Join 3,520 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Interview with Robert Dennis, composer for 1970s Sesame Street segments
November 15, 2013 2:52 PM   Subscribe

"Milk" is one of the most strange and powerful episodes to come out of the Children's Television Workshop. It is impossible to imagine this film being made now. Here's the pitch:
Yeah… Jim. Look, I thought we would show how milk gets made with no script and no dialogue. Yeah. Let's just go shoot footage of farmers and the milk truck, maybe throw in a crying baby and some weird, monotone music crafted by some composer who likes jazzy stuff played by a chamber ensemble. Sunny day? Nah. Let's not make it cheerful or happy. We should make it gloomy and unsettling. Oh, and Jim? To do it right, we need some crane shots, a huge decal for the truck, and about four and a half minutes running time.
Read on, for an interview with Robert Dennis, composer of Milk and other clips (including Cow Feeding and the Mad Painter series of shorts).
posted by filthy light thief (118 comments total) 110 users marked this as a favorite

 
'Milk' is, hands down, my favorite thing that was ever on Sesame Street. I can't wait to dig into this. Great, great find, flt.
posted by mintcake! at 2:55 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


This film still contributes most of what I know about milk.
posted by anazgnos at 2:58 PM on November 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Watching that made my life better.
posted by jsturgill at 3:03 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Note: most of the post is copying text from the interview site, not my write-up. And that's not the actual pitch for the piece, but how the author humorously describes the "Milk" clip.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:05 PM on November 15, 2013


My head exploded the first time I saw "The Jeffersons" back in the late 70s:

"Hey! That's the painter guy from Sesame Street!"
posted by ShutterBun at 3:05 PM on November 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'd forgotten both the length and tone of this. Neat.
posted by deludingmyself at 3:05 PM on November 15, 2013


Oh god. I remember the cats and the "milk.....Miiiiiillllllllk" like it was yesterday. I loved those cats so much. Thanks for digging this up.

Aesthetics in the 70s was so much different. Movies and tv shows today even broke unemployed people have art on the walls and fresh paint. Back then they showed grimy doorframes and hallways with broken tiles.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:05 PM on November 15, 2013 [20 favorites]


I don't remember this at all, which, given the amount of Sesame Street I watched in my youth, is surprising to me. I absolutely love it now though.

(I do remember Cow Feeding and the Mad Painter... though I did not remember that it starred Paul "Mr. Bentley from The Jeffersons" Benedict.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:06 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


They skipped the whole homogenization and pasteurization part, leaving the implication that what comes out of the bottle is the same as what comes out of the cow. It's not.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:09 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, one of my cats and I have a routine where every morning I eat a bowl of cereal, she stalks me, waiting for my leftover milk. If she doesn't think she's going to be hearing this song while she waits, she has not been paying attention at all.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:09 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Holy crap I remember this! No one I've brought it up to has believed me. Vindicated!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:09 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I remember the "milk, miiiiiilk" refrain, but I didn't remember the baby.

My great-uncle had a few barn cats on his farm, and when he was milking he didn't bother with a pan, he just aimed a few pulls directly their way. They were happy to just open up and catch it.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 3:14 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I grew up on a corner of my grandfather's dairy farm during that era and never, never, did I see a milkman wear a red shirt.
posted by Ardiril at 3:16 PM on November 15, 2013


I don't remember this specifically, but I do remember a lot of the short, no-dialogue films that were part of sesame street as being some of my favorite things to watch and understand. There was one I think where they showed a saxaphone being manufactured, and I absolutely loved that one.

There was also one that I vaguely recall with a black woman with a full-on afro living in some inner city, but I don't recall any other context other than she had really big hair, and being raised almost exclusively around white people during my preschool years, this was definitely something "unique" that sesame street exposed me to at a very early age and stuck with me for some reason.
posted by daq at 3:17 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Milk is now officially my jam.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:17 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth, Milk is also on Hulu.

Milk is now officially my jam.

If you'd like the song to go, there's Listen to YouTube and other such free services.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:21 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Crayons, won't you?

Thanks for this. Incidentally, if anyone knows why on earth the issued DVDs of old Sesame Street shows carry a warning saying they're not suitable for young children, please advise. I can't imagine anything more suitable, except perhaps milk.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:21 PM on November 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


I slightly remember this from my youth.

Sesame Street and Mr Rogers "how it's made" segments (making crayons, saxophones, shoes, etc) were my top favorite things to watch as a kid ... also This Old House and random cooking shows. I still have a kick watching things like that to this day.
posted by littlesq at 3:21 PM on November 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this is forever a favorite.

If you like this you will like/fondly remember Bees & Honey
posted by Ennis Tennyone at 3:22 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is the aesthetic my generation (X) was weaned on.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:29 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


daq, this one's animated but it might possibly be what you're thinking of? I think a post about it was on the Blue a year or two ago, but I can't find it.

A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter.
posted by glhaynes at 3:30 PM on November 15, 2013 [29 favorites]


Countess Elena: Incidentally, if anyone knows why on earth the issued DVDs of old Sesame Street shows carry a warning saying they're not suitable for young children, please advise.
Man, was that scene rough. The masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes. Oscar’s depression was untreated. Prozacky Elmo didn’t exist.
That's a slightly skewed take from the New York Times article on the release of the first two seasons on DVD, in which the real reason is mentioned later by Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of “Sesame Street,” who cites Alistair Cookie's smoking and pipe eating as “[modeling] the wrong behavior.”
posted by filthy light thief at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Incidentally, if anyone knows why on earth the issued DVDs of old Sesame Street shows carry a warning saying they're not suitable for young children, please advise.

