Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sue Swanson says: Everyone loves chicken salads.

Here's another awesome pamphlet that was handed down from me in Mom's cookbook, from the Swanson chicken people:

Sunshine salads! From the C.A. Swanson & Sons company! Coincidentally, all of these happen to contain poultry. Did the cartoon quisling chicken give it  away?

Something weird about that illustrated salad bowl, though. There's nothing in it except the serving utensils, which look as if they are submerged in some kind of clear salad soup. The celery leaves seem to have grown up around the bowl like a bowl mane. Bizarre.

We know that everyone loves chicken salads---delicious, meaty salads!---because Sue Swanson says so, and she wouldn't lie about something that important:

Who was Sue Swanson? Was she a member of the Swanson family (others being Carl A. and sons) or a phony baloney mascot* like Betty Crocker and Ann Page?

Martin Jones, in his 2007 book Feast: Why Humans Share Food, says that in 1950s TV, "While a real Lucille Ball buzzed hectically and humorously through through a fictional family life, so a make-belief Sue Swanson (dreamed up by the advertising people) reassured real-life housewives that they need not feel guilty about not cooking home-made meals for their families." Sue looks matronly and a little icy. You might think that the ad boys would have made Sue prettier if she was fictional, but then, housewives might have responded poorly to some young, overpainted hussy.

There's no date on this booklet, but we can fix it to no earlier than the mid-1950s, I think; also, since the Swanson address has no zip code, it must be older than 1963.

The product on the bottom left of the page is a Swanson TV dinner. The Swansons, inspired by tray meals served on airplanes, invented the TV dinner in 1952, and Swanson TV dinners were available from then until 2009. The Swanson company didn't last that long; there's no company HQ at 1202 Douglas Street in Omaha anymore. The company was bought up in pieces, and those pieces have been rebranded over time. The only Swanson that exists anymore are canned poultry and broth products, owned by Campbell's. Chick Transit Gloria Mundi, I guess.

As for the brief "Sunshine Salads" booklet, the recipes were pretty commonplace for the most part, merely using cooked frozen or canned poultry instead of buying fresh and cooking it, then cooling it. If anything, these salads would be more popular now than they were at the time, salads having come into their own. Of course, I had to look for the most repellent recipe in the booklet to scan, and that was easy:

Savory Chicken Loaf made with unflavored gelatin, mayo, canned chicken, French dressing, and so on, chilled in a loaf pan.

There may come a day when these kind of meat/gelatin loaf foods will begin appearing in small hipster restaurants, and some will dig it ironically, and some jaded palettes will thrill to something unfamiliar, and there will be gelatin-based cold meat recipes on Food Network, and in magazines, and then we'll be stuck with this kind of thing again.

That day may come. But it is not today.

*Not that I have anything against advertising mascots. Hell, I wrote a whole novel about advertising mascots come to life, as you can see on the right.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Naughty, by nature.

A while back I wrote about the evil pokeberry, a poisonous fruit that masquerades as a wild blueberry. The pokeweed may be even more wicked than I thought. On the weekend, marching through the underbrush with Tralfaz, I came upon this:

This would appear to be a pokeweed strangling the life out of an innocent evergreen.

I'm as far from being a naturalist as you might expect to get---a great indoorsman am I, a kind of antinaturalist---but I had read that the pokeweed grows like a small tree. Well, not here, buster. The one I saw a couple of weeks ago was crawling on a chain link fence, and this one grew up like a serpent on the tree it is murdering. Below you see the dying tree trunk, and on the left the anti-umbilical cord of the vine, bringing not life but death:

The vine is snaked around the tree, its pokeberry vines snarling every branch, cutting life off to the needles and replacing it with its poisonous fruit.

Now, it is wise to say that nature is neither good nor bad, but our judgment about what is useful, dangerous, ugly, or beautiful causes us to give values to what we experience in it. And yet many of the same philosophers who would insist the pokeweed (or yellow jacket, or poison ivy, or mosquito, or virus, etc.) has no moral value would gaze upon a glorious valley view and feel that it is a good thing and ought to be preserved. In other words, assign a moral value to something in nature. It may be an emotional reaction, but it would appear to indicate that the issue is much more complicated than the Twain jibe that "Man is the Only Animal that Blushes. Or needs to."

St. Augustine argues that Nature is good, but not as good as its Creator, for it can be corrupted and diminished, which is evil. I am not saying that plants are motivated actors of good or ill, but that the wickedness of corruption may lead to what would indeed look like evil.

Well, the next time I go that way I am bringing a saw and cutting the damn wooden serpent off at the root. It may be too late to save the tree, but it's worth a try.

Monday, September 28, 2015

PSA from the dog #3.

Hello, friends. It's me, coming to you once again: the dog.

Friends, I would like to talk to you about a disturbing trend that has come up recently. I am, of course, referring to the popularity of the video that has been making the rounds on your Internet. The one of the rat carrying off a slice of pizza.

Those of you with sensitive stomachs may want to look away:

Isn't that revolting? And yet this has been seen by millions of people. Counting you just now, millions + 1!

People seem to think it is cute. It is not cute. Rats are just squirrels with skinny tails and worse habits. Do not be fooled!

Friends, rather than watching this unhygienic spectacle of a rat stealing cheese, why not keep your cheese safe by giving it to your dog? It doesn't have to be on a pizza, although that might be okay, especially with bacon. Your doggie will be so happy, and he will only eat as much as you give him. He will not drag a whole pizza to some hidey hole and share it with cockroaches. He will eat it all. Because your cheerful little chum loves cheese.

