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Terrifying!
June 5, 2010 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Terrifying Nixon-era children's books Don't worry, comes pre-snarked.

My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel

I Wish Daddy Didn't Drink So Much

The Way it Is: Fifteen Boys Describe Life in their Neglected Urban Neighborhood

The Magic Lollipop
posted by emilyd22222 (61 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
The cover of The Magic Lollipop is retro-awesome.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:42 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would love to see a full copy of The Way It Is-- those photos + innocent descriptions are fantastic.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 6:47 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Charles inspects some recently-confiscated weed. "Now that's some good shit," Charles notes.

So, these are pre-snarked down to the "scans"?

I'm still traumatized from the gritty, blood-and-guts 60s/70s kids books I grew up with, so could believe just about anything here w/the exception of the four-letter-words ...
posted by ryanshepard at 6:59 AM on June 5, 2010


My Dad Sells Insurance is a keeper...
posted by ennui.bz at 7:07 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought the blind Mom was kind of hot.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:47 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, these completely bring back the trauma of finding them in the elementary school reading nook. Wish the blogger didn't alter the scans, so we could appreciate the raw banality of the sociologist-approved texts.
posted by bendybendy at 7:49 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


My Big Sister Takes Drugs, My Two Uncles, Mommy and Me By Ourselves Again, She's Not My Real Mother, and Nobody Wants a Nuclear War.

I'd really like to see that one.
posted by DU at 8:05 AM on June 5, 2010


I actually really like some of these books. Even though you could call them "Nixon-era" by the publication date, I really think they're an outgrowth of the Great Society and its crusading journalism.

The genre isn't all terrifying social commentary. I have some really great ones about nature discovery.
posted by Miko at 8:15 AM on June 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


This stuff is fantastic. Reading the captions on "15 boys" was kind of heartbreaking, in that they could have been written yesterday. Literally nothing has changed among the urban poor, right down the the packs of feral dogs and all.
posted by absalom at 8:17 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


One day, a monkey came through his window and handed him a large lollipop. "Reginald," he said. "Your father has sent me bearing this magical gift. He wishes he could spend more time with you, but he's busy earning the money to pay your Princeton tuition and Ivy Club dues so that one day you too may be paid millions to manipulate the markets with a mere modicum of intelligence. That's how all this works. Oh, and he also bangs a lot of hookers (don't tell your mom).

Well played.
posted by ob at 8:23 AM on June 5, 2010


Everything about Amy's Doll will haunt my soul as I attempt to sleep tonight.
posted by Tenacious.Me.Tokyo at 8:25 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, exploitable! Dad, he of the downtown hotel, looks like a cross between Carl Sagan and Charles Bronson. Amy's Doll, that's like the tragic end of The Lonely Doll.

The slaughterhouse stuff is great. "Willie kills everything there." "If there's one thing I can't stand," Willie says, "it's the sound of steak sobbing." That's a death metal concept album right there. Now, if I only knew how to growl "I am William, Reaper to Meat" in Norwegian ... maybe if I just stuck to the growling, nobody would pick up on the lack of words.
posted by adipocere at 8:31 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


That Williamsburg one is absolutely fantastic. I'd love to see a complete copy.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:39 AM on June 5, 2010


So this guy wanders through the ruins of Detroit, picking through books from abandoned libraries and thinking up snarky jokes to post about them online?

This is the post with the most.
posted by shii at 8:54 AM on June 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Best. Gang. Ever.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:56 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


These books may be "terrifyingly earnest," (although I was a kid in the Nixon era and I remember books like these and being interested) but the commentary is obnoxiously glib, which is worse.
posted by jonmc at 9:05 AM on June 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


These books are all earnest and heartfelt and almost universally dull (which I why I have so often made up the captions).

Wait... now that totally threw me for a loop. So half the scanned book captions are real and half are fake? I have no idea what I'm looking at now.
posted by crapmatic at 9:09 AM on June 5, 2010


Sys Rq: "Best. Gang. Ever."