If anything, they should be putting those labels on DVDs from the Elmo era.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:38 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


It took about ten seconds of watching this video for the memories to come rushing back. By the time the farmer put the milk in front of the kittens I was a bit teary-eyed. There is a relaxed, optimistic curiosity, a warmth in so much of the children's culture that I was exposed to at that time that is just gone from our culture now. The idea that it was okay to play slow weird jazzy music on TV for kids. The idea that everyone on Sesame Street just sort of enjoyed hanging out together and nothing really drastic hardly ever happened. The earnestness of the "Free to Be, You and Me" records that my mom played for me. Fred Rogers looking right at you out of the screen while tying his shoes.

My parents were sort of folk-music kind of hippies but by the time I came along they were holding steady jobs, albeit human-service-oriented ones, and they owned a house and a car and I guess they were more liberal than radical but they really cared about creating a world for me that felt happy and safe. So I cry a little bit watching these videos because that happy safe world doesn't exist anymore, for me or anyone else.
posted by mai at 3:39 PM on November 15, 2013 [49 favorites]


gihaynes, nope, that one I remember very distinctly (the linked animated one), and I still to this day use it as a way to remember things as well as how to remember how to get places using landmarks. I am always surprised how many people say they can actually get lost (like, for real, not have a clue where they are) because I somehow developed a subroutine in my head to always catalog landmarks and things that I am passing to remember where I've been in case I need to get back from where ever I'm going. I even do this in dreams (though it gets messy since dream worlds don't usually remain static).

The one I am thinking of might have come from The Electric Company or one of the Mr. Rogers bits, too, since that was part of my daily television watching as a child.

Funny story. My parents both worked while I was growing up, so they would drop me off with a mormon family who offered daycare, so I grew up with a whole bunch of Mormon pseudo-siblings. It was a strange scene, mostly because every day when it was nice enough outside to go play in the yard, one of the kids would have to sit inside and was tasked with the job of watching the television so they could tell all the other kids when to come in for the Land of Make Believer segment, which everyone wanted to watch. I was the weird one because I actually like the other parts of the show more than the Land of Make Believe, but all the Mormon kids only wanted to watch that one bit and then they'd go back outside and play.
posted by daq at 3:40 PM on November 15, 2013


Wow. That was like some sort of Jason Bourne type flashback. I hit play in another tab and moved on and then that "Milk MIIIiiilk Milllk" music started and I robotically turned toward the screen and instantly flashed back to watching that as a child.

But the older me can't help but ask now:

- Why did you transfer the milk from that pitcher thing to that sloppy open-topped bucket? Why not just pour from that first thing into the big tank?

- Why pass the hose through that little door when that big door is open?

Ahhh, the innocence of youth when this was perfect. And I miss how gritty and real things were back then....you just can't slap raw close-up teet squeezin' and barnyard cats slurpin' dirty paint tray milk up on the ol' TV anymore.

And also I object to the line "maybe throw in a crying baby"? Maybe? That is what is driving this whole thing? Did you not notice how rushed the happy milk delivery man was once that baby started crying? That baby wasn't just a random clip....that was the plot right there! That baby needed hot bucket milk asap!
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 3:40 PM on November 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


And I came across this in a recent re-watching of the Sesame Street songs YouTube playlist. Apparently, we made it to clip #110, the position of the Milk song. The song sounded familiar, but for whatever, I really, really liked it this time. I actually went in search of a remix or edit of the track, hoping for something like Venetian Snares "Twelve". So far, no such luck. I might have to learn about disco-edit-type production (direct YT link) and take a hack at it myself. Todd Terje makes it sound easy ("Plain edits are just easy cuts and pastes. Sometimes that can force you to be creative as you don’t have much material, but the best thing about edits is that they’re so damn quick to do.").
posted by filthy light thief at 3:41 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


mai,
Don't be so sure about that world not existing. There are pockets of it still around. Sadly, they are hidden and over shadowed by a lot of suck. But don't worry, they will always be there.
posted by daq at 3:42 PM on November 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Mai, same here. I started watching it and it looked kind of familiar and then THE KITTIES! I REMEMBER THE KITTIES!

I probably haven't seen this in 37 years.
posted by smoothvirus at 3:46 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


In the NY Times article which filthy light thief linked it says that the target demographic was 4-year-old black kids from the inner city.

That seems so revolutionary. And yet – even with that target – holy shit, it worked for all kids. Maybe even worked better for all kids.

I watched some of the early Sesame Street shows with my daughter when she was around 18 months - 2 yrs. She doesn't really like Sesame Street that much, old or new. I mean, there's all this other stuff now that I didn't have. But the old Sesame Street really is dirty yet peaceful. Grubby in all the right places. Edgy even but just in the way average life can be edgy. Big Bird seemed to live in a lean-to heap of garbage sandwiched between two tenements, freezing his feathers off in winter. Harsh!

That Milk video is great.
posted by amanda at 3:46 PM on November 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


I found something amazing!
posted by jsturgill at 3:56 PM on November 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I found something amazing! posted by jsturgill

Gah, right in the childhood.
posted by littlesq at 3:57 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I found something amazing!

YouTube user love2register was also the one who first posted the Milk clip, titled as "Milk Crisis". On that clip, another YouTuber, Sam D, said the clip was filmed on his grandmother's farm, which is still running, in South Canaan, Wayne County, PA. Apparently, the farm is still running, and still in the family.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:01 PM on November 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


Oh god! The milk clip! All I have to do is sing the song and my sister will tear up. That clip upset her so much when she was little, because she thought the milkman was the baby's father and the baby couldn't get milk until he finished bringing it to everyone else on his route. I do not know why she though that.
I need to send her this.
posted by Biblio at 4:11 PM on November 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


Something else just came back. I remember thinking that truck driver really had to hurry because that baby was hungry. In fact I'm pretty sure I thought the baby was the truck drivers baby and that's why he was hurrying.