Some people will say that cheese is bad for dogs, especially in large amounts. Some people say it is even dangerous. We dogs say: Shut up! How would you know what is good for dogs? You are not dogs. You do not understand us! Go stick cheese in your ear, Mr. Busybody! Cheese is good!

Cheese, in fact, builds better pup bodies 8 ways. There's calcium, and protein, and... And some more. I forget. I can't count that high. I'm a dog!

But I do know that rats are evil and gross, and dogs are sweet and cute. Therefore take your cheese away from the rats and give it to the dogs.

Thank you for listening, friends! And remember:

Don't give food to icky rats
Puppy loves the tasty treat that's

This has been a public service announcement from the dog.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Spooky burger.

Last night we had to do dinner on the fly, and so I pulled into a Burger King that was under reconstruction and completely shut down except for the drive-through. I was shocked and stunned and terrified and HORRIFIED to see THIS on the menu:

It's so new it isn't even on the Burger King Web site as of this morning.

Of course, I had to get one.

As the ad says, the Halloween Whopper is a normal Whopper but with A1 sauce, and "A1 baked into the bun." That's not what turned the bun black as coal. I suspect lots of food coloring did that.

According to CNBC, this was sold in Japanese Burger Kings last year as the Kuro Burger (in a somewhat different form, per the Independent, which reminds us that kuro means black). In that case, the burger also had black cheese, which I guess didn't test well with U.S. audiences. We will put up with baked goods and candy being weird colors---we've all had birthday cake and cotton candy and such---but we tend to draw the line there. Still, Heinz had some luck with the rainbow ketchup experiment of 2000, so it might have been worth a shot.

As for my Whopper, it was good. I've enjoyed the A1 variants they've been doing. When I took a little bit of the bun on its own, I could only just taste the A1 in that; naturally it was lost in the powerful onion-beef Whopper flavor sensation.

The best thing about the Halloween Whopper would be springing it on people who asked you to get them a Whopper and haven't heard about it.

"Got you your Whopper, Jake."

"Oh, thanks, Joe, I'm hungry and----AAAIIIEEEEEE! WHAT HAPPENED?"

The only scary thing about my dinner last night, though, is that they forgot my fries and I didn't realize it until I got home. AAAIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!!!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hamma time.

Got the Christmas catalog from Hammacher Schlemmer!

It seems awfully early, but to be fair, when I was a kid the Sears Wishbook showed up around Labor Day. It was highly anticipated. Then again, you'll note that this catalog is entitled "Holiday Supplement 2015," and indeed this is the second or maybe third we've gotten in the last month.

Hammacher Schlemmer is a wonderful store in midtown Manhattan (much better than FAO Schwarz, was, I think), at 147 East 57th Street, and has a longstanding catalog business. They have an excellent two-part business plan:

1) Corner the market on M's.

2) Put the strangest thing they can find on the cover and don't say where it is in the book, forcing you to page through the whole thing to find out what the hell it is.

They have the M thing covered, and have since Mr. Hammacher changed the name of their then-hardware and furniture store from Hammacher & Co. to Hammacher Schlemmer & Co. in 1883. As for the second, you can see on the image above that they have it down solid.

So, what is that thing on the cover? A pennyfarthing Vespa? A bike for hobbits? An updated logo for The Village?

No, it's a Freestyle Slalom Skateboard! Might be fun for the snowboarder in your life during the summer months. Just two hundred bucks.

I've bought less expensive things from Hammacher Schlemmer. Like the Spa Aromatherapy Blanket I sent to a beloved relation, who had an allergic reaction to the aroma.* But there's all kinds of gift choices for the person in your life that don't cause allergic reactions. Like the Superior Headache Relieving Wrap, which not only relieves headache, but also looks awesome. It puts the Sty in Stylin'.

Hammacher is flat-out the best place I know to find some crazy thing for that crazy person on your list who has everything, especially if money is no object. Video recording ball caps, distillers, RC flying drones. golf ball locating glasses, personalized bobbleheads, alarm clocks louder than a chain saw, sideways roller skates, smartphone-controlled skateboards, hand-crank cell phone chargers... It's an amazing selection.**

So, even though it's still September, you may want to start thinking about Christmas gifts, from Hammacher Schlemmer. Or just send me a Hammacher gift card and I'll pick out something nice for myself. Thanks a lot.


* Dammacher!

**Prices range from Up There to Astronomical. Welcome to New York!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

We all scream for... pizza?

Continuing our theme of eating this week (and why should it be different from any other week?), I brought one of these home from the store, because I had a coupon:

What the hell?

It's a frozen pizza, and it was a big risk. My wife has grown weary of frozen pizzas and their claim of parity with pizzeria pizza -- not to mention that she's quite picky about which pizzerias we buy from, too. I find people in general are quite picky about pizza in general, and not just over Roman/Neapolitan/New York/Chicago/California/Whatever styles, but over which local guy has the best sausage, which chain ruins the onions, who still has anchovies and why, etc. I expected my wife to dislike this frozen pizza as well, but perhaps moved by the silly name Screamin' Sicilian, she was willing to give it a try. 

She liked it! 

