Monday, February 29, 2016

All the way with Pengy.

One of the reasons I think I have always been so attracted to writing is that I take stories seriously---maybe too seriously.

When I was pretty small and the Underdog cartoon was on every morning, it affected me a lot. Underdog really seemed to be up against it all the time. The Electric Eel was his scariest enemy, with those mean teeth of his, and that he got his electrical superpowers by accident when escaping on an electrified prison fence---it was horrifying that the means of controlling this evil menace instead empowered him. The Flying Sorcerers were pretty bad, too, turning Underdog into a ball. Overcat was a mean bully of the worst kind. And everyone was sad when Underdog lost his powers and was going to be gunned down by Riff Raff.

Simon Bar Sinister was Underdog's arch enemy, and he was as relentless as any mad scientist. He used his Forget-Me-Net to make Underdog think he was an old lady selling apples (I forget what "she" was called; possibly Caitlyn). He made phone booths into mind-control machines, a plot line Robert Heinlein would have found chilling. And he used his Tickle Feather machine to prevent people from being able to vote, so he and his sidekick could elect himself dictator, two votes to none.

That last one seemed increasingly weird as I got older. Why was someone even able to run for dictator? It's not a typical office in the United States, thank God. And yet the incidence of thugs preventing opposition votes is all too real.

Speaking of elections, another storyline that was very upsetting to me was on the sixties Batman show, where the Penguin runs for mayor of Gotham City. A municipal ordinance allows convicted felons like Oswald Cobblepot to run (unlike in Illinois, where they become convicted felons later), and he makes a great show of it.

The Penguin proves himself to be an excellent demagogue, a real political fiend, throwing fantastic parties for the citizens and making ridiculous but crowd-pleasing speeches. Only one person has the popularity to stop the Penguin's rise, and that's Batman---so the Caped Crusader is obliged to start his own campaign.

Batman, being the cerebral and civic-minded chap he is, runs a dull campaign, focused squarely on the issues that concern the city. Hardly anyone shows up to his events. Meanwhile, the larcenous Penguin, all rabble-rousing showbiz fun, has the city in the palm of his wicked hand. Maybe the people feel that they know him, since he is kind of a celebrity---unlike Batman, who hides his identity. All Gotham seems to forget Penguin's history of grotesque villainy.

The two-episode story made me so sad I didn't even want to watch the second part. If the citizens of Gotham were turning their backs on Batman, I couldn't bear to see it. I remember actually leaving the room (or turning off the set) so as to not see Batman's feelings hurt. Hurt feelings were exceedingly important to me then.

It was not until ages later, watching it as an older, wiser child---maybe eight---that I found out that the citizens voted for Batman over the Penguin after all. He was boring as a candidate and he threw no parties with well-known pop stars, but they knew he was the better man, and they came around. Batman of course resigned immediately, leaving the city in the hands of her stalwart stewards. But he was satisfied that the people of Gotham loved him and loved their fair city enough to do the right thing.

I have no idea why I'd be thinking about this today.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Or would you rather be a mule?

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, a veritable butterfly, enjoying itself to the full of its bent, and not knowing it was Chuang Chou. Suddenly I awoke, and came to myself, the veritable Chuang Chou. Now I do not know whether it was then I dreamt I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.

You're a man.

In the first place, while mammals dream, insects don't even sleep as we do. They may be in state called torpor, sort of like you after Thanksgiving, but their little buggy brains don't function the way ours do even in sleep. It is extremely unlikely that insects dream at all. So you're not a butterfly dreaming you're a man.

Even if butterflies could dream, how would they know enough to dream such a thing? Bugs have a very limited concept of the creatures around them, unless they are excited to attack. A butterfly wouldn't know what a man was even if you sat him down and talked about it all day. He could only think of it in butterfly terms, which, let's face it, are pretty limited.