Then I'd go see if there was this TV show called "Watergate" on. It was about a lot of people sitting in a very big room talking. Mommy liked to watch Watergate so I would check and see. If it was on I would tell her her "Mommy, Watergate is on!"
posted by smoothvirus at 4:13 PM on November 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


Wow, everything is so filthy.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:14 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


A lovely thing to remember, though it does remind me how unbearably day-glo awful Sesame Street has become, particularly since they handed off a quarter of the damn show to a reprehensible keening red sock with a speech impediment and an inability to avoid the narcissistic third person.

However, I will mostly be singing a milk song tonight. I think I've have a glass of milk, in fact.
posted by sonascope at 4:15 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't remember "milk" very well, if at all. The mad painter though? Definitely.
posted by edheil at 4:21 PM on November 15, 2013


This is how everyone should learn the alphabet.
posted by Lucinda at 4:24 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, no one forgets the Mad Painter.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:24 PM on November 15, 2013


I haven't clicked the YouTube link yet but I can hear the refrain in my head after nearly 40 years of not hearing it. Holy shit.
posted by JoeZydeco at 4:26 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. This thing used to make me weep as a child. I don't actually remember much from that era of my life, but somehow (perhaps because I still eat cereal well into my 30s) this stuck with me through thick and thin -- though (I now realize) totally scrambled in my memory, where it was a child that looked much more like me weeping for the milk throughout the agonizing wait.

Next thing you know, I'll discover posted on youtube a video of me discovering the meaning of mortality when my pet daddy long-legs died when I was four...
posted by chortly at 4:39 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


That clip upset her so much when she was little, because she thought the milkman was the baby's father and the baby couldn't get milk until he finished bringing it to everyone else on his route. I do not know why she though that.

I don't know, I'm quite liking this interpretation. The music definitely takes a dramatic hurried edge after the introduction of the baby.
posted by solarion at 5:18 PM on November 15, 2013


Try to remember everything you passed. But when you go back, make the first thing the last. HA-HA!
posted by JHarris at 5:29 PM on November 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


This one hits your nostalgia on a couple of levels at once.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:35 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow, everything is so filthy.


And so, pasteurization.

Though, on the other hand...

Born in 1969, a Sesame Street kid - add me to the list of those for whom this is a madeleine. I wouldn't have remembered it cold, but I recognized it all as it unfolded, in the same way you feel the strangeness of knowing all the lyrics to a song you can barely recall having heard, or opening the pages of an old picture book and being hit with the visceral sense behind the illustrations. I am now a grownup local-food person and all but I didn't realize until I saw this that, like a lot of you, my understanding of how milking works is absolutely traceable to this video - from the zing! of the milk hitting the galvanized pail to the electronic suckers.

I also agree that there was a feeling about childhood media in the 70s that was different - freer, more curious, more adventurous, a bit less studied and manufactured - that was wonderfully safe, affirming, and shaggy. I miss that a lot. I've started a small collection of a genre of children's books that was popular in schools and liberal homes at the time - it consists of black-and-white images of kids exploring the world (a field, a pond, the beach,a city) or perhaps of baby animals being born (blood and all) or other wonders of life, with a few poetic captions. Yeah, we don't do this for kids any more.
posted by Miko at 6:29 PM on November 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


If you like this you will like/fondly remember Bees & Honey

Thanks for linking that, Ennis Tennyone, because now I realize that my excessive fear of bees is probably directly related to the sinister electro-carnival music in that segment.
posted by corey flood at 6:38 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh god, I had a comment written out and it got eaten. But it had the beet beet sugar beet song and that awesome one with the I-beam and the dollhouse song which doesn't really fit in the stuff-being-made category but does make me cry like a baby for reasons I can't figure out.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:41 PM on November 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


LOVED the Mad Painter! Had forgotten that too. Oh,man, do I have a good future Halloween costume. Also, the 2nd guy shown in that clip is clearly the inspiration for Super Mario.
posted by Miko at 6:41 PM on November 15, 2013


How 'bout some Shoe Repair for you.

I wonder how much Green Revolution funding they got to promote industrialized farming. The cows are fairly old-school but I can't say the same for Chicken or the Egg.
posted by Miko at 6:46 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I watched the entire video.
posted by BentFranklin at 6:49 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm Pretty.

Horses.

Old Paper, New Paper
posted by Miko at 6:51 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is how everyone should learn the alphabet.

D is for DRUGS.
posted by eric1halfb at 7:00 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just read that the woman in the Mad Painter sketches was Stockard Channing. The guy also played the nerdy, bothersome neighbor on The Jeffersons, among other things.
posted by Miko at 7:02 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hmmm. Sesame street may have had more of an effect on my early childhood development than I previously thought...
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:20 PM on November 15, 2013


Mechanical toys, robots, and satellites!
posted by betafilter at 7:58 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


My little sister (who may be old enough to have seen the milk video, but probably not) named one of our cats Milky when we were kids and I used to sing the "Milk... Miiiiilk... Milk" song to that cat up until she died (probably when I was in college) and not until this VERY MOMENT did I realize where that melody came from! And now I'm misty-eyed. She was a very nice cat who meowed like a lamb. Man, Sesame Street was the greatest.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 8:25 PM on November 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't really remember this one, but then again growing up on a small dairy farm it wasn't showing me anything I didn't see every day.