Jim Carrey, Ben Affleck, Jeff Goldblum, Matt Damon.
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:10 AM on June 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


In the same vein.

BE ALERT. BE AWARE. BE ALIVE
posted by The Whelk at 9:27 AM on June 5, 2010


...My Two Uncles...

What? Why was it such a big deal in Nixon-era America that my mom had two brothers?
posted by deliquescent at 9:37 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The books may be dull to the blogger, but I really could've done without the postdated snark.

Like Miko, I think calling them "Nixon-era" doesn't really tell you much about the books other than that they were published at the same time that he lived at 1600 Pennsylvania. Just call them "early 1970s vintage scary children's books" and be done with it.
posted by blucevalo at 9:37 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this blogger is not half as clever and/or funny as he/she thinks he/she is.

"Nixon-era" is a laughable attempt to colour these books as all part of a single sinister plot, and the added commentary isn't very insightful at all.

I like the idea of the blog -- some of these books really are interesting to read from a historical and sociological perspective -- but it's been done in a very amateurish way. Disappointing.
posted by modernnomad at 10:06 AM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wish I could see these without the lame blogger snark.
posted by spaltavian at 10:07 AM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hi everyone, always nice to see my little blog being discussed here in the metafilter community.

I want to address some of the concerns being expressed here about my "glib commentary" and "postdated snark." I definitely understand where you're coming from and accept that it may not be everyone's idea of humor. It's not every day that a few thousand new people arrive at my blog and while most of the people who regularly read my site know that I actually have great affection for these books, I can totally see that to a new visitor I just look like an asshole.

The whole series started when I shared this book with my readers. As I began to share more of the books I'd found in thrift stores, I did start to add commentary/parody texts to the original b&w photographs or illustrations because I did have some concern about the wholesale publication of pages of still-copyrighted books. I always figured that if readers wanted to add the real book to their collections, they could easily find them on Amazon or other online sources, and I wasn't in the business of re-publishing these books w/o commentary.

I do understand that I may not be as tasteful or clever as you wish I'd been, but hope you still enjoyed some of the old photography and as always I appreciate you keeping the discussion respectful.
posted by sweetjuniper at 10:25 AM on June 5, 2010 [22 favorites]


sweetjuniper: Nothing personal intended and I'm sure you're a nice guy. It's just that for some of us (and by some of us, I guess I mean me) who are getting older, it's just that snark maybe has lost it's appeal. YMMV.
posted by jonmc at 10:29 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I understand completely jonmc. I am not usually a "snarky" person; in but I guess something about these old books brings brings it out of me. The originals are just. . .so. . .serious.

someday, I hope somebody finds my blog and holds it up to make fun of it on whatever the equivalent of a blog is 30 years out (and I'll finally get my comeuppance).
posted by sweetjuniper at 10:36 AM on June 5, 2010


OK JONMC GOT HIM TO STOP I GUESS WE CAN CLOSE THIS UP
posted by jtron at 12:33 PM on June 5, 2010


I remember this book pretty vividly.

I can't help but think that this genre owes something both to Mister Rogers (who had a photographic book series which would deal with topics that pre-school age children were familiar with with a kind of grave respect) and Sesame Street, which was an innovator for showing films of inner city kids just running around in their own environments, seeming normal and not like some distant other. While they might seem dry to us now, there was something about this type of book's earnestness that I remember respecting as a little kiddie. In the book about the bird/grandfather dying, for example, it might seem ridiculous that a kid would want to keep an animal's corpse, but it's actually not all that unusual.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:45 PM on June 5, 2010


The Magic Lollipop is adorable.

I mean, does this or does this not look like the most fun ever?

I say yes.


I epony-love this.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:49 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, contrast the 70s dead bird one to this. Maybe I'm just too much a child of the early 80s, but I can't help but prefer black-and-white earnestness to wowee-zowee-photoshop-explosions!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:52 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nothing personal intended and I'm sure you're a nice guy. It's just that for some of us (and by some of us, I guess I mean me) who are getting older, it's just that snark maybe has lost it's appeal. YMMV.