So did I; it had less of that frozen pizza taste than others of its ilk. The pepperoni tasted of more than just pepper. The sausage was closer to real sweet Italian sausage than any I've ever had on a frozen pizza. The onions and peppers tasted like onions and peppers, not dry paper. 

I assumed that this was one of the big food companies in disguise. They do that a lot these days. Nestle owns DiGiorno; they don't try to hide it, but they don't trumpet it, either. Kraft used to own it. Kellogg's owns Kashi, but you won't find that K word on any Kashi boxes. Screamin' Sicilian seemed to pop out of nowhere and suddenly have coupons around and shelf space in the grocer's freezer, and that kind of thing takes big money. So who makes this stuff? 

The amusing box, which gives you a lot to read if you are eating by yourself, says a lot about the importance of using Wisconsin cheese. In microscopic print by the nutritional information, it says it is distributed by Palermo Villa of Milwaukee. 

Palermo Villa, which makes Palermo's Pizza, is not one of the big boys by any means, but a privately held company that apparently has gone into expansion mode. Wikipedia says that in addition to their own brand, they make "private label or house brand pizzas for other companies." So that store-brand pizza you bought might be pretty good, if it was made with the same care as a Screamin' Sicilian pie. For a relatively small outfit to go national like this, someone's taking a big risk. I think it will pay off.

The question remains: Is this a product owned by Palermo Villa, or are they manufacturing it according to the specifications of some pizza genius? The mystery deepens. 

Meanwhile, the back of the box gives you a nifty perforated mustache to punch out and stick in your nose. Those kind of things are always uncomfortable, which can only help your screamin'.

Of course, you know Fred has tried many mustache styles, so this is superfluous for me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Atonement food.

So Yom Kippur started, and although I'm not Jewish, we all could use some atoning.

Those of you familiar with Joyva or who read my post on Rosh Hashanah may be saying, "But Fred! Joyva confections? How is kosher candy supposed to help you atone on a day of fasting?"

Silly boy! These aren't kosher! They're parve

But I maintain that Halvah is a form of eating atonement, at least for me. It is a treat made of sesame paste, and I remembered not liking it when I was a kid -- dry as dust and not very flavorful. Well, I thought my tastebuds might have advanced in the intervening years, as they have for many things I didn't like as a child, so I tried it again. 

Dry as dust and not very flavorful. And I had nothing with which to wash it down. Atonement! 

Of course, it was all shot to hell with the chocolate-covered jelle Joys bar:

Mmmm -- forgive me, father, for I have been a glutton!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


(Minor naughty language warning.)


I'd like to say this is an Open Letter to Pope Francis, but I cannot stand the affectation of Open Letters. I suppose I've done them myself, but they're so frigging phony. First of all, the author sniffily sets himself up as Someone Who Is Perspicacious and Knows Things; among the Things he Knows is more than the poor sap whom he is trying to hang out for public correction. Second of all, they are written for the benefit of others who will see how smart the writer is; the so-called addressee will likely never see the damn thing, and will not care if he does.

But I am neither pretending I know more than the Holy Father nor trying to impress anyone; I just want to keep him from praying for God to smite Washington, DC, with a Monty Python-esque foot.

That'll leave a mark.

The pope arrives in DC today, a horrific nest of vipers, as anyplace full of politicians and lobbyists must be. But as he comes from South America, the pope has long experience in dealing with these vile creeps. Hell, he just left Cuba, where, true to form, the Castros had some dissidents who wanted to celebrate Mass with the pope turned away.

Our president apparently thinks he can bother Francis by slipping in some dissidents of his own; not people who disagree with Obama---good heavens, no!---but pro-choice nuns and gay bishops and whatnot. If he thinks that will bother Francis, he doesn't know his man. Obama may suppose this is just the ticket to change Church teaching on abortion and gay marriage and stuff. Obama will only succeed in being an impolite jerk. If you had invited an honored guest into your house (especially if you were representing your community), would you go out of your way to invite people who have issues and grudges with your guest? No, because you're not a douchebag. The president seldom misses an opportunity to be a douchebag.

But he's our douchebag, so I must ask the pope not to pray for that smiting, as much as the District of Columbia may be improved by some smitation. As Abraham pleaded to the Lord, if there are even ten just men in all of the city, the Lord must stay his hand (or foot) from destroying it. And surely there must be ten decent people in Washington.

Mustn't there?

Monday, September 21, 2015


I've seen many, many confusing product labels, but this one may be in a class by itself:

"Evolution Fresh" "Raspberry Blackberry" "Inspired by Dannon."

Let's take this one section at a time.

1) "Evolution Fresh" -- The fresh part sounds like it may be food connected, but evolution less so -- it's just weird. It's supposed to be sciencey, I guess, but that doesn't necessarily mean good eating. Is this somebody's way of saying the product came into higher and more complex existence over a long period of time? That the product was not created by Intelligent Design? Hmm---that remains to be seen.

2) "Raspberry Blackberry" -- as shown on the top. So you peel it back and some berries fall out, is that it? No, it's got to be some kind of food that features these berries. But what? What could it be? Doesn't say on the label! Gah! How can we know without having to buy it? Quelle confusion! 

Let's look at that last part.

3) "Inspired by Dannon" -- Ah, the clue appears. Dannon is a company known for its yogurt products, so this must be some kind of fruit yogurt, non? But does Dannon make this stuff? It is "Inspired by Dannon," which would seem to indicate this is some kind of tribute, or a cover, like Adam Sandler singing "Werewolves of London." Although the first thing I thought of was this Dave Barry column, where a pretentious hotel restaurant, rather than having a soup du jour, listed on their menu "Chef's Daily Inspiration of Soup." Which was the soup of the day.