The bit that gave me a shock of recognition was when the farmer got out the milking machine. Those are the same milking machines that my dad was using 40 years ago and I later used throughout high school, working for him. They are powered by a hose leading to a vacuum pump system, and the "umm-chick" noise they make when working properly is burned into my brain. When milking cows, my dad or I would run three machines at a time. There were adjustable straps you would put over a cow's back to hang the machines from. Four straps, three machines. You would empty a machine into the milk pail, move to the next cow, get her going, and then go back to the first cow and move the strap down the line to be ready for the next cow.

By gently squeezing the tube on the black rubber milkers that go on the cow's teats, you could feel the milk flow, and know when to take a milker off when the flow was getting low. The two rearmost teats would usually finish first, so you'd take them off, and when the milkers flopped down, gravity would press the tube flush against the machine's attachment hole, sealing it and keeping the partial vacuum going.

My dad finally sold his herd ~20 years ago, deciding 40 years of milking cows was enough for him, and "just" do his hay and grain farming. At 80, he still climbs up into the hay loft and stacks hay bales as high as his head as my mother (late 70s) unloads them off the wagon.
posted by fings at 8:48 PM on November 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


I know this is all very nostalgic and exciting for you people, but please remember to Take A Bweaff.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:05 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


My girlfriend Coco is obsessed with these. She especially likes Me and My Llama, which, aside from its amazing song, seems incomprehensible to her -- there's a kid in New York taking a llama to a dentist?

These things definitely inspired her desire to see inside every factory we pass. She also made a few videos directly inspired by these, one about the Minnesota State Fair, one about the Pizza Farm in Wisconsin.

Oh, and one I forgot about until just now about alpacas.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:25 PM on November 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I haven't thought about Milk in 35 years. I remember so clearly how strange the milk truck seemed to me as a little kid.

I don't understand how every kid who grew up watching these in the 70s didn't grow up to be decent adults who want American society to be a more just and inclusive place.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 12:48 AM on November 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also: great post! Thanks so much for making it!
posted by professor plum with a rope at 12:49 AM on November 16, 2013


Wow. I've definitely seen that before, but I must have been very young. There were all these weird flashes of familiarity, seeing it again. I remembered the opaque whiteness of the milk splashing into the bucket. And being fascinated by the bottle, since my mom stayed home with us and never fed us from bottles.

I watched Sesame Street off and on from birth until the seventh grade, due to younger siblings, so most of my conscious memories of the show are from when they had already stopped airing stuff like this from the old, weird Sesame Street.
posted by town of cats at 1:01 AM on November 16, 2013


I Beam used to scare me. Coconut cream pies used to make me cry because I'd imagine how much pain the baker must be in.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:14 AM on November 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


They skipped the whole homogenization and pasteurization part, leaving the implication that what comes out of the bottle is the same as what comes out of the cow. It's not.

Who says it was either? I can't see the words 'homogenized' or 'pasteurized' on the bottle - just 'BOTTLED AT THE FARM'.

I can buy raw, bottled milk at my health food store (for 'bathing', natch).
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:53 AM on November 16, 2013


(Also, forget the milk, son. Here, step into my yo-yo.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:53 AM on November 16, 2013


I can't see the words 'homogenized' or 'pasteurized' on the bottle - just 'BOTTLED AT THE FARM'.

Except it clearly is not bottled at the farm, since it's transported in a tank truck from the farm to the creamery, which is where it's bottled. You may be able to buy unpasteurized milk now, but 40 years ago, the only way to do that was to go to the farm and get some before it went to the creamery. Which I highly recommend everyone who drinks milk try at least once. It's an amazingly different drink.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:45 AM on November 16, 2013


Metroid, when you said "I-beam," I expected it would be Capital I, which is one of my strongest Sesame memories.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:48 AM on November 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I had no idea Madeline Kahn could sing like that, that's a great sketch. Grover reminded me of my favorite book as a kid, The Monster At The End Of The Book.
posted by cj_ at 5:07 AM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


She also made a few videos directly inspired by these

Those are wonderful. What a great idea.

Except it clearly is not bottled at the farm

If it's a dairy cooperative the creamery may well be on a farm, just another farm.

There also might be a fair amount of Hollywood magic here and it could all be one location. Because I, for one, don't think that truck actually had a big, poorly applied decal saying just MILK on it all the time. It may well all be the same farm location, with the truck put in to create a narrative link to milk deliveries kids could see in the city.
posted by Miko at 6:14 AM on November 16, 2013


Tried to find out the location with no success so far. However, the stone walls and general depressingly messy winter make me think it's northern New England.
posted by Miko at 6:20 AM on November 16, 2013


This all reminds me how much I miss minor keys and non-major chords in music for kids. God forbid we allow anything but HAPPY SUNNY WONDERFUL BRIGHT CHEERY CHEER-CHEER all the fvcking time. I wonder if they even show The Red Balloon in schools anymore.
posted by sonascope at 6:21 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK! Check it out. I found it. It was actually in PA - Romberger's Dairy.

Auction listing for a Romberger's bottle like the ones in the video

Romberger's ashtray

Romberger's milk cap, with "bottled on the farm" tagline - another one

1960 advertising calendar

The obituary of Henry Romberger, who died in 2003:
He was the co-owner and milkman for the former Romberger's Dairy,
Lykens and a retired milkman from the Harrisburg Dairy, Harrisburg.
posted by Miko at 6:36 AM on November 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Geometry of Circles made me the nerdy Philip Glass fan I am today.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:36 AM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


There also might be a fair amount of Hollywood magic here and it could all be one location. Because I, for one, don't think that truck actually had a big, poorly applied decal saying just MILK on it all the time. It may well all be the same farm location, with the truck put in to create a narrative link to milk deliveries kids could see in the city.