Dude, are you ok? You seem like you're possible a little... Cheeto deficient or something.
posted by loquacious at 1:41 PM on June 5, 2010


Possibly... I'm caffeine deficient. Hell, I'm not even sure what snark is anymore.
posted by loquacious at 1:43 PM on June 5, 2010


Why won't daddy stop drinking? He can't! DADDY DRINKS FOR THE GOVERNMENT.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:45 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The Way It Is" is kind of amazing, actually. Eastman Kodak was a pretty progressive company, if I recall my photo history correctly, hip to (even sponsoring, I think) the likes of Arbus and Winogrand, which makes this documentary project all the more interesting. The text is pitch-perfect, too, since as a kid in the late '70s, I would've described our local pedophile in much the same banal way. (If only someone had bothered to ask.)

And yeah, does anyone else miss the old Sesame Street cold open? Kids running through sewer pipes and weedy lots filled with broken glass and god-knows-what. Elmo wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes.

Sweetjuniper: thanks for the explanation, and I think a lot of people here regularly read your blog, so they know you're a decent sort. But you gotta own your snark. While Fair Use covers your reproduction of the book pages with commentary, the parody captions are all on you!
posted by turducken at 1:46 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dude, are you ok? You seem like you're possible a little... Cheeto deficient or something.

I'm so OK, it's disgusting. and you of all people should know that I despise cheetos.
posted by jonmc at 1:58 PM on June 5, 2010


sweetjuniper: Nothing personal intended and I'm sure you're a nice guy. It's just that for some of us (and by some of us, I guess I mean me) who are getting older, it's just that humor maybe has lost it's appeal.


As for me, this explains perfectly why as a child I turned to SF and fantasy, and never turned back. It's to the point now, where I can't read regular fiction at all.
posted by happyroach at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Johnny has a lot of relatives, too. This is his uncle, Tío. He's a nice guy and he likes to play with kids. He scares them and chases them all the time, and he makes strange sounds to get kids to laugh. When he heard Juan's name, he started saying, "Juan pan, coma pan." That means, "Juan is bread, eat the bread." Tío's not married. He lives with his mother. He's about twenty-eight years old. Tío goes to work on a bike. He's okay.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


The insurance book is curious in many ways. I thought it might be a publication of State Farm or Aetna, but no, it's published by Shaw & Co. - not a publisher I'm familiar with. But then, neither am I familiar with the author - Richard C. Shaw.

Anyway, available on amazon for as little as $4.18 and as much as $105.95. Has been seen on ebay in the past as well.

(But what I really want to read some of his other work.)
posted by IndigoJones at 2:44 PM on June 5, 2010


NolanRyanHatesMatches , just what were you trying to say with your link? We all read the same article as you, genius.
posted by jonmc at 2:48 PM on June 5, 2010


So this guy wanders through the ruins of Detroit, picking through books from abandoned libraries and thinking up snarky jokes to post about them online?

I went to law school with Jim. He is a perfect gentleman and a very talented photographer to boot. I do not mean to speak for him (have not seen him since law school, despite sharing a city now) but I do know his heart is in the right place in documenting this place and he does it quite well. He is no drive-by, suburban-dwelling ruin-porn purveyor. I give him immense credit for raising his family here and making the most of his obvious talents.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:50 PM on June 5, 2010


The insurance piece is a brilliant bit of pain, sweetjuniper.

"The Way It Is" made me sad for plain reasons and for meta-reasons. How do you suppose those kids felt later in life about the earnest white grownups who said, in effect, "Go on now, show us how miserable your lives are"?
posted by Countess Elena at 3:34 PM on June 5, 2010


These books. I remember either the books themselves or the ideas behind them (from a child's perspective) and even then, as a six year old, I knew it was fantastically, unnecessarily MODERN (that is, serving the parent's sesibilities more than that of the child it was supposedly intended for). Explain to me (anyone) why I knew this at the time? Because I did. It felt desperately "hip" and of no help at all.