And I don't want to start any fights here, Teach, but I really doubt you ever did dream you were a butterfly. You know what I dream about? My boss is a pest and I don't know how to do my job, I'm on a stage and never saw the script, my fly is open at a funeral, I missed the last bus to someplace I was supposed to be yesterday. I don't dream of being any other kind of animal. How could I? My dreams take my experience and my anxieties and put them through the paint mixer and pour out some stupid concoction based on that. Being a very non-human creature is completely alien, and doesn't come up on Morpheus's Wheel of Fun. Unless you've actually been a butterfly in this lifetime, I flat-out don't believe you could have dreamed you were one.

If you're going to keep up that story, I'm going to want to know how you felt looking at the world with compound eyes, and sucking up your lunch with the ol' proboscis.

No, I smell a rhetorical question here based on a fabrication, and I'm not going to play this game, Teach. Come back when you have a question based on the dream about falling off your house, or your mother catching you naked on the golf course.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Pasta point of no return.

As our journey through the cookbooks and pamphlets I inherited* continues, we come across a famous old brand of pasta I don't see much anymore:


Creamette is a weird name for a brand of macaroni, but it goes back to 1912. It sounds like a dairy product. The story of the name, according to the text of a 1947 lawsuit, goes as follows:

The president of Mother's Macaroni Company, Mr. James T. Williams, in searching for a trade-mark to employ on the new quick-cooking macaroni product, coined the word "Creamettes," and on or about the 15th of August, 1912, Mother's Macaroni Company began marketing said new type of macaroni in cartons bearing thereon as its trade-mark the word "Creamettes", and it then began advertising and pushing it as quick-cooking macaroni.

Williams's big idea was a thinner walled elbow macaroni that would cook faster. The other idea was to put artwork depicting a girl's face on the box, which you can see in the depictions on these big money-saving coupons found in the recipe booklet.

The girl was Margaret Linstroth, Williams's daughter, who passed away in 2004 at the age of 89.

Requiescat in pace.

It would appear that Creamette became the name of the company, while as late as the 80's (or whenever this booklet appeared---there's no date) that "Creamettes" specifically referred to their elbow macaroni. That doesn't appear to be the case anymore, judging from the Web site.

Worse, the girl is gone.
I don't remember Creamette around when I was a kid. We were a Ronzoni family. Every family in New York was a Ronzoni family. Ronzoni was made in Queens. Then Hershey, which owned it as part of the curiously named Hershey Pasta Group, moved the facility to Virginia, in 1993. It had been operating since 1950. And yet New York and its environs are still Ronzoni country.

At that time, Borden owned Creamette, having bought it in 1979. Since this booklet looks more 80's than 70's to me, I'm guessing it was a Borden creation.

I first heard of Creamette when it was a sponsor of the Imus in the Morning show. Imus always said to "look for the babe on the box." Well, no more.

Borden no longer owns Creamette, nor does Hershey own Ronzoni. Hershey divested that pasta group and it became New World Pasta; they acquired several Borden brands, including Prince and Creamette, in 2001, when Borden got out of the noodle business. New World is owned by Spanish food giant Ebro.

Everything is owned by somebody, but that's a blog for another time.

I always look for the worst recipe in any of these booklets, but this one looked tough; all of them were pretty standard macaroni dishes, nothing really startling. Then I spotted this:

Kind of an elbow macaroni pancake with peppers in it, pinto beans slopped on top. Mind you, there's nothing here I dislike, and I think it might be an excellent dish. It was just the funniest looking thing I could find. Let me know if you try it.**

And if you're worried about getting a load of carbs in your diet, look at the little article about the health benefits of pasta up there next to the coupons. Complex carbohydrates are released slowly into the bloodstream! Pasta produced flat readings on glucose levels!

So that's the Creamette story. The Creamette site says they are found in 37 states, but you can see why New York might not be one. When one company owns all the pasta, why would it compete against itself?


*Previous episodes here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

**I should warn you that the recipe does not appear on Creamette's current Web site, but I have actually seen it online, quoting this very booklet. So someone out there likes it. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Questions on Lent.

We're well into Lent now -- Easter is a month from Saturday -- so it's time to see how we're doing with our Lenten discipline. Old Fred is here to answer all your questions on Lent. 

Q: Do I have to eat fish on Fridays? I hate fish.

A: No, you don't have to eat fish. You just have to eat no meat. Vegetarians got it made. 