Previously pointed to by Filthy Light Thief, it was an actual farm, not a set. The truck decal is mentioned in the FPP; presumably they didn't want to have a truck with a specific creamery's name plastered on it, so they covered it with a big MILK decal. Also, unless the dairy farm is a big Midwest-style factory farm (which it isn't), the creamery is not going to be on a farm. The creamery my uncle Sid drove for collected milk from all the local farms, (including a few of my other uncles), and processed it at their place in the town. At least in those days, there wasn't much Hollywood in Sesame Street.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:50 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metroid, when you said "I-beam," I expected it would be Capital I, which is one of my strongest Sesame memories.

LOWER CASE N!
STANDING ON A HILL!
THE WIND IS VERY STILL
FOR THE LOWER CASE N!

posted by Lucinda at 8:59 AM on November 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Motherfucking I Beam! That scared me too. Also, one of my first AskMe questions was about the best-ever Sesame Street clip, Lost Dog.
posted by avocet at 9:37 AM on November 16, 2013


professor plum with a rope: Coconut cream pies used to make me cry because I'd imagine how much pain the baker must be in.

That was how I felt about the root beer floats. Not just for the pain the baker must have been in, but also because the fallen root beer floats made a total mess of his jacket, and he had to have been feeling sticky and miserable as well as sore. Good times, good times.

(I was a toddler when Sesame Street went on the air. As much as I love the current Nifty Celebrity + Muppet sketches on the current Sesame Street, it's the old, weird one that has imprinted upon me, and will forever have my goofy childhood love. And as someone who actually grew up in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, I can't believe I never realized until now that the dairy in "Milk" was so close to my house. To borrow from another great old Sesame Street chestnut, these were the people in my neighborhood!)
posted by bakerina at 9:41 AM on November 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


But the older me can't help but ask now:

- Why did you transfer the milk from that pitcher thing to that sloppy open-topped bucket? Why not just pour from that first thing into the big tank?

- Why pass the hose through that little door when that big door is open?


I'm pretty sure the answer to that first question is that the pitcher thing was an integral part of the milking machine. Pouring from pitcher to bucket let the milking machine get started on the next cow, and you could walk the bucket over to the big tank while the pitcher was being filled again.

As for little hose door vs big door, I wonder if the only reason the big door is open is because the camera crew is there and needed to be able to see what's going on. Might be that on a normal day, the truck driver just has the big door open when he's going in and out to attach and detach the hose, and keeps it closed most of the time so that you're not loosing climate control to the outside.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:08 AM on November 16, 2013


Ctrl-F Chinese noodles... Damn! Can't find it on YouTube either.
posted by clavicle at 11:31 AM on November 16, 2013


Ctrl-F Chinese noodles... Damn! Can't find it on YouTube either.

Voilà.
posted by Melismata at 12:06 PM on November 16, 2013


The first episode of Sesame Street I ever watched contained what must have been a companion piece to the milk piece, but this one was about how hot dogs are made. It had a very similar feel to the production, except it featured big giant bins of meat-like slurry being poured into casings. I still wonder to this day if this is a made up or real memory. My youtube search turned up only this Sesame Street hot dog gem.
posted by gubenuj at 1:28 PM on November 16, 2013


Kirth Gerson: "They skipped the whole homogenization and pasteurization part, leaving the implication that what comes out of the bottle is the same as what comes out of the cow. It's not."

Depends if you grew up on the farm. As a kid we got raw milk from our landlord/neighbors who were farmers. Non-homogenized, non-pasteurized...

Anyways, it's interesting to see the difference about 15-20 years makes between that and what I experienced. We had the milksuckers (I don't know the actual name for them), but instead of going into a single little bucket that the farmer (or farmhands) would take to the bulktank, they had a nifty little system that had all the cows lined up in the stalls, we'd go and attach to the nipples and then it would all collectively go through a central system directly to the tank with no farmer with bucket as the middleman. I know there's all sorts of even newer fandangled tech out there these days. It's crazy.

-----
The painter guy was my favorite dude. I remember being at the nursing home ("old folks home" we called it, not nearly as cool as this old folks home), and, and watching the painter guy. I loved him so much...

-----
Anybody know if the "I Love You" that BoC samples is done by this guy? It was pretty damn trippy, even without the BoC treatment...
posted by symbioid at 1:33 PM on November 16, 2013


Biblio: "Oh god! The milk clip! All I have to do is sing the song and my sister will tear up. That clip upset her so much when she was little, because she thought the milkman was the baby's father..."

If there's a baby and a milkman, who's the wife?

I would like some milk from the milkman's wife's tits...
posted by symbioid at 1:41 PM on November 16, 2013


My favorite Sesame Street bit was the red ball's voyage through the silver machine.

Also further to a comment made above about the milk production movie: I suspect they would transfer the milk from the milker to a bucket to the big tank so the milker could stay near the cows and get re-used repeatedly. also, the small door for the suction hose is likely there for when (for example) the weather is cold and the main door is shut, or the farm is otherwise busy and there's lots of folks going in and out the main door. Fairly common set up even still at food and chemical plants, although now they most often just put a process connection hard piped in the wall.
posted by hearthpig at 2:13 PM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter.

I credit this cartoon with introducing me to the New York accent. "Uh sticka buttah."
posted by zardoz at 2:13 PM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


and OHMYGOODNESS searching for that one (the red ball) brought me to this one with three black balls, which has now whopped me solidly in the belly of memory...
posted by hearthpig at 2:15 PM on November 16, 2013


This is the aesthetic my generation (X) was weaned on.

