Vintage and Period


For the absolute spirgins among you, this will all go below the fold. (more…)

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I’ve been meaning to post this, and then hullabaloo goes and quotes it, so that was my cue.

This is the greatest advertising opportunity since the invention of cereal.

So I checked. On when cereal was invented. For real, it’s kind of cool:

Will Keith Kellogg was the founder of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1906. In 1894, Kellogg was trying to improve the diet of hospital patients. He was searching for a digestible bread substitute using the process of boiling wheat. Kellogg accidentally left a pot of boiled wheat to stand and the wheat became tempered (soften). When Kellogg rolled the tempered or softened wheat and let it dry, each grain of wheat emerged as a large thin flake. The flakes turned out to be a tasty cereal. Kellogg had invented corn flakes.

Will Keith Kellogg founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in 1906.

Rice Krispies were introduced by Kellogg in 1929.

(‘It’s toasted‘, btw, was the Lucky Strike tagline since 1917. )

(And the song is really really fun to sing. I’ve taught it to many singers. I like being Pop.)

Roberta did this research; we were wondering about Peggy’s access to the Pill (Enovid) in Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. We know that the episode takes place in March or April of 1960, but the FDA didn’t approve Enovid for contraceptive use until June 23, 1960. Could it be a goof? We didn’t think it was a goof, because it’s major, and they’re sooo careful. But there it was, approval on June 23, 1960.

Then Roberta found this:

On May 9, 1960, the FDA announced it would approve Enovid 10 mg for contraceptive use, which it did on June 23, 1960, by which time Enovid 10 mg had been in general use for three years during which time, by conservative estimate, at least half a million women had used it.

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Mad Men keeps turning up on the fashion pages, this time in an article on men wearing vests.

After spending a long time at the back of Dad’s closet, vests are popping up everywhere – on rock stars, celebrities, and TV shows like AMC’s “Mad Men” with its cool 1960s ad-exec wardrobes.

I hope the fashionistas don’t freak out too much when we jump ahead fourteen months for season 2!

In a video posted on AMC’s Mad Men blog, Alan Taylor (who directed Smoke Gets In Your Eyes as well as Ladies Room and Nixon vs. Kennedy) talks about stylistic uses of the camera that set the period every bit as much as the costumes. Interesting!

Check it out.

The Learners, by Chip Kidd
Scribner’s, 258 pages.

I mentioned The Learners a while back; a couple of reviews noted its similarity to Mad Men, so I thought it was worth checking out.

It opens with language I’ll treasure forever:

I was in the shower when I realized where I’d gone wrong…there I was, the water drilling away, its wet warmth my amniotic tide, the shower curtain a plastic, plaid uterine wall. Then it occurs to me, like a gift from God: Shoes are our friends.

Our friends.

Not just our acquaintances, the occasional giggly aunt and bald uncle over for dinner, the neighbors down the hall you have to say hello to—but the confidants we carefully screen and select over the course of a lifetime, our intimates.

It’s 1961 in New Haven. Recent graphic design graduate “Happy” wants to start out at the same ad agency his favorite teacher and mentor started at. So, he seeks work at Spear, Rakoff, and Ware, an advertising firm with an excellent reputation back in 1939, but now a run-down bit of nowhere. This isn’t Sterling Cooper. It’s made up of people who have heard that New York is where you go if you want to succeed, and are afraid to try. Happy is different, of course, following in his mentor’s footsteps with every intention of moving on, but the experience proves profound.

The novel is intimately and utterly about advertising, specifically advertising design, and is definitely not about that. Advertising design is a lens through which Happy (and clearly, Chip Kidd) see the world. There is form (layout, typography, illustration) and then there is content (which can be deceptive, metaphorical, ironic, or sincere). Form hides or enhances content. But this isn’t design; this is life. There’s what we see, and then there’s what is. There’s the trickery of the world, and then there’s whatever is actually going on. Truth and lies. The pretty dress on a corpse. The celebratory toast preceding a disaster. Form that masks content.

Kidd dresses up his novel with typography and design, explaining the old-fashioned way of page layout, using font and layout within the novel itself to illustrate and illuminate (and deceive). It’s funny and I laughed aloud several times (like when reading the quote above), but The Learners is not primarily comedic. Comedy is the form here, the content addresses a tragedy that Happy must face, and its unexpected aftermath. I’m inclined to give away less information than even the publisher gives, because I think it might surprise you, and if you see it coming, well bully for you.

It’s a skillful writer that can weave wit and sorrow, fear and typography. Kidd’s style is deft.

Upon looking up the Amazon page for linking, I discovered that The Learners is a sequel to Kidd’s first novel, The Cheese Monkeys, but nothing in reading this book indicated to me that it was a sequel. That alone is a testament to the strength of the writing, because really, when does that happen? Reading sequels out of order is annoying because the feeling of “sequel” bleeds through. Not here.

Mad Men stuff: There is no way you can walk away without a strong understanding about what goes on in Salvatore’s department, and the era is richly painted, but it’s not as committed to its time as Mad Men; it’s not television, after all, with all those gorgeous visuals, and the novel exists mostly in Happy’s head.

Grace Dent of the Huffington Post seems to be a Mad Men fan.

Or is she?

She wrote a fun piece today all about fashion on TV, featuring lovely photos from Mad Men. Three of them, in fact, all Joan.

And yet, she refers to Betty Draper.

Betty Draper from Mad Men does ice cool femininity better than anyone since Grace Kelly.

See? That’s Joan. Ice cool is Joan. What is funny, of course, that she has the Grace Kelly thing right.

So actually, if you investigate further, there’s a whole other section with a shot of Rachel. Which is quite nice:

Yeah, suddenly that land is looking all “glamorous”, “swoonsome” and “va-va-voom”, to quote some recent reviews. And you can see why. No man here would walk around in oversized T-shirts and cropped combat trousers; instead, it’s dark grey suits and smart tailoring. As for the women, it’s all tight cardigans, wasp-waisted full skirts and ladylike dresses – in short, a look Anna Wintour has been wearing for years. The only kind of trousers a woman sports are Audrey Hepburn-esque narrow cropped ones, and only if she’s a bit of a rebel, which on this show seems to mean “recently divorced”.

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