Q: I always heard Catholics had to eat fish on Fridays.

A: During Lent we are supposed to avoid meat on Fridays, but before the reforms of Vatican II Friday was always a meatless day. However, all Fridays are still considered important days of penance and sacrifice (Friday being the day Jesus died), and Catholics are under a grave obligation to observe it, even if they can now eat a hamburger on Friday. As you can see, there's a lot more to Catholic discipline then food. 

Q: Can you, like, eat Spam on Fridays during Lent, since that's not, like, meat?

A: No, we can't. Spam is meat.

Q: Are you sure? 

A: Look, can we talk about something other than food?

Q: You said before that people will sometimes take on a good activity rather than get rid of a bad activity during Lent.

A: Yes. Some people might commit to praying a rosary once a week, or making financial donations, or doing something nice for a stranger daily. Use your imagination.

Q: My boss is an ass. How can I talk him into giving up being an ass for Lent?

A: Is he a Christian?

Q: I don't know.

A: If he's really a mean person, then he may be a ChrINO, or Christian In Name Only. Or he may be something else. Odds are if he belongs to a religious community it does not condone being an ass anyway, but you never know. He could be part of a sect called Pals of Assmodeus, who dedicate themselves to being jerks. What you ought to do is pray for him.

Q:  I should WHAT?  

A: Do not repay insult with insult, or plot revenge. Pray for patience and pray for good things for your boss.

Q: Like an anvil dropping on him from a ten-story building.

A: That's not a good thing.

Q: It'd be good for me.

A: I think rather than worrying about your boss, you may want to worry about yourself more right now.

Q: Would Soylent Green be kosher for Lenten Fridays? It's sorta not meat.

A: I don't even know where to start on how wrong that one is.

Q: These days of abstinence -- does that mean no sex? 

A: No, it doesn't. It only applies to diet.

Q: That's better than Spam.

A: Hormel will be crushed.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Gunfight at the Oat K Corral.

I've tested the Batman and Superman cereals, the tie-in to Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which might seem like the biggest fight since Quisp vs. Quake. But I have discovered a potential battle that's even more awful, one that may make Kellogg's Corn Flakes vs. Post Toasties look like nothing more than a reenactment of Ali vs. Frazier by Strawberry Shortcake and Raspberry Tart. I mean this:

On the left you see Kellogg's Cracklin' Oat Bran, a 1977 cereal that got a huge boost from the oat bran craze of the 1980s but now has been largely relegated to the section with old folks' serials like Uncle Sam. On the right, Nature Valley (a.k.a. General Mills) Baked Oat Bites, a new product this year. Notice any similarities?

Yes, that's right -- they both look like little square oat frames. The Nature Valley stuff has a tiny strip of frosting on it, but you can't really taste it. It's also more brittle; the Cracklin' Oat Bran has more give, like the classic oatmeal cookie that both cereals taste like.

I'm expecting a huge donnybrook in Cereal Land; could be one of those battles where eighteen lawyers enter a room and five come out alive. It's pretty bloody in that cut-oat world.

Still, I hope we can all learn to get along. I think we need to get more oats and other fiber into our diets if we want to make America great again.

Think about it: Back when Samuel Johnson published his dictionary (1755) and could define oats as "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people," the Scotsmen were well on their way to becoming the world's greatest engineers. Watt, Telford, Baird, McAdam, Bell, Maxwell, the other Watt, Rankine, a pack of Stevensons and Ewings and Andersons and so on... The Scots had that rep for centuries. That's why Star Trek's chief engineer was a Scotsman named Scott (called Scotty) who drank Scotch. (Big imagination there, boys.)

It's no coincidence---oats make you smarter because constipation makes you dumber. Back in the heroic days of Scotsmen, when they even put oats in their organ-stuffed sheep stomach, when the mighty Roman Empire could think of no solution to the Scots and other northern maniacs but to wall them off, they were eating oats by the bushel. Nowadays they probably eat cheese and yogurt and meat and chips and bananas and haven't had a good idea or BM in years.

The moral: Watch for the cereal killers to after each other, and eat your oats so you can be smart like the old Scots and not dopey like the modern Scots. Your heart will be lighter, or at least your bowels will be. 