You mean this generation?
posted by washburn at 3:05 PM on November 16, 2013


I ripped Milk, Capital I, and the Starfish one, from YouTube, years ago. My brothers and I bring Milk up at least twice a year, I don't know why. We loved Sesame Street, and the Electric Company. Easy Reader, Letterman, and Spiderman (EC)? Come on! So, that's that. How did those people get me to watch those things?
posted by Flex1970 at 4:22 PM on November 16, 2013


brought me to this one with three black balls

The voices in that one are bizarre, but great.

Owwwowoowwwoowwwwooo...

Eeehbehpeehbsheeehbehbheeeeh... AAAHHHHHHHHHHHH.
posted by JHarris at 4:55 PM on November 16, 2013


Here's a few more:

New Ball In Town (The fact that some of the balls are striped like Ernie's shirt I found weird as a kid. What significance could it have?!)

The Alligator King, written, directed, sung and some instruments played by Bud Lackey (the voice and writer of Pixar's Boundin').

Claymation balls, who have a weird hill-climbing culture.

And it turns out the black balls one is but the first part of a trilogy!
posted by JHarris at 5:07 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


And here, some animals bust out of the zoo.
posted by JHarris at 5:09 PM on November 16, 2013


What is it about classic Sesame Street animations and alien moonscapes peopled by round civilizations devoted to numbers?

A count of 4
A count of 10 (nightmare fuel!)
posted by JHarris at 5:19 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


For all the sequences we remember, there are plenty that are nearly forgotten. A while ago I got it in my head to find out more about the Thelma Thumb series of shorts, made John Korty using the same general process he used to make the movie Twice Upon A Time. There is almost nothing about them on the internet, except a couple of forlorn mentions on forums a couple of mentions by people who worked on it, and, somehow, a fairly in-depth page on the Muppet Wiki. And one YouTube video of a Spanish translation.

It got to the point where I emailed Korty himself and asked about them. I got a nice response from him, but they're not his to release on the internet, since they were done for CTW.

He also made the wonderful What's Inside The Street for Sesame Street.
posted by JHarris at 5:31 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know what goes really good with milk? Peanut butter.
posted by Evilspork at 6:03 PM on November 16, 2013


But not sugar beets?
posted by JHarris at 6:50 PM on November 16, 2013


Previously pointed to by Filthy Light Thief, it was an actual farm, not a set.

I noticed that, friend, because it was I who found out what farm it was. But it's always fun to bring as uncharitable a reading as possible, isn't it?

presumably they didn't want to have a truck with a specific creamery's name plastered on it, so they covered it with a big MILK decal.

Obviously.

To be painfully clear, I wasn't suggesting that this was a set (because that would ridiculous), but that the truck journey under generic flag suggested two different locations when there might have been only one. I can't prove that, but it's possible.

Also, unless the dairy farm is a big Midwest-style factory farm (which it isn't), the creamery is not going to be on a farm.

Historically, it seems like there were creameries associated with these actual farms in this actual place. There is an Elizabethville Creamery, a Lykens Valley Creamery, and a Stine's Creamery all on the records at various times in various directories, and all seem to have run their own dairying operation as well as buying milk from other local farmers.

There is in fact a creamery with an active dairy just a few miles down the road from me right now - Richardson's. There are several others in this neck of the woods. Smaller scale and more purveyors is the usual for Northeastern agricultural operations. So I don't know that you can generalize to older Eastern farmsteads what is true in Midwestern dairies.
posted by Miko at 6:52 PM on November 16, 2013


OK! Check it out. I found it. It was actually in PA - Romberger's Dairy.

Why does this make me so happy?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:08 PM on November 16, 2013


Aw, it all kicked back in at the kitties.

And speaking of kitties...

I was (and still am) a big fan of the more hypnotic stuff, like the raga count to 20, the psychedelic alphabet, the little red ball (there's two versions!), and the Grace Slick-sung jazzy numbers; my fave is 7, because at the beginning you can hear her tuning herself, and also for the glorious bit of singing at 0:32.
posted by droplet at 7:23 PM on November 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


MOAR SESAME KITTIES.
posted by JHarris at 7:37 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


like the raga count to 20

When I was growing up, I had a Fisher-Price Movie Viewer and one of the cartridges had this clip. I would always crank this one extra extra slow just so I could watch the guy turn into flowers one frame at a time.
posted by Lucinda at 9:14 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have been singing this refrain to my children for over 27 years, and now they KNOW I didn't invent it! This clip and the one where the cats break into the doll house...so wonderful!
posted by msleann at 10:54 PM on November 16, 2013


When I see the Lowercase N song, above, an epic song about a tragic lonely letter-of-the-alphabet, standing on a hill for ages, who is met by an impossible friend from outer space, I can't help but think that the people who came up with the ideas for the shorts giggled as they did so, and thought to themselves, "we have the best job in the world."
posted by JHarris at 12:12 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I started looking into the guy who sang the Capital I and Lowercase N songs, Steve Zuckerberg. And here's an maddening fact: if you try to search for "Zuckerberg" on Google, no matter what first name you put to it, the site will be so certain that your search has to do with the Facebook guy that it'll fill up page after page of results before you get to anything else. Damn you, Google!
posted by JHarris at 12:25 AM on November 17, 2013


First set up a pattern, and thus create an expectation in the mind of the viewer. Then, mess with that expectation in entertaining ways. 30 Dots.
posted by JHarris at 12:47 AM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am just impossibly fond of this video about bees.
posted by solarion at 1:48 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


King of Eight.
posted by box at 6:57 AM on November 17, 2013


I'm an aardvark, and I'm proud!
posted by Gordafarin at 7:29 AM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was a toddler when they showed It's Springtime - my mother said I'd completely stop what I was doing to listen/watch. (But then I'd wail uncontrollably because it was over SO damn quickly.)
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 10:34 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Miko - Richardson's is not just a dairy farm with a creamery. It's a giant ice-cream stand and ice-cream wholesaler. I suppose you're referring to other, similar places when you say there are several around. They're not typical of the usual dairy farm or creamery operation of 40 years ago, though I suppose that model is increasingly common now.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:59 PM on November 17, 2013


Kirth Gerson - I go to Richardon's routinely. I buy milk there. It's a creamery. It does have a ice cream stand, as do a lot of New England creameries, and theirs is large and a favorite for miles aroud -- but it actually is a dairy farm and a place where milk is pasteurized, sold, and distributed, along with cream,

They're not typical of the usual dairy farm or creamery operation of 40 years ago, though I suppose that model is increasingly common now.