Does this, however, entertain me with a sort of "oh, the irony" retro smugness, today? Oh, yes. Yes, it does.
posted by marimeko at 3:36 PM on June 5, 2010


SweetJuniper, if there's any additional info on John Holland/The Way It Is, I'd love to know it. There's precious little about him/the book online

NolanRyanHatesMatches , just what were you trying to say with your link? We all read the same article as you, genius.

1. Yay, I'm a genius!
2. Just highlighting one of the more interesting frames from the four linked books
3. Will go back into lurkmode now

posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 4:35 PM on June 5, 2010


I do understand that I may not be as tasteful or clever as you wish I'd been, but hope you still enjoyed some of the old photography and as always I appreciate you keeping the discussion respectful


Right, you're allowed to smother these books in snark but we've to respect you in this thread.
Thanks for letting us see where you're coming from.

I would prefer it if the books were left in their original naive state, the snark isnt working for me, i bring enough snark to the table as it is. I'd like to see something from my pre-snarking hipster period that is so naive and join the dots simple that it acts as some kind of cynicism repellent. theres a kind of 'remember a day' vibe about this stuff that just really works well on its own.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:20 PM on June 5, 2010


I'd like to see something from my pre-snarking hipster period that is so naive and join the dots simple that it acts as some kind of cynicism repellent.

Then GYOFB, no? It is that simple. No, really.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:09 PM on June 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I really didn't mean to give the impression that I was demanding respect, sgt.serenity. I just generally appreciate that whenever my stuff is discussed on metafilter (usually my writings/photos about living in detroit) it never devolves into the typical robocop quotes, suggestions to nuke the city, and racist crap you see on all the other message boards. I said "I appreciate you keeping the discussion respectful" because on another message board I'm sure those who disliked my decision to present the books in this manner would have called me all the sorts of things that internet anonymity makes easy to say. I welcome your criticism because makes me think about how I present the books, and I really do appreciate that you're not just calling me names.

I totally get that a lot of people would have liked to have seen the books preserved in their native state. That's not the kind of thing I do on my blog, and the people who read my blog regularly have come to expect the commentary/snark. but here's a great opportunity for someone to go hunt down all these books, scan them and share them so the anti-snark coalition can enjoy them in their "raw banality" as one poster said above.

NolanRyanHatesMatches, I'll post more details about the original "The Way It Is" here when I get back to the book, and maybe make some flickr sets of all the books w/o commentary so that those of you I've so deeply offended can still enjoy them.
posted by sweetjuniper at 6:19 PM on June 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think that 'Nixon-Era' is code for American Potemkin of the Early '70's -- at least that's what it looks like and I was there.

And several of those B&W pictures could have been taken in Harlem as late as 1990.
posted by vhsiv at 6:24 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I totally get that a lot of people would have liked to have seen the books preserved in their native state. That's not the kind of thing I do on my blog, and the people who read my blog regularly have come to expect the commentary/snark. but here's a great opportunity for someone to go hunt down all these books, scan them and share them so the anti-snark coalition can enjoy them in their "raw banality" as one poster said above.

Perhaps - and you're welcome to utterly dismiss this idea - you could have it so the images on your blog are the altered scans, but by clicking them, your readers could see the originals, if they so desired? It'd be extremely basic HTML coding involved without taking up that much more time or server load.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:53 PM on June 5, 2010


For more fun with awful books, click here.
posted by bradth27 at 8:37 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


That era of illustration and photography is pretty much what childhood looked like for me. I appreciated the snark, but also had the overwhelming "i just want to check out these books" response as well.

The older I get, the more I appreciate how much the era in which my childhood nostalgia is rooted is so chock full of unintentional hilariousness.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:57 PM on June 5, 2010


When did we start expecting blogs start taking requests/comment cards FROM PEOPLE WHO DON'T REGULARLY READ THEM?

Seriously.

If you want a blog with pictures without snark, GYOFB.


As for another request:

DU: My Big Sister Takes Drugs, My Two Uncles, Mommy and Me By Ourselves Again, She's Not My Real Mother, and Nobody Wants a Nuclear War.

