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7 More Wonders of the World

This week only, we’re having a blowout sale on vintage View-Master reels at eBay. Most date from the late ’40s/early ’50s and have travel destinations, fairy tales, or TV/movies as their subject. They’re old, they’re cool, they’re going to the thrift store if someone doesn’t buy them!

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Can’t Live Without My Radio

Every morning when I do my bathroon stuff, I used to turn on the Music Choice radio stations carried on DirecTV and have them play in the background. There was something comforting about this routine, wall to wall music channels tidily lined up in their own genres, seemingly programmed by robots. It had to end, though. On the 15th, DirecTV discontinued Music Choice and instead are simulcasting stations from X-M Satellite Radio. The change got me excited — not only are there more stations with the new setup, there’s more diversity as well. Cursory listens to several of their stations reveals that they live up to the hype, with some disappointments. I was a little bummed that the X-M stations have deejays and annoying promos, but I guess that’s what most satellite radio listeners want — a listening experience that’s exactly like broadcast radio, only without the ads. For me, the ideal radio experience would be an “iPod shuffle” kind of deal, nothing but music programmed in a way that’s full of surprises. But I guess that’s asking for too much, right? I love X-M’s idea of having stations themed around decades from the past, but except for the ’40s one they’re saddled with unimaginative “fun oldies” style playlists. The most promising station might be an uncategorized one called Special X. When I first tuned in, Lorne Greene’s one-shot hit “Ringo” was playing — performed in French. That’s more like it!

PS If you want an interesting online radio experience, try Pandora (thanks Brad!). Simply type in the name of a favorite artist, and Pandora comes up with an eerily accurate playlist of similar yet diverse sounding music. Pretty cool, and it even prompted me to buy a great song off iTunes that I’d never heard before (that would be Marlena Shaw’s dynamite rendition of “California Soul”).

Defiantly Modern

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Biomorphic shapes and beautiful colors galore from Alvin Lustig (1915-1955), via Veer.com. Lustig’s designs are very simple and “of their time” in the best way possible. The variety of things he accomplished across such a brief career is amazing.

Bottom of the Pops

Just finished a mix devoted to songs that placed on Billboard‘s “Bubbling Under The Hot 100” chart between 1966 and 1981. Quite a fun disc to assemble, with samplings from New Wave, Soul, Country, ’60s Pop and Disco. On a similar note — Pitchfork’s Worst Record Covers (via MetaFilter). Good for a few laughs; contains this priceless observation: “One day, the dawn of Photoshop will be seen as the absolute nadir of human artistic endeavor.”

Silent Sunday

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I used to complain about the lack of revival film showings in the area where I live. Not anymore. Recently, a group of local film lovers decided to do a series of silent movie presentations with live organ accompaniment. The films have been shown at The Orpheum, a beautifully restored 1920s movie palace in downtown Phoenix. Last night they presented the early Technicolor Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler The Black Pirate. We went with a couple of friends and had lots of fun, even if some of the details weren’t quite as perfect as they could be.

The program began with a couple of early animated shorts – Walt Disney’s Puss In Boots and Felix the Cat in Hollywood. Both had the rudimentary feel of comic books in motion, with thought balloons growing out of characters’ heads and simple, repetitive actions. But they were also quite funny in their own clumsy way. I appreciated the lampoonings of then-current stars like Rudolf Valentino, Gloria Swanson and Ben Turpin, as well as the dated lingo coming from the characters’ mouths. It was an experience very similar to when Bart and Milhouse watched that 1920s Itchy and Scratchy cartoon on The Simpsons

When it came time for The Black Pirate, I was disappointed to find that the only print the theatre had was blurry and dark — and in black and white, not color. Plus, the title cards were set in a goofy looking font called Ad-Lib. Couldn’t they have found a typeface that even sort of looks old? The film unfolded at a somewhat pokey pace, but things pick up once Dashing Doug bombards a ship and tries to avenge his father’s death (all the while courting the lovely Billie Dove as a princess). I was surprised to find several scenes that I already knew – Fairbanks slashing his way down a giant ship sail, Fairbanks’ body being effortlessly lifted by his pirate minions, and a bizarre scene involving dozens of male extras hung by wires (they’re supposed to be swimming). Seeing an older film like this in its proper setting was a blast. I’m going to have to go back again soon.

Videogame Ads of 1982 at Flickr

Out of pure nostalgia, I bought a pile of old Games magazines on eBay. I went through the mags, scanned the videogame ads, and posted them on Flickr for your enjoyment. I almost forgot how many weird, obsolete systems there were. Anyhow, enjoy.