They absolutely are typical of 40 years ago; our region is littered with them, though many have gone out of business as the industry consolidated due to price management in the last few decades. I have been to them and I am active in New England's regional farm economy. I humbly submit that you do not know what you're talking about.
posted by Miko at 9:13 PM on November 17, 2013


Some small-scale dairy farm/creamery/farmstore/dairy-stand operations nearish me:

Shaw Farm, Dracut, MA
Smiling Hill Farm, Westbrook, ME
Rich Farm, Oxford, CT
Peaceful Meadows Farm, Middleboro, MA
Fletcher Farm, Southampton, MA
Cooper's, Rochdale, MA

There are many more.

I believe your confusion may result from thinking that the conditions that reigned in the Midwest, where you seem to drawing your information from, would have been the same in the Northeast. They were not.

To begin with, after 2-3 centuries of solid settlement, northeastern farm properties were smaller, as farms had been multiply subdivided. The land was exhausted, nutrient-wise from decades of efforts to grow crops that don't do well in the climate. Adding to that, the landscape is rocky and hilly - difficult to farm with increasingly mechanized methods. As a result, during the 19th century's increasing industrialization of farming, large-scale production moved westward, where it was still possible to put together very large, flat farms workable with mechanized equipment that required relatively straight, rectilinear fields.

Growing rail networks made it much more competitive to bring produce, grain, and meats to Eastern markets from the Midwest and the West Coast - but dairy lagged, because freshness was of vital importance to public safety until the advent of consistent pasteurization methods in the 1930s.

That reality predisposed farmers in the Northeast looking to use their land for the products of greatest potential value to place renewed importance on dairy - and since they could not compete on price any longer in the realm of produce or meats, dairy became a very strong component in New England agriculture in the century from, say, 1870 to 1970 or so. The land was bad for plowing but great for grazing. Cows can step around rocks. A small operation could yield a high-value product that was not easily replaced through the nation's fast-growing transportation infrastructure. Small-scale, family-run dairies were so common that milk collectors go nutso here trying to gather up all the dairyana, because there was one or more in just about every town.

And those operations often expanded into their own creameries, sometimes buying from other, much smaller farms with only a few cows, helping farmers with other crops diversify a bit. New, inexpensive machinery simplified home/farm-based cream separation and buttermaking. When automobiles and supermarkets caused a decline in milk delivery as a revenue source, those creameries often added a farm store or dairy store, which represented a large jump in the value add to the product. That started in a big way in the late 40s, 50s. Coupled with increasing summer tourism in the region, farm-based dairy stands helped family farms stay afloat, counteracting some of the impact of price deflation in the region in the ensuing decades of price control.

At the same time, other farmers chose a different path, joining in large-scale conglomerates and/or cooperatives to supply particular grocery chains. Those did not need or use a retail operation and used dedicated, industrial creamery facilities of the type you are probably thinking of. But they never completely dominated the sector here in New England. Farm-based operations continued to coexist with those, and a fair number survive to today.

In the end, in the last 30 years many of those old dairies have folded - in some cases, leaving only the dairy stand that has evolved into just a snack bar selling someone else's product; in other cases just close everything. But these existing stands are usually the vestige of an family dairy/creamery whose history of dairying dates to, usually, the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries, but sometimes even to the 1700s.

In many ways, agricultural methods practiced in the Midwest are an anomaly. They reflect a maximization of industrial, large-scale methodologies and later developments in the history of American agriculture. The Eastern seaboard is more of a patchwork, literally (in terms of the scale of the properties) and figuratively, as different farm economies were in place concurrently as the industrial food system of the 20th century developed around it, and required it to react in sometimes unexpected ways.
posted by Miko at 9:57 PM on November 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the primer, Miko! Excellent comment!
posted by JHarris at 12:51 AM on November 18, 2013


I believe your confusion may result from thinking that the conditions that reigned in the Midwest, where you seem to drawing your information from...

No, you're wrong. Here's where I get my information: My mother was one of 11 children who grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont. Most of her brothers also ran dairy farms. The one who didn't, drove a truck for the local co-op creamery. We visited them whenever we could. I even rode along with my uncle when he collected milk from the farms on his route and took it to the creamery. They did not make ice cream.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:30 AM on November 18, 2013


That's a bit like saying "My family had a brewery, and breweries did not make root beer," which would be true in one case, but have nothing to do with the fact that many breweries actually made root beer.

I expect Miko's information comes from a source other than the experience of one family.

This is an odd derail, but a useful reminder that it is possible to argue about anything.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:27 AM on November 18, 2013


The one who didn't, drove a truck for the local co-op creamery.

