The past is a foreign country...

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Jennifer
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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I've been watching old episodes of Barney Miller (as though there exist any other kind), and once again -- hoo boy, times have changed. Lots of what we would consider homophobic bigotry (though, to be fair, Barney did support Zatelli [sp?] after he came out as being gay), lots of sexism (the "marital rape" episode is downright horrifying), and even some obvious changes in basic film technology: I saw one episode a couple days ago where Barney (wearing a white shirt) was talking to a white-haired old man. That scene was shot from two different camera angles; with one angle, everything looked fine, but from another angle, the leftmost edges of Barney's shirt and the man's white hair had a distinct yellow glow. I asked Jeff about this discoloration -- was it something viewers would've seen when it first aired, or it is a result of turning that old film into digital transmissions or something -- he said the former. White looking yellow in certain lights was a fairly common problem in color videotape-filming, back then.

In old black-and-white 50s game shows, there were worse problems: anything too bright or shiny (including sparking diamond/rhinestone jewelry; the super-shiny bits of highly polished metal items such as the horns various musicians might play on stage; sometimes even a man's shining bald head) would completely overwhelm the camera (or the film), so the sparkly or shiny bits looked black. A woman who, in real life, had her neck sparkling with diamonds and if you saw her you'd see little specks of light dancing around -- on those old TV shows, instead of seeing sparkles of light appear and disappear, it's spots of black darkness.
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D.A. Ridgely
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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Jennifer wrote: 09 Jul 2020, 16:59
In old black-and-white 50s game shows, there were worse problems: anything too bright or shiny (including sparking diamond/rhinestone jewelry; the super-shiny bits of highly polished metal items such as the horns various musicians might play on stage; sometimes even a man's shining bald head) would completely overwhelm the camera (or the film), so the sparkly or shiny bits looked black. A woman who, in real life, had her neck sparkling with diamonds and if you saw her you'd see little specks of light dancing around -- on those old TV shows, instead of seeing sparkles of light appear and disappear, it's spots of black darkness.
Game shows, and even legitimately live shows in the earliest days of television, but most B&W scripted comedies and dramas were beautifully shot with extremely careful attention to lighting. In fact, whatever you think of the quality of the shows' contents, it's amazing how good they look now that you can see them on a digital screen with resolution approaching the film stock they used and no broadcast static or other interference.

We decry broadcast networks taping over or merely destroying shows because "no one is ever going to see them or want to see them again" but the flip side of that is that the networks were well aware of the limitations of NTSC broadcasting in those days but producers, directors, cinematographers (when they were shooting film), etc. were nonetheless turning out great work from a technical standpoint even knowing that their audiences wouldn't be able to appreciate it.

In that regard, much early television is like early-ish audio recordings. RCA's Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence records, for example, sounded way, way better than all but a tiny handful of listeners could possibly hear and appreciate when they were first released. Early audio and video productions may be stone axes and bear skins by comparison to contemporary technology, but some of the stuff they produced was way better technically than the public realized until decades later.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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D.A. Ridgely wrote: 09 Jul 2020, 18:18 We decry broadcast networks taping over or merely destroying shows because "no one is ever going to see them or want to see them again"
That's another thing: it is a shame (though in retrospect, not all THAT surprising) that so much early television from the 40s and 50s has been lost -- even if companies then did have some idea "we might want this later," they couldn't necessarily AFFORD to physically keep and store all that film stock. (Not to mention notorious pennywise/poundfoolish ideas such as the BBC taping over/re-using tape that originally held things like early Beatles performances and others which would be worth a fortune today.) But what surprises me is that even in the 1970s -- when the TV industry was already old enough for people to notice and lament all that lost early stuff -- they STILL weren't saving a lot of that stuff. Especially shows like "To Tell the Truth" or "I've Got A Secret," where quite a few of the "contestants" were pretty obviously "future potentially-famous people, doing important stuff": a LOT of 1970s-era episodes of "To Tell the Truth" are missing today. And I'm sure the same is true for any other national-broadcast shows (again, it's far less surprising that even in the 1970s, the local TV station or local network affiliate couldn't afford to save copies of every single morning and evening news broadcast they aired).