But, even more curious, this product does not appear on the Dannon Web site. Is it, then, really a tribute product by some other company?

I found this product in the supermarket, but apparently it would have been known to me earlier if I were a habitue of Starbucks. It is a Starbucks-affiliated product and I gather it was originally sold in their stores, then in Whole Foods. I got it in a Shoprite. As is usual with this kind of thing, they hit you over the head with branding, branding, branding; it's not enough for them to say that have fresh organic whatever, they have to make you feel like you're best friends with the screamingly authentic ding-dongs (Jimmy Rosenberg, in this case) who are getting rich off the stuff, but really just make it from the goodness of their hearts.

But what does this have to do with Dannon?

Well, it looks like Dannon is involved after all. It would appear that they make the yogurt, or at least the milk part, and may be involved in the distribution; Starbucks seems to handle promotion and sales in its stores, and Jimmy Rosenberg provides hippie cover for everyone. That's a lot of people messing around with one cup of yogurt.

So how is it? It's fine. It's less sweet than other Greek yogurts with fruit, which is not a selling point for old Fred, but I understand the appeal to others with fewer sweet teeth and more concern for health. I find Dannon's Greek yogurt inferior to Fage in creaminess and flavor, anyway. The fruit is good, but doesn't strike me as better than the fruit from other premium yogurt brands. It's okay.

In the end, though, I can't get over that "Inspired by Dannon." I don't think that word means what they think it means. Dannon is not just sitting around, providing a wonderful example for others; they're actively involved in this venture. I guess that was what they came up with in the end---they didn't want to admit that Dannon made it, but Dannon was going to be damned if the logo didn't appear somewhere on the label. So the lawyers and the designers and the product managers got together in a room and beat each other silly, and this is what they came up with.

They must have beaten each other very silly to think "Inspired by Dannon" was a good idea.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


"Oooh, dude! Can't believe you got it pierced!"

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bad, naughty food.

Boy, I'll tell you, even we city boys love us some wild blueberries. Mmm MMMM!!

Okay, country people, don't get on me. I may be from New York City originally, but I have eaten wild blueberries, and I knew that whatever the hell these were, they were not blueberries. And I didn't have to eat any to find out.

First of all, those are some scary red stems. Second, these berries were entwined on a fence, which is hardly the behavior I'd seen from little blueberry bushes I'd seen in the past.

These, of course, are pokeberries, of which Outdoor Life says, "These berries are animal food, not people food. Migrating birds, deer, and many other animals can chow down on these poisonous berries with no ill effect. Humans aren’t so lucky. A handful could kill a child, and a little more could take out an adult." And the National Capital Poison Center says, "Eating several berries can cause pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Adults have eaten the roots, mistaking them for medicinal plants. Serious gastrointestinal problems have occurred, including bloody vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and low blood pressure."

You naughty old pokeberry! Going around looking like a blueberry and wham! Bloody vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and death. (Reminds me of an old girlfriend, actually.)

I don't usually go eating things I find in the woods willy-nilly. Even the dog is smarter than that. I have seen wild blackberries around here, which we even had in some spots in the city, but by the time I found them the birds had been hitting the bush like Keith Moon hitting a hotel room.

Say, did Moon die from eating pokeberries? We all thought it was drugs and alcohol, but maybe he was thinking he was going to turn a new leaf, start a healthy diet, eat some fresh wild blueberries. Next thing you know, choking on his own bloody vomit.

Unless that was John Bonham. Or "Stumpy Joe" Childs.

Maybe all of them!

Darn it, Nature! Stop messing with us!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Beatles songs as written by dogs.

Oh yeah I'll tell you something
I bet you can't guess what
Now I'll say that something
I wanna smell your buuuuutttt...

I once had a bitch
Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her stick
Isn't it good
Norwegian wood...

Baby you can chase my car...

Now I'm chewing up this old brown shoe, baby, I'm in love with you...

Lady Madonna
Puppies at your feet
Wonder how you manage to get them treats...

She said
I know what it's like to play dead...

He stuck his head out of a car
He hadn't noticed that the light had changed...

Now we live a life of ease
Every one of us has lots of fleas*
Sky of blue, and sea of green
With our belly rub Marine
We all live with a belly rub Marine
Belly rub Marine
Belly rub Marine

Thanks, K9 Pride!


I just want to point out that on that last one, the dog version rhymes better (ease/fleas) than the human version (ease/needs). Just saying.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


A couple of days ago I mentioned looking through an old family cookbook; inside were promotional pamphlets and booklets of the sort still handed out by companies looking to help you feed that hungry family with the aid of their products. Here's a doozy from 1961:

I was surprised to find this, since my parents were not beer drinkers, or hardly ever, and when I was a kid the people we had over were usually cocktail or cola drinkers. Being a giveaway book, however, from the company whose beer was the one beer to have when you were having more than one (i.e., getting hammered on beer), there was no reason not to keep it around, just in case. It doesn't look like it was used much. Let's see a couple of recipes. 

This looks like a pretty decent marinated spare rib recipe, and a rebuke to people who think Americans never used chili powder until the disco era. Not sure the beer would add that much to it, as opposed to maybe cider, but it would probably be fine.

