Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A little time machine from a yard sale

At a neighborhood yard sale not too long ago, I picked up this little gem:



I may be one of the minute percentage of people who would call a TV Guide dated March 18-24, 1967 with a drawing (a actual pencil drawing, by Bernie Fuchs) of Jackie Gleason (Generation Y asks, “Who the hell is he?”) a “gem”.

It is so from way back then that programming in color is specially noted. It is so from way back then that NBC had a series called “Experiment in TV”, and one of its shows spotlighted intellectual Marshall McLuhan.



An hour-long show featuring an intellectual on network television? Where can I hitch a ride to March 19, 1967? (Meandering Mouse was around back then, but at one year and eight months old I was not yet prepared for the mind-blowing McLuhan experience.)

But 1967 wasn’t a good year for meandering mice of the four-legged variety. Take a look at this ad for D-Con:



Somehow, the words “amazing mouse-killer” offend me much more than the imagery of a woman jumping on a chair at the sight of a tiny rodent. Maybe a dose of Midol will help:



It will change something more than your mood!

And look…what’s this?



It’s text! Text in TV Guide! Text in TV Guide…that tells an actual story!!!

When was the last time you saw so many words on a magazine page?

Popular magazines are far from being scholarly journals, but in the golden age of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, they gave people so many words – and so many ideas. Life and Look may have put celebrities on their covers, but underneath those famous faces, readers found well-researched stories and in-depth analysis of the issues of the day. Magazine publishers assumed that not only a.) you could read this much text, but b.) you wanted to read this much text.

What you will find in a 2011 TV Guide can barely be called reading at all. It’s word filler, much like those meat “extenders” that fast-food restaurants use to add heft to their hamburgers. If you try to “read” it, its meaning will slide right out of you, just like a fast-food burger slides out of your digestive system. You will have gained nothing, but have lost time.

This is why I will never stop collecting old magazines. Reading them is so much more intellectually enjoyable than reading (most) new ones.

Yard sales, for the most part, are not too rewarding for the prospective customer. These are the items that most people want to banish from their households for good – old clothes that haven’t reached the vintage stage yet, VHS tapes (how boxy and bulky they were!), and stacks of once-read Danielle Steel paperbacks.

Yet we always stop and look.

We never know when we will discover a gem hiding in the trash…a little time machine to a more thoughtful time (“I Dream of Jeannie” notwithstanding).



Look, Ma, no Surgeon General’s warning box!

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