Monday, February 22, 2016


I have a favor to ask you. Hey, don't run off! How much do I really ask from you, huh?

Oh, THAT much?

Well, this one won't cost you anything.


And it's really passing on a favor, in a way.

A friend of mine has written a socko book for middle grade kids and up, and has entered it in the Amazon Kindle Scout competition, and he needs your vote. Here is the link. 

And here is the book:

And the description: "Quentin is a typical kid, with one difference. Somehow, without knowing how, he always knows what he’s going to need…but not always why. It’s a bizarre and secret superpower, and it doesn’t always act in his favor. Quentin gets caught up in a 50-year-old mystery involving a bank robbery and missing loot—loot that other people may want to find, and by any means necessary. When Quentin's friends go missing, can he find what he needs to save the day? And if he does, will he know how to use it?"

I'm not sure how the competition works, but apparently you need a bunch of votes to get Amazon to consider publishing you, with the mighty resources of Amazon behind you. So I guess it's pretty good.

The problem is, turning it into a popularity contest in this way just means the cheerleader who can't write a coherent shopping list might win, when a talented writer does not. Not that the cheerleader's friends would actually buy or read the book, as it would involved buying and reading. But Amazon doesn't know that. They just think an awful lot of people seem keen on this blonde author; let's sign her up!

Meanwhile, my pal, a decent enough sort who couldn't cheer a hamster on a wheel, lurks in the shadows, a broken man.

You can make the difference! Vote for his book. You just have to be a registered Amazon user, which of course you are. And a kind and discrimination person, which you naturally are. (Good lookin', too!)

If you can help my buddy, I thank you. If enough people get excited about his book, maybe we can get him to come out from behind the sofa. We need to vacuum back there.

Please, I'm counting of you. The pretzel crumbs are attracting mice.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Been working on a research project this week, mostly involving verification of another writer's work. And I have just one thought I would like to share with you today.

If you are doing schoolwork, or checking someone else's work, or writing an essay, or writing a book,






Phew. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

I probably don't have to relate the problems of Wikipedia, which Cecil Adams of the Straight Dope once called "the million-monkeys-with-a-million-keyboards approach." Anyone can edit it, if he's persistent about it---even a non-tech guy like the Washington Post's Gene Weingartner, who once put a bunch of whoppers about himself on his Wikipedia page to see how long it would take for anyone to notice. (In his case, slightly more than a couple of days.)

Some of the entries are terribly written, which is the least of their problems. Many are poorly researched, and the best the editors can do is flag the page and beg the public for help. There is no standardization, not even at the level of IMDb; an article may be long and meticulously documented and researched, while another on a very similar subject may be brief, sloppy, and free of references. It also has no sense of scholarly proportion; the English language Taylor Swift page runs close to 23,000 words, with 544 footnotes (as of this morning); the article on England, about the same length, with 345 footnotes.

Having said all that, I do think there is a place for Wikipedia in research, that being as a possible jumping-off point. The pages that are properly sourced are done well, and can be a good catchall for up-to-date information. But every fact must be checked against the source, and those sources themselves can vary wildly in quality. An article on a dietary mineral may quote the Institute of Medicine and Dr. Spurious McQuack's syndicated crapfest of a TV show.

The people who write and edit Wikipedia do try, but they have neither the resources nor the focus of the World Book, let alone the Encyclopedia Britannica. All I can say is that Wikipedia itself can never be a source, and all its research must be taken with a grain of salt, which Wikipedia tells us was an ingredient in Pliny the Elder's antidote to poison.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Major Appliance, reporting for duty.

A couple of years ago we traded in our old dumb washer and dryer for new smart washer and dryer.

Well, no, ours weren't that dumb.
I am wondering if I was better off with the old dryer. The old, dumb dryer.

Dumb analog way: Pick one of four temperatures, turn the dial to the time you wanted, look at your watch. Go work, play baseball, commit homicide, perform spleen surgery, whatever; when your watch said the time you had programmed was past, it had passed. Check dryer. Clothes not dry? Give them some more time.

