The Carousel of Progress

NOTE: This entry is a trip down memory lane, but be warned: At the end it gets political. As a result, I’ve disabled comments for this post. If you disagree with anything here, the Web is open – write your own blog. I have nothing against respectful dialog, but the Internet being what it is, I have no time for trolls.

progress

I first encountered this lovely exhibit when I attended the New York World’s Fair in 1965. Of all the presentations at the Expo (aside from the food – Belgian waffles, mmm) – along with the Picturephone demonstration, this is the one that stuck in my mind.

http-mashable.comwp-contentuploads201404picturephones

After the fair closed, the ride was moved to Disneyland, where I experienced it again, and thereafter found a home in Disney World in Florida, which we visited just last week. It was lovely to reminisce.

Carousel 1

The 1900s. Life couldn’t be better with all the modern conveniences like gas lamps… and soon they’re supposed to have electric lights in the house!

As with anything, the ride did get a few updates over the years:

Carousel 2

Notice in this version it’s Valentine’s Day – and the model has had a bit of an update as well.

Carousel 3

The 1920’s. Electricity and gas are everywhere, and life couldn’t possibly be better. Happy 4th of July!

Carousel4

Hallowe’en in the 1940’s – this looks a lot like kitchens that I grew up with in the 50s.

Carousel 6

Christmas in the 1960s – this tableau has now been supplanted by a 21st-Century version – in the back is a view of Disney’s model city of the future, part of the original idea behind EPCOT (Experimental Planned Community of Tomorrow). Which, unfortunately, because our nation has been focused on flinging its precious human and material resources into unwinnable and futile conflict, has yet to become a reality – despite that dream.

Carousel 5

Another view of the 1960s.

Carousel 7

The 21st Century – (click for a larger view). Most of what you see here is now real, including much better graphics on Virtual Reality devices.

Carousel 8

If our 45th president and the climate-change deniers have their way, it might be necessary to replace the last tableau with one like this.

There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away

Man has a dream and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It’s a dream come true for you and me

The only dream of our current “leaders” seems to be to violate the planet, exterminate the poor and the different, and add to the bottom line of the wealthy. I do not support this, I will not support this, I will not be silent – or I will never be able to look my children and grandchildren in the eye with honor.

Resist
The Old Wolf has spoken.

Images of the Middle East – Félix Bonfils

In the process of researching something else (this is how it usually works, and don’t even mention TVTropes)…

the_problem_with_wikipedia

… I encountered this lovely group of photos by Félix Bonfils, a French photographer who was active in the Middle East in the 1800s. They are available in many places on the Internet, but I found them captivating and felt like they were worth a share.

image6

Street vendors

image4

Western Wall of the Temple, or the Wailing Wall

image5

Group of Bedouin women

image3

Western Wall

image2

Western Wall

It looks as though some of these images may have been staged, others appear more or less candid – but they capture beautifully the feel of an age gone by.

To see more of Bonfils’ work, just do a Google image search for Felix Bonfils.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

“Indian Counting” – Een, teen, tether, fether, fip!

OK, caveat here: it’s may not be Native American counting, but that’s how it was presented to me by my math teacher (Mr. Sommerville, go ndéanai Dia trócaire air) in high school, around 1967. On the other hand, maybe it is.

The entire schema as he presented it was:

Een, teen, tether, fether, fip,
Satra, latra, co, tethery, dick,
Eendick, teendick, tetherdick, fetherdick, bump,
Eenbump, teenbump, tetherbump, fetherbump, didick!

Being testosterone-soaked boys, everyone laughed at hearing the word “dick” used as a number, and then life went on. I had heard it once, and remembered fragments of it forever.

Then came the Internet, where almost everything arcane has a tendency to show up if you wait long enough. I would search occasionally, and over time, bits and pieces appeared; now there is a full-blown Wikipedia article entitled “Yan tan tethera,” and the real story becomes quite complicated.

