Friday, April 27, 2012

This, That and the Other Thing

I've noticed in the past week that Domino's is advertising "artisan pizzas" and Dunkin' Donuts in hawking "artisan bagels." In a commercial for the latter, one person asks another, "What does artisan mean?" A good question.

From Wikipedia: "An artisan (from Italian: artigiano) or craftsman is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewelry, household items, and tools or even machines such as the handmade devices of a watchmaker. An artisan is therefore a person engaged in or occupied by the practice of a craft, who may through experience and talent reach the expressive levels of an art in their work and what they create."

With all due respect to anyone who works for Domino's or Dunkin' Donuts, are we really expected to believe that there are "master craftsmen" in your local shop making the pizza and bagels?


I'm still getting used to not wearing glasses. I find myself reaching for them when I get out of the shower and trying to take them off when I get into bed.

Friends, family and co-workers are also still adjusting to my "new look." And some are trying to figure out what has changed. At volleyball last week, one of the players realized something was different but couldn't quite figure it out. She asked if I had gotten a haircut.


Despite 70-degree temperatures for a stretch in March and also this month, the pool is not yet open. It was originally scheduled for this week -- truth be told, had it been open already, I would have been in it last week -- but we've had a lot of rain and temps only in the 50s.

So it will be opened up next week, with First Dunk 2012 to follow shortly thereafter.


According to the counter Blogger has, this is my 200th blog entry. Who would have thought I'd have that much to say?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A $412 Check Worth...?

Currently up for auction and attracting some media attention is the original check made out to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for the first Superman story that appeared in Action Comics #1 back in 1938.

Some interesting things to note about this check:
* Both of their names are misspelled ("Seigel" and "Schuster") so both men had to sign the check twice, first with the misspelled names and then the correct ones.
* The check also includes payment for other work that Siegel and Shuster did for June-dated issues: A thirteen-page Slam Bradley story and an 8-page Bart Regan, Spy tale for Detective Comics #16; a 4-page Doctor Occult story for More Fun Comics #32; and a 4-page Federal Men tale for New Adventure Comics #27.
* Siegel and Shuster were paid $10 a page for Superman; their rate for the other stories was only $9 a page.

Much of the media coverage describes this check as payment for the rights and ownership to Superman. This is not precisely correct; it was payment for that specific 13-page story. Inherent in that sale, as with every other sale they (and everyone else working for DC) made was the rights to the characters, et al.  So Siegel and Shuster had signed away the rights to Federal Men, Spy, Doctor Occult, and Slam Bradley with the first stories they did of each of those characters.

* At the time of the sale of Superman, Siegel and Shuster had regular work at DC, producing those other features on a monthly basis. Slam Bradley and Spy had appeared in Detective Comics since the first issue, while Doctor Occult and Federal Men had both been running more than a year.

* Siegel and Shuster had originally tried to sell Superman as a newspaper strip. It was rejected again and again. It is likely that, when the DC bosses said they wanted to use it in Action Comics, Siegel and Shuster saw an opportunity to make some money off a project that they must have considered a failure. And if it promised more monthly work, all the better.

* I've never heard any accounting of how Siegel and Shuster split the money they were paid. Was it 50/50? Or did Joe get a larger percentage since the art took a lot more time and energy than the writing?

* The $130 they received in 1938 is worth $2100 in today's dollars. Similarly, their month's total of $412 would today be $6,650. Not exactly a fortune, especially when split between the two of them, but a decent amount considering it was during the Great Depression.

One other thing not mentioned in the coverage: Where did this check come from and who has put it up for sale? Presumably, it was in a file somewhere that contained all of DC's bank records. Or in a separate file that was used as evidence during the lawsuits filed by Siegel and Shuster as they tried to regain the rights to the character. In either case, it would be property of DC Comics.
Was it miraculously found in a box of trash somewhere? Or did some past or present employee spirit it away? It wouldn't be the first time that something valuable in DC's files has disappeared.

Lastly, with about four days left in the auction, the current bid is $46,500. That's a lot less than an actual copy of Action Comics #1 would cost. But is it worth it? Well, as I used to answer back when people would write to the Answer Man column asking the value of one comic or another: It's worth whatever someone else is willing to pay you for it!


UPDATE APRIL 17TH: The check sold for $160,000!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Memorable Moments from the Real Mad Men

Mad Men is an excellent TV show. And while it focuses on a much larger picture of life in the 1960s, my favorite part is the behind-the-scenes look at the advertising agency work. The real men and women who worked in those agencies came up with catchy jingles and memorable ad campaigns.

Cases in point...

Chock Full O`Nuts Coffee,
The other night, Laurie mentioned that she had picked up a new can of coffee and it was Chock Full o Nuts. With that, both of us started singing, "Chock Full o Nuts is that heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee. Chock Full o Nuts is that heavenly coffee. Better coffee a millionaire's money can't buy." (You can sing along at ) I don't know just how far back that jingle actually goes, but I'm sure I first heard it in a TV commercial more than half a century ago.
And remember it all these years later.

Chuck and Rebecca visited recently and Laurie mentioned that a candy bar she had was similar to a Chunky. For those who, like my son and daughter-in-law, are unfamiliar with it, a Chunky is a small block of chocolate with raisins and peanuts in it. Unlike other chocolate candies -- like Hershey's and Nestle's bars -- which were flat, a Chunky was like a chocolate ingot. Their slogan was "Open wide for Chunky," something else that Laurie and I both recalled these many years since we've actually had a Chunky.

In a similar vein, we were at the railroad station last week and when the train pulled in, Laurie made a comment about shaking a box of Good & Plenty. Choo-Choo Charlie was the cartoon character "spokesman" for Good & Plenty and his song is another jingle I can still recall... and sing. (You can check  out the original commercial on Youtube: )

Finally, there's the Chevrolet song that was revived in a commercial starring the cast of Glee last year. This is one for which I don't know many of the words beyond, "See the U-S-A in your Chevrolet... lala lala lala lala lalaaa...!" But, hey, I remember the most important part and, as far as the Mad Men were concerned, that's what counts!