Smart computerized way: Pick one of eight kinds of cycles and six different temperatures. Press buttons that all beep loudly and annoy the dog. Press Play. Realize you hit Pause instead by holding the button a nanosecond too long. Eventually get Play going. Screen shows time remaining; easy peasy. Go do any of the things mentioned above. Check dryer. Two hours have passed on your 90-minute load, and the clock still says 26 minutes to go because the amazing computer sensors detect dampness somewhere. Wait. Fifty minutes later the clock still says 26 minutes. Is this thing broken? No, the cycle decides it is done nine minutes later. Laundry is all completely dry! Except for weird, inexplicable damp spots on a couple of items. Hang them on the treadmill (not like you were using that for, you know, exercise) and go get coffee.

Now, I don't expect that the computer on board to be some NASA-level device capable of sending a probe to Pluto. However, it's like saying that a little kid is smarter than a sack of flour. That's totally true, but a sack of flour is never going to disappoint you. You know what it will do. Not so the kid.

However, the analogy falls apart entirely when the kid becomes a teen. Because the dryer gets the job 99% done. The teen, 0-25%.

Another thing to note is that your encounter with the washing machine will leave you cleaner, but with the kid you can wind up coated with chocolate or worse. As Fran Lebowitz wrote decades ago, "Even when freshly washed and relieved of all obvious confections, children tend to be sticky."

And I think I've lost my direction with this entry, like a dryer that can't figure out if the clothes are dry or how long it will take to get them there. Peace out, and keep your powder dry.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Gaffe, again.

I'm not looking to pick another fight with comedian Jim Gaffigan, I'm really not.

As you may recall, we had a falling out last November over certain statements of his about the comparison of child- and dog-rearing. I also expressed some dismay over his horning on author territory with his best-selling books. You keeping making the chuckles on stage, funnyboy, and leave the best-sellers to those of us who would sell our teeth and have our nose hairs pulled out to have our books on the lists. 

My latest concern isn't about Gaffigan's success with his TV show---that's fine, that's what comedians should do, and I'm glad for him. Nor is it about his taking over as the third in the endless line of Colonel Sanders impersonators---considering his unhealthy lust for food, this may be the part he was born to play.

No, my concern is his disdain for the bit that made him a national figure, a national hero---the Hot Pockets bit.


You read that right: Hot Pockets Limited Edition.

Limited Editions should be reserved for things like luxury sedans and dumb boots you can't wear in the snow, or at least pumpkin spice-flavored variations on consumer products in October, not frozen snacks with chili powder in them.

This is hilarious! This is stupid! This is right in Gaffigan's wheelhouse!

And yet, there is silence.

He got tired of being the "Hot Pockets Guy."

We are left without our champion in our time of need.

I think I've gone far enough here presenting my case. I don't wish to be brusque or appear mean or harsh, but now it's time for Gaffigan to respond. There is much forgiveness in my heart, and I'm sure America waits to reward him for taking on this latest Hot Pockets-themed offense. But he must make the next move.

"Hot Pockets: Limited Edition" -- come on!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Gladiators Demand New Colosseum.

ROME, JULIUS 2, CXXIII (AP) -- The Gladiators of Rome made a formal demand yesterday for a new amphitheater, citing "barbaric conditions" in the current Flavian structure.

"We understand that this so-called Colosseum was constructed at tremendous expense to the Roman taxpayer," said head gladiator Scarrus Maximus, the survivor of XIII bouts, speaking for the team, "but the current amphitheater is more than XL years old now, and showing its age. We think we, our fans, and the citizens of the Roman Empire deserve a better venue for our battles to the death."

Scarrus, a Secutor on the team and a graduate of Aurelius Scaurus, sent his statement to Emperor Hadrian and the Senate, as he was unable to personally address the government at the Forum, being lowly slave scum.

