobiles. But today she’s an A student. Let’s see where the Jolie-Pitt babies are in 11 years, eh?

Happy Monday.

Posted at 8:37 am in Current events, Detroit life, Popculch |

30 responses to “The props.”

  1. Sue said on June 9, 2008 at 8:51 am

    May I be the first to say that anyone taking Nancy’s “bone” comment and running with it is being classless and tacky.

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  2. Dorothy said on June 9, 2008 at 8:54 am

    I guess I’m weird, but I never was a fan of Dr. Scholl’s sandals. Mary Beth, the owner of the quilt store where I used to work, is also the same age as us, and when I worked there between 1992 and 1997, she had a pair that she wore regularly. But they hurt my feet, so that’s why I didn’t like them. I like the soles of my shoes to give when my foot moves; hence my current addiction to Reebok Princess footwear.

    When you earn around $15 million a movie like the Jolie/Pitt duo does, you can afford the crap they buy. But isn’t it weird that we didn’t read about the purchases they made for the adopted kids? I’m pretty sure they would have been equally generous with those kids, but I guess twins ensure a bigger story.

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  3. Mindy said on June 9, 2008 at 9:31 am

    I had thick calluses on my feet from the bump Dr. Scholl’s exercise sandals long after my pairs went out with the trash. Mine were always bone as well. If Neutral is a curse at least it’s a happy one. I can redecorate my living room without having to repaint and always have something to wear. Rope sandals are my summer kicks now, no arch support whatsoever but no blisters or calluses, either. And so cheap! I’ve got Barbados and Neptune –

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  4. coozledad said on June 9, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Our former house had 10 ft ceilings, so we bought a bunch of antique light fixtures from a nearby junk/treasure store. The house we live in now was built in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century by people who must have even been short by the standards of that time. I’m 5’6″ and shrinking, and have hit my head on the doorframes here so many times I reflexively crouch when going through a door anywhere. So there’s no place to put many of the larger fixtures. I wonder if Brad and Angelina would be interested in an art deco coral glass chandelier. They can walk away with it for $899.99.

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  5. john c said on June 9, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for bringing back memories of my carefree Rhode Island summers in the late 70s. Too young to work and too young to drive, we spent our days alternately hanging on the beach, sailing, and clamming. (We’d raise money for waterskiing gas by selling said clams to the neighborhood grandmothers for chowdah. And we waterskied, by the way, off the back of a 13-foot Boston Whaler with an Evinrude 33!) In the evenings we walked around. We even made a parody song with an old cassette recorder: “Round round walk around we walk around…” Anyway, all those tanned and pretty girls wore Dr. Scholls.
    Liked the bit about the car clubs, too. Detroit has this crazy Woodward Dream Cruise. It’s become a mammoth event and is filled with all manner of rich guys and their professionally restored muscle. But it is also filled with the guys Nancy mentions – the low budget grease monkeys and their 63 Novas that they’re still saving money to paint.

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  6. nancy said on June 9, 2008 at 10:21 am

    The closest thing we have to hotrod kids today are import tuners (see: “The Fast and the Furious”), and they choose Honda Civics and other low-end automotive stuff to work on for the same reason — it’s cheap.

    All culture worth keeping comes up from the bottom, not the other way around.

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  7. MichaelG said on June 9, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I’ve been stuck with rented Cavaliers several times. They buzz and they vibrate and they throw the most horrid reflections from the plastic dash right into your tortured eyes. My worst experience was driving one from Sacramento to Arcata via 5 and 299. 299 is one of those legendary trips — 4 hours of two lane mountain driving from 5 to the coast. The Cav absolutely beat the shit out of me. I was exhausted when I got to Arcata. I’ve made that drive in a lot of different types of cars and there isn’t anything like a Cav. Driving one of those things is an absolute act of self abuse.

    Here’s one for you:

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  8. coozledad said on June 9, 2008 at 10:41 am

    The art museum bust reminds me that Durham, NC, and many other medium- sized cities have been using SWAT teams to serve warrants, and do other routine police work.
    When the authoritarian cultist mindset was beginning to set in after 9/11, the city of Durham purchased what appears to the casual observer to be an armored Isuzu Trooper. My first thought when I saw it was, “How many clowns will that thing hold, and what in the hell do they think they’re going to do with it?”
    Now we know.

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  9. JC said on June 9, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I had a Cavalier when I was in college. My uncle sold used cars, so family members would just give him a figure we could afford and hope for the best. Sometimes, you ended up with a Cavalier. Unfortunately for the Cav, it followed a 1965 Mustang. It was never going to be loved. It was grey and had such a low profile (literally) that I lost it among the SUVs in parking lots. I have made that drive MichaelG spoke of, and the best thing I can say about the Cav’s performance was that it had an unbelievable air conditioner. When it’s 110 outside, and you’re comfortably listening to your favorite cassette (oh yes) over your distorted, tinny speakers, you can forgive some sins.