Other recipes call for their Beer-B-Cue Sauce; what's in that?

Everything, it would seem, from a whole can of beer, two 14-oz. bottles of ketchup, one lousy dash of Tabasco, chili sauce, lemon juice, dry mustard, prepared mustard, soy sauce, garlic, steak sauce... Makes enough to marinate the living room furniture. I would defy anyone to taste the beer in anything that was served with this stuff. "...add the garlic, if desired" -- you wouldn't see that now, but in 1961 Americans didn't eat Emeril-size loads of garlic, or take garlic pills.

Other recipes in the booklet include Schaefer-Kabobs and Rolled Roast of Beef, but for the most part the booklet is a primer for the novice charcoal griller.

Schaefer is still around and going strong, although its Web site doesn't have any recipes---or much else, actually. As far as I know, it has failed to get the hipster chic of old faves like Rainier or PBR, or even the revived Rheingold. In the early 60's, Schaefer may have had the cookbook, but Rheingold had the Mets.

Although that changed for a while in the 70's...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Recycling Day.


Recycling will be picked up on Thursdays, except for weeks in which holidays fall on Mondays
Glass and plastic should go in the blue bins
Paper should go in the green bins
Corrugated cardboard must be tied in stacks no thicker than 6 inches
No Food---Wash All Glass and Plastic; Do Not Include Paper or Cardboard with Food or Food Stains

Thursday, September 17, Benjamin Lane, Rolling Pines

No. 23 -- The Petersens put their glass and plastic in the blue bin and their paper in the green bin, except on weeks when Timmy can be pressed into putting down the iPhone long enough to take out the trash, in which case anything may wind up in any bin

No. 22 -- The Hopkinses lost their blue bin years ago and just throw everything into the green bin

No. 20 -- Joe Grooblacker heard that recycling centers are overwhelmed with unsaleable cardboard and so just throws everything in the garbage

No. 19 -- Erma Goldblatz, a very determined sixth-grader, keeps the rest of the Goldblatzes in line with their recycling to save the world from Global Climate Change, but there are a number of Goldblatzes and some of them are teenagers, so it's impossible to make sure they all do what their supposed to

No. 16 -- The Furburs always meticulously recycle their pizza boxes, sometimes with crusts still in them

No. 14 -- Old Man Ubrecht often puts scrap metal, bullet casings, old keys, Canadian pennies, small broken appliances, and other such things in the blue bin

No. 11 -- The Harrisons think everything that is plastic can be acceptable by their local town, including used drinking straws, that hard plastic packaging from electronics, thin wrap from packs of napkins, plastic cups, and so on

No. 10 -- The Dales only put out corrugated cardboard once a year, shortly after Christmas---a tied bundle four feet thick

Intermezzo -- Jimmy, the possibly homeless guy, or maybe on a bad fixed income (although Joe Grooblacker thinks he's rich), with the shopping cart from Hockner's, which closed five years ago, comes around sometimes early on Thursday mornings to take deposit bottles out of the blue bins, usually leaving Green Giant cans and Reddi-Wip cans and Canadian pennies and things on the ground

No. 8 -- Margaret Mazzelli's New Year's resolution to be good about recycling fell by the wayside in March and has not been seen since

No. 5 -- The Yans, who call Carson Snodgrass at no. 3 "Felix Unger," put out the recycling once, on Memorial Day week, and got so annoyed that it didn't get picked up that they never bothered again

No. 3 -- Carson Snodgrass, who sorts everything properly, ties up boxes as carefully as Christmas gifts, and always disposes of garbage with garbage, writes letters to the town council, the local police, and the sanitation department demanding that his neighbors be ticketed for their laughable recycling efforts

No. 1 -- The Crotskis are under the impression that the town has a large compost pile, and therefore expects food garbage from its citizens on recycling day; therefore the Crotskis' food garbage goes in the green bin (contaminating everything on the recycling truck), all other recycling in the blue bin, and absolutely no food garbage in the garbage on garbage day

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Phones and photos.

I still reel at the sentence, "I took a picture with my phone." For someone old enough to remember the seventies, that sentence makes as much sense as "I was on the phone with the Philadelphia office" would have made to George Washington. Perhaps less so; while the idea of long-distance communications was not unknown to our forefathers, the idea of one thing doing something completely alien to it was not. "I roasted the turkey with the butter churner" might be a more apt Colonial equivalent.

The invention and development of the camera has been very revealing to us over the centuries. First we learned that people all over were just as funny looking as the people we saw every day. With the compact camera we learned what our fingertips looked like as they blocked the lens. Now we know that our rear ends can take butt pictures. We can even find out what the world looks like to a small pet gerbil tucked into a shirt pocket.

Answer: Not much.
So now the technology that brought us the butt dial has given us the pocket photo. Who knows where future phone technology will lead? The telephoto beard? The autofocus shorts? The pan tilt zoom tighty whities? The mind boggles.

O brave new world, That has such people in't!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Things I Shouldn't Eat: Rosh Hashanah Edition.

I've always loved these:

The Jell Rings by Joyva are a delightful treat, a bright, fruity gelatin covered with good chocolate. The chocolate isn't that awesome, I'll admit, but it doesn't matter because it's the Jell that sells.

When I was kid, my mom used to get Jell Rings, as well as other Joyva treats like Halvah, from the deli counter, by weight. I don't know if they came individually wrapped like this package, but I never saw them. You could also get the rectangular jells, vanilla twists, and other such things (all available online at Economy Candy). To our family, multiculturalism meant eating sugar from other cultures.