Among the demands from the Gladiators in their proposed new "state of the art amphitheater" are:

- Luxury boxes for the ladies in the maenianium summum in ligneis level
- Reinstatement of the navy battles from the pre-hypogeum days
- Vino fountains
- More chariot parking with room for horsegating parties
- Picnicus area
- Separate dressing rooms for fighters, convicts, and Christian martyrs
- More pleasant Porta Libitina for dead gladiators to be dragged out through
- Flag signalling (for thumbs up, down, and new sideways option)
- Fresh sand every I to II weeks
- Valerium that covers the infield
- Reinstatement of Taco Tuesday

It is well known that Alexandria has expressed interest in becoming the new hometown to the Gladiators, and has announced plans for a major new amphitheater of its own.

Emperor Hadrian, traveling in Cappadocia, was unavailable to comment, but a spokesman said the Emperor was "glad to accept the concerns of our combatants" and he would "probably crucify the lot if they don't knock it off."

Speaking through a representative, and the iron bars on his cell, Scarrus told AP, "The government is being short-sighted about this old pile of travertine. Senātus Populusque Rōmānus deserve better. But these guys act like they think this place is going to stand for MM years or something."

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tralfaz the Champ.

Last night was the finals of the Westminster Dog Show, which is just like the Super Bowl if it were sponsored to an insane degree by Purina Pro Plan. I'm sorry to say that my dog, Tralfaz, did not bring home the cup.

Of course, he was not entered, but that's a mere technicality.

We were rooting for his breed, anyway; from our cheering and booing, our neighbors might have thought we were actually watching the Super Bowl on DVR and too dumb to know it wasn't live.

We also had an endless stream of color and play-by-play in the living room. ("Who cut the hair on the Portuguese, Dr. Seuss?" "No jumping! Noooo!" "Is there actually a dog under all that?" "Berner's got the Bernfro working." "The Leonberger is the only known breed created with actual bear.")

Tralfaz's relative made the first cut for his group, but finished out of the final four. This is why I don't bet on things, because I would have felt obliged to wager on that dog out of loyalty, and that's not how gamblers make money.

Or anyone else, usually.

So we were disappointed, but it's not like Tralfaz got all mopey. He looked up at the TV once in a while. He liked the Swissie and some of the terriers.

Meanwhile, though, he was playing with one of his favorite toys and getting lots of pets and love from his momma. He looked like the happiest dog in the whole wide world.

We could have tried our luck at showing Tralfaz, since he is a purebred with the paperwork to prove it, but that's a project with lots of expense and very little fiscal reward. Even dog champions seldom make back all the dough spent on travel and training and everything else. Then he becomes the trainer's dog more than your own, or at least I could imagine that being the case. (Any wise trainer would have spotted me for a novice and told me to stay well away from the dog until he was, say, almost expired.)

Besides, I think Tralfaz is a little too goofy to get that self-assured show-dog strut down.

Ultimately, we wanted a pet, a companion, a canine chum, someone to be with us and make us smile, and he's all that and so much more. Tralfaz, you may not be a Westminster gold medalist, but you're the champion of our hearts.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Down on the day.

Just not feeling it for Presidents Day this year. Can't get worked up about it.

It's not that the day confuses me, although it does. The federal government still celebrates this as Washington's Birthday, but that falls on February 22, which is also a Monday. So why are we celebrating this on the 15th? If they want it on a Monday, why not the actual Monday rather than the Monday before? No sense.

And it's not just because I'm a freelancer, and so I never get a day off. (Even yesterday, when I had a very busy Sunday, I still had to put an hour in; today will be a lot more.)

And it's not because I have something against the presidents. I mean, yes, I do, against some of them, but overall, of the 43 men who have held the presidency, I think 21 of them get my Good rating, and 10 get a Meh. Only 12 get a Bad rating from me. When you consider the kind of egotism and contempt for others that usually accompany men who seek high office, 12 out of 43 is not that bad.

I am refusing to count Cleveland as two presidents in my total, so we have 43.

So why can't I get all happy about the holiday? What's the matter?

I'm certainly not alone in thinking that America has completely lost her way, even more so than in the Vietnam era when everyone felt the joint was coming apart at the seams. At least then, regardless of what shenanigans politicians pulled, the people were pretty solid, meaning they believed in work and family, and even God. Now work is for suckers, families are shattered everywhere, and God is supposedly being supplanted by Science, whatever that's supposed to mean.