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  10. moe99 said on June 9, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    tornado footage from the Chicago area yesterday. My daughter is stranded a Chicago O’Hare right now as a result.

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  11. nancy said on June 9, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I love the woman who says, “That doesn’t sound like no goddamn train.” That, and the Chicago accents. Go Berz.

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  12. Julie Robinson said on June 9, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    It’s true that all the cool girls wore Dr Scholls and they always gave me blisters. But John C wouldn’t have given me a second look either–also no tan. They are unachievable with Irish skin. The upside of it now is that at 51 I don’t have many wrinkles.

    It wasn’t a muscle car, but did anyone else drive a Corvair? I had ’67 in high school that our Dad had bought for $25 in a police auction. Yes, it was unsafe at any speed and had no heat in the winter. You could go really, really fast in it, though, and since I lived out in the country I could indulge all I wanted. Unfortunately it had a tendency to break down when it was more than 20 miles from home so I had to leave it behind when I went to college.

    Having a kid cured me permanently of needing to drive fast.

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  13. whitebeard said on June 9, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    My wife’s mother had a Corvair that she zipped around in, but one day she drove off to work and came back 10 minutes later and told the family they would not believe what happened. The car stalled and she lifted the lid in back and she said it looked like the engine had fallen down. Which it had of course, because the last mechanic had not checked the engine mounts. She then zipped around in a Mustang and the engine never fell down.

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  14. coozledad said on June 9, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I had one of these my senior year in college. It was way too much car for me.
    It would have been more appropriate for a porn star or serial killer. But it only cost $360.00. I think it got around seven miles a gallon.
    My friends loved to drive it. Even though it was an automatic, if you weren’t careful, it would peel off with just the slightest pressure on the pedal.
    It’s lucky no one got killed in the thing.

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  15. john c said on June 9, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Julie .. remember, that was the 70s, before there seemed to much awareness of skin cancer. Even the Irish girls had tans, sorta. Or they had freckles. Or maybe it was that they were Rhode Islanders, and thus a simmering Catholic brew of Irish, Italian and Portuguese. Any, I know I used to get at least a little tanned. And I’m green right down – or up – to my big fat Irish head.

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  16. john c said on June 9, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Also … my first car was a 1973 Mazda RX-4 (not to be confused withe two-seater RX-7.The 4 was basically a Toyota Corrolla but with a rotary engine. Translation – and extremely overpowered subcompact. I had an 8-track player in the glove compartment. And there was room for two beers behind where the dash dipped down to the shifter.

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  17. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 9, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Anybody read J.K. Rowling’s commencement address at Harvard? A gutsy thing, to speak of failure where it dare not shadow the paths of Harvard Yard, right from the podium:

    “Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

    Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

    So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

    You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

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  18. Julie Robinson said on June 9, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Since all the gauges were broken on my Corvair I’ve no idea what kind of mileage it got. I used to take it in every Saturday and put $3 of gas in it. And they cleaned my windshield, checked both the oil and tires, and gave me a bonus towel or glass. That’s the part of high school I’d take back!

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  19. Dwight Brown said on June 9, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    “The closest thing we have to hotrod kids today are import tuners (see: “The Fast and the Furious”), and they choose Honda Civics and other low-end automotive stuff to work on for the same reason — it’s cheap.”

    I’m at work right now, and buiser than a one-armed man in a goat milking contest, so I haven’t had time to fully flesh this comparison out. But it occurs to me that maybe there’s a lot in common between the hotrod movement and the Open Source/free software movement…

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  20. Sue said on June 9, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Brian Stouder: Does this affect your vacation plans:

    “Lake Delton near the Dells is essentially empty after the rain-swollen lake cut its own channel around a dam and emptied into the Wisconsin River, taking four homes with it.

    On the scene of where Lake Delton used to be, Journal Sentinel photographer Joe Koshollek said it looks as if a plug had been pulled from a bathtub filled with water. The lake, which is where the popular amphibious Ducks travel, has been pretty much all drained.

    “The lake is gone,” Koshollek said. “I heard one girl say ‘I’m out of a job’ because she rents Jet Skis.”

    Boats are lying on their sides in the muck of the lake and piers lead out into what just a few hours ago was a large lake filled with water.

    The Oloha Beach Resort on Lake Delton no longer has a beach for guests.

    “We haven’t had a show since Friday. We canceled Saturday and Sunday because of high water,” Diehl said. “Today, we’re canceling because of no water.”

    Diehl said the lake is home to as many as 15 family resorts.

    Sauk County emergency management director Jeff Jelinek said four homes were swept away with the escaping waters.