You should be this tasty.
I must confess, most of what we considered Jewish foods that I've eaten have left me pretty cold. Matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish, coconut macaroons, Jewish chicken soup, even rugelach---at best I can take them or leave them. Others leave me feeling like the boy eating sand in Rob Bartlett's "Tales of Old Judaica," who is offered all kinds of treats if he will help move a catering cart. "'No thanks,' said the boy, 'I'd rather eat sand.'"

But Joyva Jell Rings, I would move the cart myself for.

Happy New Year, and although it's 5776, you should party like it's 5999.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Go fish.


Yesterday I was looking at something I've had for almost 20 years but never examined---Mom's old recipe book. 

Mom was an awesome cook, and I'd hoped to find recipes for some of the wonderful things she used to make. I haven't gone searching in the book before for a couple of reasons: 1) It is a splintery mess with a busted spine, flaking pages, papers sticking out everywhere, packed into a Ziploc bag; 2) I wrongly thought that her apparently simple recipes would be easy to re-create; and 3) her cooking was always Mom Army style, suited for a big family or scaling up to a battalion, but no good for a handful of adults. 

Sadly, it looks like she took them with her after all. Her cookbook dates well back to before she was married, and may have been her mother's, and there's little proof she used many of the recipes. What she did was stuff recipes written on note cards and other scraps of paper in its crumbling pages, pages that included enticing photos like the one above. Unfortunately her recipes usually were just a list of things with no amounts or instructions, like "Goulash: Bottom round, green pepper, onions" etc. She didn't even list the spices, and I know there were spices. 

Anyway, the crumbling cookbook with its inserts is a historical treasure trove, and I may try to get some of it onto this site. I'd never dream of trying to match the great Lileks with his Gallery of Regrettable Food, but I hope I can at least add to our appreciation of the broadening of the American palate, the hard work of food stylists, and the importance of color photography to making food look edible. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Not a preview; a leftover.

It is a truth universally blah blah blah that a box of tissues in the bathroom is the only box of tissues in the house that gets dusty. Less likely so if it's a box in the bathroom in which ladies apply their war paint, but still the only one that may acquire dust.

This is embarrassing:

And no, it's not in the war paint room.

The box was opened last December, as you might suppose, and there it sits. I've been known to pack such things up along with the Christmas decorations and stow them until the following year, but I didn't think it would last this long.

The fact is, you just don't spend that much time sneezing in the can. When you are spending a significant amount of time there, you are showering, in which case tissues are not an option, or easing your nature---and if you sneeze in that position, or go nasal spelunking, or whatever it is you do (don't ask, don't tell), you've got a whole roll of tissues in easier reach. Ten months after it was opened, there it remains. Getting dusted once in a while.

I've been known to get other seasonal and novelty paper items. Not toilet paper; that would be disgusting. I'm talking about paper plates, napkins, paper towels.

Yeah, I got 'em. Sue me.

They never last too long.

There aren't many tissues left in the box, so it makes sense to just keep it there in the can. My luck I'll use the last one on Thanksgiving Day. But if it lasts until we're in the Christmas season, will I be able to resist the temptation to replace it with another Christmas-themed tissue box? Will I have learned my lesson? Should I bother replacing it at all?

See, this is why you need to check in with this blog daily. The suspense grips you like nothing else.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Always something there to remind me.

I was given this as a Christmas present by my wife, back in 2000.

Where did it come from? Let's see the reverse side:

It was a big seller for Macy's that Christmas. I remember them advertising it.

Before the next Christmas, those two towers would be destroyed, along with thousands of innocent people, in an act of unspeakable evil.

The first memory to fade, to me, was how important the World Trade Center was downtown. You could see the towers from everywhere. Everyone knew someone who worked there, or had done, or had worked there themselves. The complex was as big as a small city, only vertical. And deep; there was a full-fledged shopping mall in the cellar, which was awful and empty for a long time, but became popular and thriving in the 1980s. It was easy to forget those things later, the way one's memory of a family member becomes consumed by the memory of his long and painful decline.

But there's always something there to remind me.

A Monopoly game Mom got in the 1990s.

Trump Tower is the equivalent of Boardwalk, by the way, and Tiffany's is Park Place. The World Trade Center is actually not a property on the board, nor is it mentioned in Community Chest or Chance cards, like other properties. But there it is on the game board, dead center.

I noticed that the iPhone U.S. holidays calendar did not list Patriot Day today. For that matter, neither did the calendar we got from the church. I don't need to see it on the calendar. It's not like I've forgotten.

It's all right. I want to remember it. I want to remember it all.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Odin, linens, civilization.


I was taken to task for getting political again yesterday, and I can understand the problem. I don't like being political in this blog; after all, the Wonder That Is Fred is available to all people, regardless of race, creed, color, nationality, party, and even those who think candy corn is delicious, which it is not.

But as we get closer to the anniversary of September 11, 2001, which I recall in horrific detail (being in Manhattan that day), I get more annoyed about the dumdums who put together this so-called deal with Iran. Iran, who has declared themselves our enemy since disco was king, wants nothing more than nuclear arms to boss around everyone they can reach, and possibly start a nuclear war to usher in the new worldwide caliphate because they are freaking crazy. That Iran.