Of course, my dumb ass has no right to talk: I recently made the mournful discovery that certain of my early professional-published pieces are NOT in my "work stuff" box after all, and apparently are gone.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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Jennifer wrote: 09 Jul 2020, 16:59 In old black-and-white 50s game shows, there were worse problems: anything too bright or shiny (including sparking diamond/rhinestone jewelry; the super-shiny bits of highly polished metal items such as the horns various musicians might play on stage; sometimes even a man's shining bald head) would completely overwhelm the camera (or the film), so the sparkly or shiny bits looked black.
There is a color used on some guitars called "TV yellow", and nobody knows the exact origin of the name, but one theory is that it was designed to come across as light-colored on early B&W TVs without blowing out like a true white would do. (The other main theory is that a lot of TVs of the time came in a kind of blonde wood finish, and the guitar color was imitative of that.)
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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JD wrote: 09 Jul 2020, 23:16
Jennifer wrote: 09 Jul 2020, 16:59 In old black-and-white 50s game shows, there were worse problems: anything too bright or shiny (including sparking diamond/rhinestone jewelry; the super-shiny bits of highly polished metal items such as the horns various musicians might play on stage; sometimes even a man's shining bald head) would completely overwhelm the camera (or the film), so the sparkly or shiny bits looked black.
There is a color used on some guitars called "TV yellow", and nobody knows the exact origin of the name, but one theory is that it was designed to come across as light-colored on early B&W TVs without blowing out like a true white would do. (The other main theory is that a lot of TVs of the time came in a kind of blonde wood finish, and the guitar color was imitative of that.)
On a similar note, some time ago someone discovered a rare early-60s color photograph taken of the set of the Addams Family; to provide proper contrast and gloom in black and white, the actual colors were mostly bright pastels -- pink and yellow, with hints of green.

Image
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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Jennifer wrote: 18 Dec 2019, 18:19 More old-time observations from The Flintstones -- this one something I know accurately reflected actual American life when the show first aired -- Wilma and Betty had and used sewing machines (I recall one episode where Wilma went next door to use Betty's). And -- related to my earlier observation about the need to iron clothes, and the old trope of the ironed scorch-marks on the back of a shirt -- during the episode where Fred and Wilma argue over who has the rougher life and switch places for a day, Fred of course completely fails at housework, including leaving a hot iron on a pile of shirts so that the iron burned all the way through to the bottom of the pile -- every shirt destroyed. (He started bawling as bad as Pebbles, and I could hardly blame him.)

On the other hand, even in Bedrock "rummage sales" were a thing -- at least once, Fred had to drop off a bunch of Wilma's old dresses for one -- and I also know from IRL observations that, at least in North Georgia, the Goodwill organization has been in operation since at least the 1920s (according to a local sign boasting of how long it has served my area). I also know, from one of the 1958 scenes in Stephen King's "It," that thrift stores were a thing even in small Maine cities (there's a reference to Beverly, whose family is poor so her clothes come from the thrift store). On the other other hand, I know from personal experience that, at least by the early 1990s, thrift stores still had a "there's nothing but dirty damaged crap there" reputation though the reality was (and still is) entirely different.

Point is, now I'm idly curious to know: first, how long have rummage sales, thrift stores, and other "You buy things whose previous owners gave them away, as opposed to selling them"-type businesses been A Thing in America ... and second, for how long was the "nothin' but crap" reputation true? Like, if my seondhand-shopper self had to go back in time to live, and tried as much as possible to re-create my current "standard of living" (at least in terms of, how many "nice clothes," "nice things" and "books" do I have relative to most people in my economic bracket... and more importantly, how much/little did I pay to acquire those things secondhand, compared to if I shopped retail)... how far back could I go and find roughly the same quality and [relative] amount of stuff in the secondhand shops?
Related: a week or so ago, just before I kicked off my Spanish-TV thing, I watched an episode of the Addams Family. The plot was, due to a typical hilarious sitcom misunderstanding, the government thinks the Addamses are anti-American secret agents and send investigators to spy on them; meanwhile, the Addams family think the investigators are the bad-guy spies trying to hurt America. Things come to a head when Gomez makes a "citizen's arrest" of the lead investigator, and they lock him in stocks in the basement while they call the authorities to take him in.