Ookay -- this explains a lot. So, Vermont was really unusual for its early and enthusiastic adoption of the co-op model, powered in part by the Grange and farmers' union movements. That was largely because the state's relative geographical remoteness, rural character, and small population meant that once competition from the Midwest emerged due to the shipping of value-added products like butter and cheese, there was more profit incentive to turn the industrial effort to marketing fresh milk long-distance to the urban markets of Boston and Worcester than to build a local customer base. VT suppliers could still outprice Midwestern milk in an urban market because they could provide a fresher, closer source for a lower shipping cost.
By the late 1890s, St. Albans had become the butter capital of the world with 60 separators, 1,000 farms, and 15,000 cows. Local creameries and cheese factories and related support industries sprang up quickly, and by 1900, Vermont had 186 creameries and 66 cheese facilities. However, again with competition from the West, Vermont butter lost its competitive edge and butter production was replaced by fluid milk production, even though milk could not be easily transported great distances at that time.
That was distinctly not the common pattern in MA, RI, CT, ME, or NH, whose growing manufacturing towns boasted population densities that supported more local sources for their milk, butter, cream etc. consumption. That favored the development and survival of smaller-scale, more regionally focused dairy industry in those states. Because of its weakness as a center of manufacturing, Vermont was by far the state that made the greatest commitment to shipping bulk liquid milk to the Boston market. This 1950 book, The Rural Economy of New England: A Regional Study by agricultural economist John D. Black does not seem to be searchable online but is my source for much of what I've been describing:
Each of the smaller centers has a milkshed of its own. All of the milk in southeastern Maine and southern New Hampshire is consumed in Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, Manchester, Concord, Lawrence, and Lowell. In addition, the larger cities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island obtain some milk directly from Northern New England...Even in the short winter months...Springfield and Worcester have been obtaining 80 to 90 percent of their supplies from farmers in adjoining areas (Black 369-71).
Even given the rapid adoption of the co-op model in VT, proprietary (farm-based) creameries still accounted for the greatest number of businesses there, pre-1930s. "By 1900, Vermont had 64 cheese factories and 186 creameries. About two-fifths of these were cooperative, and the rest proprietary" (Black 351).

In the 1930 census, 300 grocery stores in New England outside urban centers were still buying butter and cream direct from farmers. Black notes that New England has always been characterized by a greater number of "part-time and other small farmers, who are much less likely to belong to cooperatives than are full-time farmers."

The other thing to note is that the dairy story in New England is quite dynamic. Even in the late 19th century, making butter and cream on VT farms was not "the way we've always done things" but was relatively recent. VT's first non-farm creamery didn't develop until 1879 (Black) and its first cooperative not until 1895. The widespread adoption of local dairying was a pretty recent, post-Civil War change that was meant to provide some economic development for a region that had already gone through about four or five previous attempts to find a consistently valuable agricultural product. From self-sufficiency to maple syrup production to sheep farming for wool, all eventually failed against competition from expanding markets. After wool crashed, the state made a big commitment to dairy, and former sheep pasture turned into cow pasture, triggering the gradual development of a dairy industry designed mostly for export to urban markets That is somewhat unique in New England.

So this is a good example of the need for context and the risk of making generalizations from anecdotal evidence. Your experieces of the milk industry in two anomalous places, the Midwest and VT, doesn't accurately map onto the complex reality of New England's milk industry history, broadly examined.

None of that says anything about Pennsylvania's industry. I know a lot less about that and am not inclined to make a conjectural statement. Looking at this report, there are some parallels and some significant differences. Reflecting general Eastern trends, there is "a tendency towards more milk cows in townships with good access to markets, so we may conclude that dairying specialization was occurring within the region, but in fairly concentrated geographic areas. For example, in Dauphin County, there were more milk cows per farm and more silos and silage corn in townships near Hershey"; it turns out that Hershey was a massive consumer of local farm milk and supported a large swath of the industry. However, in the film we see liquid milk for drinking and possibly for export to Philadelphia or Harrisburg. I've looked for some information on the development of specialized creameries in PA, haven't come up with much, and don't want to characterize that industry without further evidence.

Taking this back to the topic at hand, I simply wanted to note that it was entirely possible that the film was made at one location, a farm-based dairy operation with a creamery, and not at two, a separate farm and creamery. It could have been edited to add the drama of the truck journey to illustrate the complete chain of milk production, while still offering the production team fewer locations, which of course is cheaper for them. I'm not saying it was, but that the possibility exists. Since the creamery, Romberger's, advertised a "bottled at the farm" claim I do feel that there must have been an associated farm operation, but since we have little to go on it's not a point I can press. It's of course possible that even an associated farm operation bought milk from other smaller-time farmers, as is common elsewhere, so there could be two farms in the film. I just wanted to argue against dismissing the idea out of hand based on information from contexts that may not apply in a localized case. And, in general, against generalizing about the dairy industry. In all my agricultural activism, it is the most complicated story I have ever dealt with, up to and including fisheries - which is really saying something. Industrial dairying underwent extreme and rapid change over the century or so in which Americans rapaciously adopted it. It went through successive revolutions prompted by scientific research, market changes, state policy, federal policy, sanitation standards, transportation networks, price controls, subsidy plans, and much more. Characterizations made about the industry as a vast swath tend to immediately expose themselves to exception.
posted by Miko at 9:50 AM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, OK then. All that stuff in your next-to-last sentence is what eventually persuaded almost all my relatives to give up dairying.

Do you remember when MA tried to artificially maintain the price of milk, back around 1960? Cumberland Farms gave out vouchers to people who bought milk there, which were to be redeemable for cash when the price supports were removed. As I recall, they tried to renege when the time came.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:46 AM on November 18, 2013


Just the beginning of the end (I don't personally remember, no, but I've been around to see the rather final collapse, in our region, of the 80s/90s). Price controls are the most damaging influence.
posted by Miko at 12:12 PM on November 18, 2013


« Older Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order, a no...  |  Blood, sweat, and tears: Bodil... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments