Sunday, August 1, 2021

Vital Viewing (Mammon Mechanics Edition)



Today we again take up technology. Not the kind that you find in your home, but the machines out in the public sphere that just like any store or shop asks to be paid for services rendered, only there's no salesclerk, just you and a button, or a few buttons. Increasingly these machines accept plastic or paper money, but traditionally took coinage. So check your pockets for any loose change and lets see what it will buy us. 



Lets start with that most ubiquitous of coin-operated mechanical devices, the vending machine. How do one work? According to the following video, better than ever:


Well, that was certainly an upbeat look at the latest technology, wasn't it? So, you no longer have to deal with sticking your hard-earned nickel and dimes into a snack machine only to have that bag of Doritos or Nestle Crunch bar get tantalizingly lodged between the glass and the spirally thing? That's a relief!


Must be one of the older models. And that guy better be careful, or he could end up like...



...this unfortunate chap.


Ever fantasize about having a claw? Thanks to coin-operated technology, you can have the next best thing: 




Nice, and just think, unlike Freddy's claw, no teenagers were killed in the making of this video. Heck, the stuffed rabbit wasn't even damaged.




Though there were precursors, some going all the way back to the Roman Empire, the coin-operated machine era basically begins in the early 1880s, when London railway stations introduced devices that for a small price dispensed postcards and envelopes. This was the same decade that saw the invention of the electric light bulb, but the first vending machines were more like traditional clocks, relying on gears and levers and springs for the exchange of goods and services. Eventually, the technology evolved to the point where you had to plug them into a wall, but there are still a few that do things the old-fashioned way, such as those quite-common machines that dispense unwrapped gum and candy:


Since this video was first posted on YouTube in 2015, it's received an astonishing 98,167 views. In case you were thinking of making a purchase yourself, I'm sorry to say one or more of those 98,167 viewers have beaten you to it, and the machines are no longer up for sale.


Back to the big coin-operated boys, such as washers and dryers, which have a building all their own. Often a kind of a seedy-looking building. I don't think it's age. I think laundromats are built seedy-looking. It's in the blueprints. But that just gives them a kind of transient charm. Just the thing for transient relationships:



Well, I'm not going to take my laundry there. With all that singing, I wouldn't hear that little beep that tells me the load is finished!





Machines attaining human-like emotions has been a staple of science-fiction for what seems like forever. And usually those machines with human-like emotions end up wreaking havoc on humans with human-like emotions. Really, it's much better to build a machine with dog-like emotions. Those machines would be loyal and never turn on their human masters, as long as you kept them well-fed. Still, I can't help but wonder if the machines-wreaking-havoc-on-humanity genre is really what would happen if machines had hearts. Especially, coin-operated machines. Pay phones obviously can't feel, or else they all would have ganged up and beat the hell out of a cell tower by now. And anyway, when we humans experience heartbreak, we don't always take it out on others. We only do that 90%, maybe 91%, of the time. After that, we usually take it out on ourselves. And so too, I think, would a machine:



Many of you, maybe even most of you, will recognize the late Dom DeLuise, whose birthday falls today. But what about that talking weight machine? Whose voice was that?  



That coin-operated machine didn't say "Rosebud" before it ceased operation, but it could have.







22 comments:

  1. “With this ingenious technology, you’ll ALWAYS get your snack.” Hah!

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    1. Mitchell, I take it you didn't get your snack.

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    2. Too many times to count! ALWAYS? Again, hah!

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  2. Hi, Kirk!

    A slow week for celeb deaths, good buddy?

    (BA-DUM-BUMP)

    I can imagine the following exchange between Johnny and Ed on The Tonight Show:

    ED: Yessiree Bob - everything... I mean EVERYTHING anyone would ever want to know about coin-operated machines is right here in this article.

    JOHNNY: You are wrong, pork rind breath!

    The video explaining how a vending machine works was interesting and informative. I'm happy to know modern technology makes sure your snack is dispensed without becoming snagged on the way down the chute. No more swearing rants and kicking the machine until it surrenders the treat. I find the prices of items in those machines outrageous. It's laborious and humiliating standing there for an hour feeding $42,000 worth of coins into the slot to get my weeks old chicken salad sandwich.

    Those claw machines floor me. The claw doesn't exactly get a "gorilla grip" on the prizes, and must have a zero friction teflon coating to make sure you never get anything. However I can imagine stoners amusing themselves for endless hours working those contraptions.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the smooth sound and urban feel of that rappin' duet by Nivea and her bf based around a laundromat.

    Happy 88th b-day in heaven to comic Dom DeLuise, one of my favorite funnymen of the 20th century. That weight guessing machine bit was funny. It reminds me of an episode of Boston Legal that Mrs. Shady and I watched a few nights ago. A woman played by SNL regular Mary Gross comes in to the Boston law firm of Crane, Poole & Schmidt and asks their help in recovering her lover - a metal utility box. Hers is a case of "objectophilia." To tide her over until they find her missing utility box, they give her a clock radio. She bonds with it and takes it with her to the movies. (They smooch in the back row of the balcony.) Are you saying that the voice of the weight machine was that of heavyweight Orson Welles?

    I enjoyed this post, good buddy Kirk. Have a wonderful week ahead!

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    1. I forgot that I owe you a second comment, good buddy.

      Your coin-op essay reminds me of two minor hit parody song singles from my Bommer youth.

      First there's "Leader Of The Laundromat" by The Detergents, a parody of "Leader Of The Pack," the hit by the girl group The Shangri-Las. The NYC-based pseudo group The Detergents included Ron Dante who provided lead vocals for records by another fake (studio only) group The Archies. "Leader Of The Laundromat" cracked the top 20 in the early weeks of 1965. Listen:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRpUNMIyHVs

      Loosely related because it's about a machine used in a public place that goes haywire, in this case a hair dryer in a beauty salon, is "Big Bruce," a gay parody of "Big Bad John," the folk song hit by Jimmy Dean. Recorded by Steve Greenberg, "Big Bruce" charted in the summer of 1969. I remember it well. The song contains the following verse:

      Then came the day of that terrible fire
      Something went wrong in the number five dryer
      Into the chaos of those matronly dames
      Went Big Bad Bruce just a fannin' the flames

      Is it anti-gay and un-PC? Is it merely bad taste, or just a funny parody song to be enjoyed by all? The debate goes on. Listen:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCc4HgM8dck

      Now and only now can I truly say: That's all I got.

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    2. Well, Shady, Dusty Hill, ZZ Top's bass player, did pass away. That's a band I happened to like, or at least liked back in the 1980s when it had a string of hits. I didn't quite know how to distinguish Hill's contribution from the rest of the band, and didn't just want to play videos, so I passed this one up. I'll do something in the future. In the meantime, RIP Dusty.

      Watching that vending machine tutorial I was more impressed by the computer animation than I was by the workings of the machine. It was especially cool watching the machine, um, expand and dissemble.

      About those claws machines, there were videos explaining how the things are rigged. But there were also videos doing quite well on them. I took the high road. But then I never play those things myself. If I want a small stuffed bunny, I'll just buy one.

      About that Nivea video. The boyfriend is played by Nick Cannon, but it's R. Kelly voice that's coming out of his mouth. Nivea was criticized for singing a duet with Kelly, who had recently gotten into trouble with one or more underaged girls, and she, and her management, didn't want to exacerbate the criticism by having him appear in the video. Did you notice the soap powder? It's not Tide but Tired.

      I watched Boston Legal sporadically and did not see the Mary Gross episode. I though she was funny on Saturday Night Live, especially when she played Alfafa of the Little Rascal. This was in a sketch where Buckwheat, played by Eddie Murphy ("O-tay!")

      How do I know Orson Welles is the voice of that weight box? Well, for starters, the person who originally posted it on YouTube says it's Welles. I was actually a little skeptical at first. Though the cadence is right, the voice didn't sound deep enough. The person who posted it didn't offer anything in the way of evidence. The seven or eight people who left comments didn't challenge the claim. In fact, they didn't mention Welles at all, preferring to focus on DeLuise, who may be more well known at this point. But I wanted to be sure, so I did a little digging.