    Jelinek said that the dam on Lake Delton did not break when the lake breached about 10 a.m. near County Highway A and Dam Road.

    There have been no injuries reported but emergency officials remain on the scene this afternoon.

    “Up from the dam the lake just got so much pressure and so much water it went over the banks to the river and started making its own channel,” Jelinek said. “As the water started exiting the lake, it made its own channel. It went across Highway A and as it got wider it took three homes with it.”

    He said the lake also washed out about 300 feet of Highway A, which may have grown since the initial breach.

    Jelinek advised motorists to avoid travel along Highway A.

    He said a shelter has been activated at Lake Delton Grade School in Lake Delton.”

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  21. Dexter said on June 9, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    The ’32 Ford Flathead is the ultimate hot rod.

    My fave all-time sandals? They were called “V.C. Sandals”, but we got them from vendors in Nha Trang, Vietnam. You’ve seen them: recycled tires with recycled tubes for straps. I wore mine for years , then we had a rather crazy, wild party , and some of our stuff came up missing—yep, they stole my sandals.

    Wordplay: Does any word have such opposite meanings as ‘jackpot’ ?
    It means instant gambling or contest winnings, and it means being really deep in the shit.

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  22. Dexter said on June 9, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Cavaliers treated all three daughters well…I kinda liked them when I drove them. They are much cheaper to repair than my Volvo and Jetta were! Now my nephew is facing similar problems , with a $3,000 Jetta repair bill ahead…he burns up cars racing from Springfield to Chicago in his job working for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and he is shopping for a good used Prius.
    Most of those are not for sale these days…my friend in Connecticut writes me today he filled up at $4.26 yesterday.

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  23. Jolene said on June 9, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Have just been watching footage of Lake Delton and also flooded areas in Indiana. Pretty dramatic. Hope all the Midwesterners here are OK.

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  24. Sue said on June 9, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    We were trying to get home from the southern Milwaukee counties to the northern Milwaukee counties during the worst of the flash flooding, which of course had come up very fast. The radio station announcers were telling drivers two things: 1) get off the expressway because areas of the expressway were flooding, and 2) all the exit ramps are flooded. All we could do was go forward. It was a very strange experience.

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  25. brian stouder said on June 9, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Sue – we saw the bulletins today (I’ve got this week off), and Pam immediately said “That was our lake!”

    We’ll see how this plays out; our plans are for after the 4th of July. If nothing else, I definitely wanna see that Paul Bunyan restaurant. If we lose the Ducks, still there are many other touristy things to do, assuming torrential rains and flooding doesn’t continue until it reaches biblical proportions

    Jeff – thanks for the link to the Rowling commencement address. Another good one I caught (on C-SPAN) was delivered by the CEO of American Express, about brands and brand images. He made the interesting point that the meaning (and the value) of a brand is always determined by others

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  26. LAMary said on June 9, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    4.26 was a week ago here. Regular is about 4.45 now. Diesel is 5.50.

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  27. James Moehrke said on June 9, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    My wife had a Corvair when we were in high school and college back in the late sixties/early seventies. We called it the Great White Wonder, because it was a wonder it still worked. She bought oil by the case at the air base BX and pretty much had to add a quart every time she filled the tank. I remember how strange the little shift lever on the dash seemed at the time. Now the shift on our Prius is in the same spot.

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  28. basset said on June 9, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    anyone in the flood zone in SW Indiana? I went to eighth grade in Elnora… emails from a friend up there have gone from “we’ll be fine” to “they’re sandbagging the levee” to none.

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  29. beb said on June 9, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Julie Robinson says: It wasn’t a muscle car, but did anyone else drive a Corvair?

    My wife’s mother drove a Corvair for a while. My wife remembers it fondly. Her first car was a VW, which, by the time we traded it in, had a DIY driverf’s side floorboard and DIY right wheel shock absorber. The heat Exchanger burned out years earlier but the engine, always started.

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  30. Terry WAlter said on June 10, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Just reading in the paper about The Great Daniels Purge of those evil Cherry master gambling machines. This scourge upon the Hoosierland was eradicated so that the state could wring half a Billion out of the horse race tracks to install gambling machines there. I feel so cleansed.
    And I’m sure some of you are concerned about the great tomato scare going on right now. If you had been reading ag writer Alan Gueberts’ columns in the N-S, meaning probably nobody else here, you would view this sort of thing as inevitable. He has detailed the shenanigans of big agbusiness and their enablers in the Bush Ag Department. They killed off Country Of Origin Labeling, too expensive. And they were unwilling to take positive action to isolate mad cow disease up in Canada, as well as not setting strict standards on downer cattle. So far they’ve dodged the bullet on that one, so far. But if they don’t, they’ll no doubt have a lackey ready to run & tell us how we have the safest food supply in the world, although we couldn’t tell you where it really came from.

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