Over at Wovember Words, the matter is treated thusly (the whole page is worth a read):

The only reference we could find anywhere confirming connections between the counting words of Native Americans with those used in the North of England is in a musical written in 1957, called The Music Man. There is a scene in this play where the wife of the Mayor exclaims “I will now count to twenty in the Indian tongue! Een teen tuther featherfip!” Is this line in the play responsible for the idea that Native American peoples were using these old counting words with their Gaelic origins, or does it reflect that through the dark mechanisms of Imperialism the counting words were imposed onto Native American culture by the time the play was written?

Lincolnshire Shepherds counted:
Yan, tan, tethera, pethera, pinp,
Sethera, lethera, hovera, covera, di,
Yen-a-dik, tan-a-dick, tethera-dik, pethera-dik, bumfit,
Yan-a-bumfit, tan-a-bumfit, tuthera-bumfit, pethera-bumfit, figgit.

At the same time, around 1890, Native Americans were also using:
Een, teen, thuther, futher, fipps,
Suther, luther, uther, duther, dix,
Een-dix, teen-dix, tuther-dix, futher-dix, bumpit,
Anny-bumpit, tanny-bumpit, tuther-bumpit, futher-bumpit, giggit, Anny-gigit.

If you listen to the soundtrack of the movie version of “The Music Man” carefully, there’s a bit more:

Eulalie begins: Een teen tuther feather fip!
The chorus chants: Sakey, Lakey, Corey Ippy Gip (This may not be 100% accurate as these words do not appear in the screenplay)
Eulalie continues: Eendik Teendik Tetherdik Fethertik … (she is interrupted by a firecracker)

So we can see that it’s entirely possible that these counters, very similar to the Brythonic counting systems – too close to be coincidental – may have been transmitted very early by some oral channel to Native Americans, and that by folklore tradition a knowledge of these counters worked their way down cultural pathways to be included in the play and movie.

Language and its history are curious things, with enough puzzles and questions for lifetimes of study – even the whimsical bits.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Carpenter’s Sandwiches, 1932

West Sunset Boulevard & Vine Street, Los Angeles, California.

(Click image for full-size version. Just look at those prices…)
Carpenter's Drive In

A wonderful memory of early Los Angeles – before my time, certainly, but along the same lines as some other unusual LA restaurants that I do remember.

Hoot-Hoot-Ice-Cream

I’ve mentioned Hoot Hoot I Scream before; another great collection of ephemera from Los Angeles can be found at Shelter From the Storm, including the coffee pot restaurant seen below.

Coffee Pot Restaurant

Most of these unusual eateries are gone, replaced by restaurants whose gimmick is found inside rather than outside. As for me, I miss places like this. I still grin when I drive along the freeway on a road trip and see a huge Sapp Bros. water tank decked out to look like a coffee pot.

Sapp

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Trading Stamp Era

In a previous entry about things gone but not forgotten (by me and my generation, anyway,) I mentioned S&H green stamps.

696b993

Trading stamps were incentives given out by grocery stores and gas stations in the same way as stores do with coupons, reward-cards, and other come-ons today. You’d collect the stamps, paste them in books, and then take your books to a redemption center somewhere and exchange them for consumer goods.

images

Based on the amount of your purchase, the checker would dial up the amount you spent on a machine like the one above, and the thing would dispense stamps in 1, 10, and the coveted 50 variety. The last one was great because you could fill up an entire page in the book with just one lick.

SandHStamps

Depending on the area of the country you lived in, there were different varieties of stamps available. The ones I recall in addition to the S&H Green Stamps were:

original

Gold strike stamps

1969-Gold-Strike-Stamps-Catalog-23

Page from a Gold Strike Stamp Catalog. This was not cheap slum; the premiums had significant value if you were willing to collect enough books.