I'd really like to see that one.


Looks like it can be yours used for $6.94.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:00 PM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I do understand that I may not be as tasteful or clever as you wish I'd been, but hope you still enjoyed some of the old photography and as always I appreciate you keeping the discussion respectful.

I was not concerned about your cleverness other than that (to me) there was an overabundance of it. But I appreciate your explanations, especially around the issue of copyright (that makes a lot of sense to me), and despite what I said above, I also appreciate that you took the time and effort to scan and explore these artifacts and shed some light on what could easily have vanished into the memory hole.
posted by blucevalo at 9:04 PM on June 5, 2010


My $.02, sweetjuniper: as someone who grew up during this era and for whom these books were written and marketed--and who now looks back on them with that ineffable mixture of nostalgia and mild horror--I think that you need not strive to be either "tasteful" or "clever", and in fact should avoid the latter as you would the plague, or to be more era-appropriate, Legionnaire's disease. Snarking on the well-intentioned excesses of previous generations seems easy and will get you a certain amount of reinforcement--James Lileks, among others, has made a bit of a cottage industry of it--but in the long run it's a mug's game, as you mine out the seemingly-rich veins that you'd previously tapped and the next generation of snarkers close in on your own childhood. Just present them as they are; like the sites that present the family portraits of the leisure-suit-and-male-perm days, that's more than enough.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:19 PM on June 5, 2010


Plastics, sweetjuniper. Plastics.
posted by palliser at 9:34 PM on June 5, 2010


When did we start expecting blogs start taking requests/comment cards FROM PEOPLE WHO DON'T REGULARLY READ THEM?

Since when was critiquing the content of the links not part of Metafilter? Sheesh.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:01 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


When did we start expecting blogs start taking requests/comment cards FROM PEOPLE WHO DON'T REGULARLY READ THEM?

Since when is it out of line to offer suggestions to someone featured in an FPP who took the time to post in-thread and communicate with us? The blog's author wanted discussion, so here it is. Sweetjuniper is under no obligation to listen to any ideas being offered.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:28 AM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are hilarious. The concept is excellent. The execution is nothing short of brilliant.

If you don't like it, there are about 600 million other websites you can visit, and 99.9% of them can't even come close to this.

Yup, I went there.
posted by Xoebe at 7:33 AM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes. This thread is for praising the blog ONLY. "Discussion" means "talk about how awesome it is". Please respect this.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:13 AM on June 6, 2010


MarisaSTPT, criticism is to be expected I guess. I don't do it most of the time because it's worthless to dislike something that works on it's own terms. I'd rather spend my energy praising something I love. Despite the blogger him(her?)self saying that they welcome criticism, I'm not sure what anyone can make of comments that just say, "Ugh this sucks." Not that all of the comments here did that, but some did. And those comments, by those predictable people who hate everything and produce little, I could personally do without. If every thread was just either praise or succinct and well-read critique (or silence if the post actually is no-good) with every other kind of comment deleted I would not miss the current state of firsties.

Anyway I really came in here to say that I loved these and thought the captions were hilarious. Good work sweetjuniper!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:13 PM on June 6, 2010


Despite the blogger him(her?)self saying that they welcome criticism, I'm not sure what anyone can make of comments that just say, "Ugh this sucks." Not that all of the comments here did that, but some did. And those comments, by those predictable people who hate everything and produce little, I could personally do without.

I can definitely abide that. I was just responding to the comments that were saying that anyone with something to suggest should get their own blog or go elsewhere. I found that confusing, as the blog's author did welcome respectful discussion. That's all.

In any event, I did enjoy this. Was just tossing in my own two cents there, for the sake of discussion.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:54 PM on June 6, 2010


The part about this that squicks me out, and I understand it's most likely unintentional on sweetjuniper's part, is that it's not immediately clear (and I'm not even totally sure now) what parts of these are original and which are edited. And in this context it feels like rewriting or obscuring an important part of our national history that is already difficult to find truthful, accurate information about.
posted by speicus at 12:06 AM on June 7, 2010


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