Afterward, when the misunderstanding is resolved and Gomez and Morticia were discussing the incident, Morticia, referring to the stocks where they kept him, said "And to think, I was going to give this to the Salvation Army!"
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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Jennifer wrote: 31 Jul 2020, 17:03Afterward, when the misunderstanding is resolved and Gomez and Morticia were discussing the incident, Morticia, referring to the stocks where they kept him, said "And to think, I was going to give this to the Salvation Army!"
Ha! And yeah, I believe there were references in other shows of the time to resale shops.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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his voice is so soothing, but why do conspiracy nuts always sound like Batman and Robin solving one of Riddler's puzzles out loud? - fod

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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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It goes back a long way. I remember my Shakespeare prof referring to the 'roaring trade in used clothing' in Elizabethan times.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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Yeah, but in Elizabethan times those used clothes were SOLD by their original owners, not merely given away.

Those Jewish-owned secondhand shops in Mo's article -- there's mention of them in Sam Levenson's book "Everything But Money" (reminiscing about growing up in New York slums of the gaslight era). I first read the book when I was 12 (one of my mother's friends was cleaning out some junk she no longer wanted, and I was more than happy to take the books off of her hands), and the bit about the secondhand shops was played up for comedy -- something about how, there in the slums, you could buy accessories for elegant living such as a bell for summoning the maid, or bronze statues of Atlas holding up a heavy ashtray -- and years before I personally started thrift-shopping, my immediate thought was "I would LOVE to browse those secondhand shops, just to see what kind of stuff they had in the 1910s."

But when the actual thrift, as opposed to consignment/resale, shops started -- well, I'm still curious regarding "At first, did they deserve the reputation of 'nothing but old dirty junk," or were they pretty much always what they are now (pre-covid): sure, there's some shabby old junk to be found there, but also some really nice stuff which no casual observer would guess was bought secondhand.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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I imagine that the early thrift shops were kind of the retail end of the rag-and-bone man supply chain. Stuff that was actually worn out and crappy, but still better than what you'd otherwise be able to afford if you were living in a hovel under a bridge in Elizabethan London.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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I'd be surprised if they started well before 1800, which is when the process of making paper from wood pulp started.

The "traditional" way to make paper was to use old worn-out linens and rags. (A "ragamuffin" was someone who made a living collecting worn out rags to make into paper.)

Now, the clothing you use to make paper is way more worn out than what you'd drop off in a thrift shop, but it kinda seems unlikely that people would be giving away used clothes when there was still an active economic demand for _destroyed_ clothes.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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I remember reading a book about Victorian life (specifically, the everyday-life references you need to know to understand when they come up in English novels written at the time) -- even then, ragmen would go door to door buying damaged or unwanted clothes. The only standard "give old clothes away" thing was for aristocratic ladies rich enough to have a personal maid to help with dress and grooming -- it was generally understood that one perk of being a lady's maid was, in addition to your pittance of a salary, you also got your mistress' discarded clothes. But such a Victorian aristocratic lady was also one of the relatively few 19th-century people who were rich enough to discard perfectly good clothes merely because "it's last year's style" or "I'm just tired of this outfit."
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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Wood pulp process paper apparently only became common starting around 1840, so that makes sense.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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Jadagul wrote: 01 Aug 2020, 19:59 Wood pulp process paper apparently only became common starting around 1840, so that makes sense.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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I followed a chain of links and ended up finding this rather interesting thesis about the men who were rejected as "4-F" by the draft in WWII;
https://twu-ir.tdl.org/bitstream/handle ... sAllowed=y