For some reason, our president and various idiots in Europe think that a treaty that allows Iran, which has so much oil they could use it to barbecue, to run nuclear reactors will go swimmingly, that if we find they are naughty and trying to build humongous nuclear bombs we can shut them down like a fleabag brothel that bribed the wrong cop. You wonder what kindergarten our political class is attending. The one that said chaos in Syria would be internal and end quickly? That Libya would be better off with no central command and ISIS running around free? Most of all, that all the crap in that diabolical machine of the Middle East could be quarantined? What proof do these mental titans have that we can trust Iran? What reasoning do they have that we have to make peace with people who want to kill us?

Our political elites, like the elites throughout the Western world, seem to have become tired of life, unwilling to defend their own nations; the only fight they want is to fight the meanies who oppose the welfare state, and the only freedoms that really mean anything to them are 1. freedom to have sex with anything, and 2. freedom of their own speech and no one else's.

Least of all have they interest in defending the inheritance of Western Civilization, a mighty force for good and the elevation of mankind. None would lift a finger to fight for that, or think anyone even should fight for that. No, Western Civilization sucks. They think that if they cut the legs off off the table, the top will float.

Civilizational exhaustion is as direct and horrid a poison as the human race will ever know. And it does not come to everyone on earth all at once. While we're trading in our power for clean linens to rest on, like Odin in The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, our enemies grow ever stronger, and now we're doing the stupidest thing we could possibly do besides actually shipping nuclear arms to the mullahs in Iran.

Does our president think that this is going to lead Iran to become our BFFs? I guarantee you they don't look at it that way.

I was thinking of that Douglas Adams book this week, pathetic Odin loafing in retirement, his son Thor being foiled by his father while he tries to void the agreement and save the Norse gods. (All this in a detective novel, of course.) Odin's excuse was that no one believed in the gods anymore. In Western Civilization, it would appear that we stopped believing in God, made ourselves God, then stopped believing in that God, too, because that one always disappointed. On that last point, anyway, I and the political elites agree.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sideshow of bad ideas.

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and see the amazing Bad Ideas show! For one thin dime, one tenth of a dollar, you can witness with your very own eyes some of the most bad ideas ever to occur to Man!

SEE! the guy who eats a baloney sandwich from the lab refrigerator!

GASP! At some really bad locomotion!

Careful with that throttle, Henri!

THRILL! to the flesh-stripping plastic sofa cover!


TASTE! the worst idea to ever ruin a perfectly good potato! 

Just don't!

SHUDDER! at the results of American foreign policy in the Mideast!

You'll never look at anything the same way again after you've seen the SIDESHOW OF BAD IDEAS!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Labor sucks!

I spent Labor Day laboring, and it sucked.

There's a huge difference in doing labor for your own property for improvement, maintenance, or just the sense of pride of having a nice place, and doing labor for some other schmuck for money or to escape a beating. I certainly would have enjoyed the pride of having a nice place filling me during the fatal heart attack I was bringing on.

It was 93 degrees (F, but felt like C), and I was out in the hottest part of it. Couldn't be helped; I was finishing a job on deadline, so that tied me up all morning, and meanwhile I was waiting for the sun to dry the grass and weeds so I could cut them.

That dew is a major problem.
It took hours, and the longer it took, the slower Old Man Freddy moved, stretching out the time more. At one point I told myself that as soon as the mower ran out of gas, I was going to get out of the sun, drink Gatorade, and cool off.

Apparently my mower has the Magic Tank of Holding when I want it to run out of gas, because I finished the backyard. It never did run out of gas. Maybe it will never run out of gas. That would be nice. But I ran out of gas. In fact, I got dehydrated.

I crept inside when it was over, a sad, sweaty mess. Even the dog thought I smelled bad. I dumped my clothes straight in the washer and got into the tub.

I don't remember the last time I took a bath, but it's been years. I was too wiped to stand for a shower. I soaked and scrubbed, expecting to see ticks swimming for their lives. Then I rinsed off, dried off, and took a nap.

And woke up an hour later with a cramp in my right foot, which moved to my left foot, which then turned into a rare and attention-getting thigh cramp. Yep, I was dehydrated.

Damn you, Magic Tank of Holding!

Some people will say that muscle cramps like that are not caused by dehydration. These people are wrong. Had I done that amount of work on a cool day, and I have, and more, I would have had no cramps at all. Back to the drawing board, doctors! Or should I say, "doctors"!

Anyway, cramps are gone now, no more dizziness, and no fatal heart attack, or at least not yet. But that was a lot of work for a national day off. I'm looking forward to getting some rest between now and the next Labor Day.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A poem for Labor Day.

The morning was a brilliant one
And John was feeling fine
He was a junior member
Teamsters Local 809

The job was at a demo site
For which he'd drive a truck
But twenty minutes into it
He was spit outta luck

They'd laid out all the implements
For deconstructing hovels
Including a long line of wooden-
Handled transfer shovels

John backed his truck by accident
Over handles made of wood
And snapped each handle like a twig
He broke those shovels good

"You nincompoop!" his crew chief yelled
And called him "king of fools"
"You broke our every shovel, John!
Now we ain't got no tools!"

The chief said, "Johnny, call the boss
Admit that you're a clown
And say you are real sorry and
Please just send some shovels down."

The boss told Johnny, "No way, kid,
It's just beyond my powers.
Our other tools are out on site
And won't be back for hours.

"No shovels are no problem, though,
Don't sweat about it, brother.
Just tell the boys they'll have to learn
To lean against each other."