10aa496562010fdbf1dc5c68897e8469

Blue Chip Stamps. If you’re curious about that “cash value one mill” (equivalent to 1/10 ¢) thing, have a gander at this article over at Mental Floss.

1967-blue-chip-stamps-coupons

Blue Chip Promotional Ad

lot-of-s-h-green-stamps-plaid-stamps-top-value-stamps-books-c4f216e1c8003cc8c30b62640a2f31d3

Plaid Stamps, particular to A&P.

8208plaida

Pages from a Plaid Stamp catalog.

I remember helping my mother gather and lick and apply these things and looked forward to her regular trips to the grocery store. I can’t recall what, if anything, she ever redeemed her books for, but the memory of the collecting is very clear. While the craze faded shortly after, I’m glad I was able to live through this interesting bit of cultural history.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Sir Vival: The future that never was

Reblogged from a post at lafinlarry.net by Pepelaputr. I had never heard of this wonderful bit of bizzarrity, and thought it should get wider exposure.

tumblr_n1mvaus3DF1qzk2apo1_1280tumblr_n1mvaus3DF1qzk2apo2_1280W.C. Jerome’s %27Safety Car%27 1958_3

Walter C. Jerome of Worcester, Massachusetts was a man possessed by a mission to make the world’s safest car. In the end, he failed to advance auto safety but Jerome’s segmented sedan might easily qualify as the world’s strangest car.

Primarily concerned with head-on collisions, Jones split his car in two, hoping the front section would absorb collisions, leaving the passenger cabin untouched. Using a heavily modified 1948Hudson sedan as a rear section, he built a raised turret to provide the driver with maximum viability, a goal he furthered with a 360 degree wrap-around screen that constantly rotated past built-in squeegees to wipe it clean.

Wrap-around rubber bumpers protected the Sir Vival’s bodywork from errant motorists in slow speed collisions but they were just one of Jerome’s innovations. The Sir Vival was years ahead with seat belts, a padded interior, and built-in roll bars.

Auto safety has two parts: passive safety concerns passenger protection once a collision occurs, and active safety, or a car’s ability to avoid accidents due to handling and braking qualities. Like most Americans, Jerome focused only on passive safety, ignoring the fact that his car’s awkward separation into dual modules necessitated atrocious handling.

The Sir Vival appeared on magazine covers. Jerome had fancy two-color sales brochures printed that extolled its virtues. But its fifteen minutes in the spotlight quickly elapsed and it sunk without a trace. Amazingly, the eccentric Sir Vival turned out to be a survivor after all. A little the worse for wear, it remains in the care of Bellingham Auto Sales in Bellingham, Massachusetts.

Sir-Vival-1Sir-Vival-2

The world is so full of a number of things…

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Good News! Cheap Oil! Bad News! Cheap Oil!

Cheap Oil

This cover of Time appeard on April 14, 1996. The lead article started off,

The epic oil plunge of the 1980s started out slowly and a bit remotely. To most people, it was just a downward-sloping diagram on the financial page, an abstract reminder of the mysterious world of desert oil wells, filthy-rich Arabs and the irritating antics of OPEC. But suddenly oil’s new situation is hitting home with the wallop of a 42-gal. oil barrel dropped on the front porch. Last week consumers, businessmen and traders around the world watched in awe as the price of crude dipped below $10 per bbl. for the first time in almost a decade. Oil, which as recently… [subscribe to read full article]

Interestingly enough, the same article by Stephen Koepp (which you can read in full) appeared on 24 June, 2001:

The epic oil plunge of the 1980s started out slowly and a bit remotely. To most people, it was just a downward-sloping diagram on the financial page, an abstract reminder of the mysterious world of desert oil wells, filthy-rich Arabs and the irritating antics of OPEC. But suddenly oil’s new situation is hitting home with the wallop of a 42-gal. oil barrel dropped on the front porch. Last week consumers, businessmen and traders around the world watched in awe as the price of crude dipped below $10 per bbl. for the first time in almost a decade. Oil, which as recently as January was selling for $26 per bbl., was on a breathtaking–and dangerous–ride down a slippery slope.