      Orson Welles did guest spots on two Dom DeLuise TV specials that aired in the mid-1980s. I couldn't locate a credit that he said he specifically played a coin-operated weight machine, but these were sketch comedy programs, and he may have played several different characters. The DeLuise special was produced and directed by Greg Garrison, best know for producing and directing the Dean Martin Show and Dino's subsequent celebrity roasts. Garrison and Welles were close friends. So close that in his will, Welles named Garrison the executor of his estate. That's close.

      About Welles voice. I had his 1940s Citizen Kane-The Third Man voice in my head and that might have been a bit unfair, as he did this special toward the end of his life, when he was about 70. Voices change So I went to YouTube and looked at, and more important, listened to, as many Welles videos that I could find. They weren't hard to find. Though his choice of material was often ridiculed, and held up as an example of early genius gone to waste, Welles worked steadily right up until the end (which reminds me, there was no long illness, or even a short one, unless it's the often invisible illness that results in a heart attack.) As it turned out, Welles voice had gotten somewhat more hoarse as he aged. Nothing major, but he no longer sounded like he had the deepest voice in the world. Who knows? This might have been by choice. He was only 25 when he did Kane, and would have had to affect a deep voice to play the much older Hearst-like newspaper magnate. In his 60s, such an affectation would have been unnecessary. Anyway, after listening to those videos, I listened again to the talking weight machine, and was now convinced it was Welles, especially when he dramatically exclaimed, "Tame me!"

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    3. Shady, you say that Big John parody was released during the summer of 1969? So THAT'S what caused the riot?!

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    4. By the way, Shady, it now occurs to me that the Dom DeLuise sketch might be construed as homophobic as the otherwise sexless weight machine has a male voice. But I have no reason to believe DeLuise was homophobic. Throughout his career, he worked alongside many LGBTQ performers, including Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly. The Dean Martin Show, on which DeLuise often appeared, had jokes about gay sex, but they were mixed in with many more jokes about sex in general ("He who gets up with the rooster is a sex maniac")

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    5. I forgot to end a sentence! Buckwheat was assassinated in the sketch.

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  3. Fun overview! Gawd, I don't miss laundromats. I took my laundry out to those for years when I was a penniless student.

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    1. I used to take my clothes to the laundromat, Debra, and I swear I think the whole process from wash to dry took about three hours. I just had to make an evening out of the whole thing.

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  4. I had a friend that owned a laundromat. He walked in one day and there was a woman washing all her clothes. ALL her clothes. It was the local crazy person. He couldn't talk her into putting something back on so he had to call the police.

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    1. Mike, I could say she was in her birthday suit, but it would be an old joke.

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  5. Hello Kirk, You forgot the Automat type of vending machine restaurants, shown in many old movies. The Happy Tree Friends once featured a vending machine--you can imagine with what mayhem and results.
    --Jim

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    1. Jim, I watched The Happy Tree Friends on occasion, but did not see that episode. As for automats, I recall in the 1962 Doris Day-Cary Grant movie That Touch of Mink, Doris and Audrey Meadows work in an automat. But that wasn't so much a machine as a giant wall concealing a kitchen where the food was cooked after the customers inserted their coins.

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  6. It is interesting to watch older movies and how they envisaged technology and machines!

    Funny, I was looking online for a laundromat the other week there! We call them "laundrettes" over here though! Not many about now in Scotland.

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    1. Ananka, I may have a romantically stereotyped view of your home country, but I have a hard time imagining a laundromat tucked away in one of those scenic Scottish glens.

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    2. Oh you really do! It is a beautiful country, sadly full of morons and idiots that don't respect nature or wildlife. Litter everywhere in those scenic Glens sadly :-( I fight an endless battle of litter picking in my area.

      And RIP to Dusty. I was a fan too :-D

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  7. That was an interesting little history, especially the vending machine clip. But still sometime a machine won't vend as it is supposed to.

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    1. Andrew, I bet that video was put together by some techie. They think everything works, until it doesn't.

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  8. Now I'm craving some chips after seeing that vending machine.

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    1. I hope you have enough change, Alexander.

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In order to keep the hucksters, humbugs, scoundrels, psychos, morons, and last but not least, artificial intelligentsia at bay, I have decided to turn on comment moderation. On the plus side, I've gotten rid of the word verification.