Old joke, new poem. Happy Labor Day!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dramatic tales from the basket of sales.

Sometimes in the supermarket you see those baskets of items at discount prices, and you wonder what led these apparently normal products off the shelves and into a pile. After all, if they were expected to sell, they'd probably still be on the shelf. I find that at my local Target, that usually means they are seasonal products past their season (Target is big on the pine-smelling soap at Christmas and cotton-candy air fresheners in summer, for example) or are close to or actually past their expiration date. In other stores it may mean the same thing. Or it may mean... something else.

Hello yourself! Looks like a premium brand of toothpaste, albeit with the unusual flavor of "Supermint" (which turned out to be pretty much peppermint, albeit tasty peppermint). It's made by a company called Hello Products of Montclair, New Jersey. What brought this friendly item to the bargain bin?

Procter & Gamble did. The toothpaste (and all other personal care products) titan, owners of Crest, sued, claiming that Hello's 99% Natural claim was false. Hello, seeing itself on the losing end regardless of the validity of P&G's claims, agreed to stop the 99% Natural claim, and gave away about 100,000 tubes so labeled, free of charge. The founder of Hello thanked P&G for "accelerating and amplifying our marketing efforts."

Maybe the store where I got this wasn't supposed to sell it, but return it to the company. I got it for cheap, anyway, but not for free.

You notice that another Hello product, one I did not find in the bargain bin, no longer says "99% Natural":

"Naturally Friendly" is much less of an actionable phrase, isn't it?

There's always a story. Just as every empty storefront has a tale of a broken heart, every bargain-bin dump has a tale of battle and drama. Much as I like Crest, I think P&G was trying to use the courts to smash a potential competitor before it got off the blocks, and just seized on whatever would work.

Hang in there, Hello! You may not really be 99% Natural, but you have very friendly products to look at first thing in the morning! And who doesn't like that?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Education update.

The schools around here started this week, but in some spots they're just getting under way after Labor Day weekend. In any event, it's a good time to hear some thoughts on education from that brilliant all-around expert, Highly Magnified Woggle-Bug, T.E., Dean of the Royal College of Athletic Science in Oz, and his friends:

"This college," said Professor Wogglebug, complacently, "is a great success. Its educational value is undisputed, and we are turning out many great and valuable citizens every year."
"But when do they study?" asked Dorothy.
"Study?" said the Wogglebug, looking perplexed at the question.
"Yes; when do they get their 'rithmetic, and jogerfy, and such things?"
"Oh, they take doses of those every night and morning," was the reply.
"What do you mean by doses?" Dorothy inquired, wonderingly.
"Why, we use the newly invented School Pills, made by your friend the Wizard. These pills we have found to be very effective, and they save a lot of time. Please step this way and I will show you our Laboratory of Learning."
He led them to a room in the building where many large bottles were standing in rows upon shelves.
"These are the Algebra Pills," said the Professor, taking down one of the bottles. "One at night, on retiring, is equal to four hours of study. Here are the Geography Pills--one at night and one in the morning. In this next bottle are the Latin Pills--one three times a day. Then we have the Grammar Pills--one before each meal--and the Spelling Pills, which are taken whenever needed."
"Your scholars must have to take a lot of pills," remarked Dorothy, thoughtfully. "How do they take 'em, in applesauce?"
"No, my dear. They are sugar-coated and are quickly and easily swallowed. I believe the students would rather take the pills than study, and certainly the pills are a more effective method. You see, until these School Pills were invented we wasted a lot of time in study that may now be better employed in practicing athletics."
"Seems to me the pills are a good thing," said Omby Amby, who remembered how it used to make his head ache as a boy to study arithmetic.
"They are, sir," declared the Wogglebug, earnestly. "They give us an advantage over all other colleges, because at no loss of time our boys become thoroughly conversant with Greek and Latin, Mathematics and Geography, Grammar and Literature. You see they are never obliged to interrupt their games to acquire the lesser branches of learning."
"It's a great invention, I'm sure," said Dorothy, looking admiringly at the Wizard, who blushed modestly at this praise.
"We live in an age of progress," announced Professor Wogglebug, pompously. "It is easier to swallow knowledge than to acquire it laboriously from books. Is it not so, my friends?"
"Some folks can swallow anything," said Aunt Em, "but to me this seems too much like taking medicine."
"Young men in college always have to take their medicine, one way or another," observed the Wizard, with a smile; "and, as our Professor says, these School Pills have proved to be a great success. One day while I was making them I happened to drop one of them, and one of Billina's chickens gobbled it up. A few minutes afterward this chick got upon a roost and recited 'The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck' without making a single mistake. Then it recited 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' and afterwards 'Excelsior.' You see, the chicken had eaten an Elocution Pill."

So as long as the students maintain their athletics, the Woggle-Bug (or Wogglebug) and the Wizard seem to be proponents of taking drugs in college. At least this college. As Ozma, Princess of Oz, describes it:

"That is the College of Art and Athletic Perfection," replied Ozma. "I had it built quite recently, and the Woggle-Bug is its president. It keeps him busy, and the young men who attend the college are no worse off than they were before. You see, in this country are a number of youths who do not like to work, and the college is an excellent place for them."

Have a great year, kids!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cheesy rider.

California's highways have been plagued in recent weeks by gangs of hipsters on Harley-Davidson penny-farthing cycles.