It's too broad-ranging for a real tl;dr, but it covers a lot of interesting ground about the psychology of the military, the draft board procedures, popular reactions to 4-Fs, why certain groups were more likely to be found "defective" than others, and the effect of the sheer numbers of men rejected.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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I suspect we've done this before, but I was thinking earlier today about anachronistic phrases still in common English usage, e.g, roll down the car window or dial the phone. Did we make a list of these sorts of phrases somewhere?
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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I'm sure it's filed away somewhere.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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D.A. Ridgely wrote: 03 Aug 2020, 17:21 I suspect we've done this before, but I was thinking earlier today about anachronistic phrases still in common English usage, e.g, roll down the car window or dial the phone. Did we make a list of these sorts of phrases somewhere?
I still have a manual car window, but my favorite such phrase is the people who use their iPad or similar device to 'film' something.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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JD wrote: 03 Aug 2020, 15:37 I followed a chain of links and ended up finding this rather interesting thesis about the men who were rejected as "4-F" by the draft in WWII;
https://twu-ir.tdl.org/bitstream/handle ... sAllowed=y

It's too broad-ranging for a real tl;dr, but it covers a lot of interesting ground about the psychology of the military, the draft board procedures, popular reactions to 4-Fs, why certain groups were more likely to be found "defective" than others, and the effect of the sheer numbers of men rejected.
This was a really interesting paper (if a bit long). It's also a good lesson in unintended consequences. A government program designed to find the people most fit to be a soldier ends up creating an often reviled underclass numbering in the millions. Getting categorized 4F was like a reverse scarlet letter. Everyone is immediately suspicious of why you didn't make the cut. Then throw in blaming their upbringing for the reasons they were rejected and it gets even better. So not only the 4F gets ostracized but often their family as well for "not raising them right."

Also this confirms to me that early psychology was a bane to all humanity. All the authority of science with none of its discipline.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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Painboy wrote: 04 Aug 2020, 13:03
Also this confirms to me that early psychology was a bane to all humanity. All the authority of science with none of its discipline.
Absolutely agree. And I'm not convinced modern psychology is much better.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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The 4-F thing is of some personal interest to me because my father washed out of basic very early on, and I don't know why; he never talked about it, and his discharge papers only listed the most general category of "unsuited for military service". I think there must have been a lot of shame involved, particularly as his twin brother went on to serve in the European theater.
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Re: The past is a foreign country...

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Jennifer wrote: 09 Jul 2020, 18:37
D.A. Ridgely wrote: 09 Jul 2020, 18:18 We decry broadcast networks taping over or merely destroying shows because "no one is ever going to see them or want to see them again"
That's another thing: it is a shame (though in retrospect, not all THAT surprising) that so much early television from the 40s and 50s has been lost -- even if companies then did have some idea "we might want this later," they couldn't necessarily AFFORD to physically keep and store all that film stock. (Not to mention notorious pennywise/poundfoolish ideas such as the BBC taping over/re-using tape that originally held things like early Beatles performances and others which would be worth a fortune today.) But what surprises me is that even in the 1970s -- when the TV industry was already old enough for people to notice and lament all that lost early stuff -- they STILL weren't saving a lot of that stuff. Especially shows like "To Tell the Truth" or "I've Got A Secret," where quite a few of the "contestants" were pretty obviously "future potentially-famous people, doing important stuff": a LOT of 1970s-era episodes of "To Tell the Truth" are missing today. And I'm sure the same is true for any other national-broadcast shows (again, it's far less surprising that even in the 1970s, the local TV station or local network affiliate couldn't afford to save copies of every single morning and evening news broadcast they aired).

Of course, my dumb ass has no right to talk: I recently made the mournful discovery that certain of my early professional-published pieces are NOT in my "work stuff" box after all, and apparently are gone.
Completely unrelated to this topic, but: woo hoo! Turns out there was a second box, which DOES contain the articles I was looking for!

Rather bittersweet nostalgia going through those old stories, and especially complete issues of a given paper or magazine, though.
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