Not being a subscriber to Time, I’d be interested to know if the oil price mentioned was changed to reflect the current situation, or if the article was sheer copypasta.

At any rate, tracking the historical price of oil online is fraught with difficulty. One chart from Mactrotrends (click through for the interesting interactive version) shows oil dropping at its lowest recent point to $16.28 per barrel in 1998 – I remember that around that time, the price of gas on the street dropped below $1.00 for the first time in ages.

oil prices

The problem with a lot of charts on the web is that they show prices adjusted for inflation rather than the price actually paid:

Opec

This article, from whicht the chart above was gathered, mentions crude oil prices plummeting to below $10.00 per barrel, but that doesn’t agree with the previous data from Macrotrends, unless one looks at the “Nominal” price rather than the price in 2010 dollars.

Interesting to note are the actual prices on the street for gasoline over time.

Texas Gas

This chart of Texas prices shows gas dipping below $1.00 for almost a full year in 1995-1996, but the trend now is decidedly downward, and even this chart is out of date – as of January 29, 2016, gas is selling for $1.39 in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Given what oil prices are doing lately, we are marching amazingly close to that $1.00 boundary, and I will be interested to see what the next few months bring. The 5-year chart from GasBuddy shown below gives you an idea of the trend:

Buddy

Yesterday I paid $1.75 in Lewiston, Maine, at BJ’s (a shopping club like Costco), but I noticed that many places were pushing that price anyway.

What’s of interest to me is that gas station owners (while they appreciate lower prices of wholesale stock because it does translate into higher profits, haven’t seen a major improvement in their bottom line as a result of fuel sales in over half a century:

Gas1955

Notice that the 20¢ price of gas leaves only 4¢ profit for the station owner in 1955, whereas CBS Money Watch (worth reading) reported in 2014:

“…you should know that after all the ups and downs in a year, gas stations do not make much money from selling gasoline. After credit card fees and other operating costs, net profit for gasoline sales averages 3 cents a gallon, according the National Association of Convenience Stores.”

That means that profit margins on gasoline sales have remained historically paper-thin.

Jack at Shell Station with Dog

My wife’s father at his Shell station in the 50s. He could have been selling gas at these prices.

As of January 2016, taxes in Maine look like this:

State Excise Tax: 30¢
Other Taxes and Fees: .01¢
Total State Taxes and Fees: 30.01¢
Federal Excise Taxes: 18.40¢
Grand total: 48.41¢

Factor in wholesale costs and other operating costs and fees, and it’s easy to see why a gas station that depended solely on fuel sales would be out of business in a week, much like movie theaters depending on concession sales to stay afloat.

Oil prices dropping again. and only the good Lord knows when the trend will reverse itself. Still, in the changing production landscape which differs from that of 1996 with fracking and oil shale and all sorts of other sources going on, there are winners and losers – this New York Times article outlines the current situation in terms that can be understood by someone other than the late John Nash. The Times predicts that prices are not likely to rise any time soon.

Naturally, for travelers and for those who heat their homes with oil (like me,) this is a boon. If you want to take a cross-country trip, the time is definitely now. On the other hand, the loss to the losers may ultimately be significant enough that drastic measures will be take to raise prices, which will once again curtail supply.

What’s clear to me is that as a nation we need to wean ourselves off dependence on oil, both domestic and foreign. (This is said realizing that for the foreseeable future, oil cannot be completely replaced in our economy.) Trends are encouraging, with efficient electric and self-driving vehicles on the visible horizon, as well as a growing green-energy sector. This is not even factoring in the impact of oil-combustion emissions on global climate change. Anything that can be done to swap as many kilowatts of electricity as possible from oil (and coal) to renewable sources will be a good thing.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

WindPower

Wind power? I’m a big fan.