So there's that, plus the fact that it is an election year, and I have never seen such a sickening crop of dodos running for office in my life. Every bright spot that pops up soon winks out. (Apologies, Gov. Pataki, grateful as I am for your actions during 9/11, I do not consider the loss of your candidacy a tragic moment for America.)

It's just hard looking at the landscape to feel that the idea of America means anything to anyone anymore, and if that's the case, even my 21 good presidents are just chumps who were wasting their time. I've said before that I need a program like Amer-anon, to learn to separate with love, that I might still love my country but not let my life be ruined by her foolish and depressing behavior. Maybe it's time.

(If you're interested in my list of the Good, the Bad, and the Meh, and my criteria for judgment, send me a line at frederick_key AT and let me know where you'd put the gang of 43. Maybe we can start the support group together.)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ice sculpture.

This was a weird piece of modern art:

I think this may be what inspired Frank Gehry's Louis Vuitton building.

This impromptu sculpture is exactly what it looks like---a thick wedge held up by a thin strip of ice. It didn't start life this way. The kid next door was trying to build a snowman weeks ago, but the snow was not good packing snow. She managed to get a ball-shaped base done, but then it was time to do whatever else it is kids do on a snow day.

Then came a lot of melting, and then a lot of freezing, and this is what happened.

If I'd known, I'd have put a time-lapse camera on it, because I think the melting pattern would have to be analyzed by the physicists on Outrageous Acts of Science. I've never seen anything quite like it.

And I think it will be around for generations to admire. I took this shot a few days ago, and then the mercury plummeted like Wile E. Coyote. It was -6 degrees without the windchill when I first went out with Superdog the Impervious; my weather app listed the windchill as "You Don't Want to Know." And I didn't. This thing will likely be frozen rock hard until halfway through the first Trump administration. Talk about the winter of our discontent.

And speaking of which...

Just a modest suggestion.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Secret weapon against the ice age.

Looks like we get it in the neck today---temperatures tonight of -3F, with a windchill of -24. Maybe you Alaskans and Siberians will laugh at us, but we think that's kind of cold.

Fortunately, I have a secret weapon.

"Mittens? Big deal."

No, Mr. Strawman! These are not just mittens! These are a product of science!

Think Geek calls it the Winter Reuseble Hand Warmer, and that's where Santa (in the guise of the lovely and thoughtful Mrs. Key) got them for me. We've all seen those HotHands things that work by chemical reaction; you trigger them and they give you a delightful pack o' warmth to stick in your gloves, pocket, pants, whatever. But those you can only use once. This is indeed a reusable item. When the heat runs out, you boil them for five minutes and poof! The chemical reaction is reversed, and you can use them again.

Here's the video of the chemical reaction itself; notice the crystal formation in the sodium acetate set off  by clicking the metal disk.


Now, there is one disadvantage. While the HotHands claim to last up to 10 hours, this will only go 1 hour tops. However, I'm not going to the playoffs at Lambeau; when you are mainly concerned with keeping your fingers from falling off while walking your big hairy dog (who is personally impervious to any amount of cold), it's a lifesaver. For just two bucks each, you could buy a sack, and them boil them all up in Mama's pasta pot when the cold snap is over.

Thanks, Think Geek! Thanks, Mrs. Key! I may still be typing with all 10 fingers by tomorrow!

Friday, February 12, 2016

There's always room for Jolly Rancher.

I like Jell-O. You like Jell-O. Yes you do. Don't lie to me.

A friend of mine, in his bachelor days, was trying to lose weight. Living on his own he had found it way too easy to eat ice cream and such every night, and it had become a bad habit. He started working out regularly and changed his dessert to sugar-free lime Jell-O. He told me that he came to look forward to that sugar-free lime Jell-O like it was a giant Dairy Queen banana split.

As desserts go, even the full-sugar Jell-O is not that bad; just 80 calories a serving. (Compare that to a Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey---one serving = 300 calories, more than half from fat.) We enjoy some Jell-O of an evening; not every day, no, but it makes a fine treat. My wife is partial to cherry Jell-O.

When I saw this, though, I knew we had to try it.

Jolly Rancher gelatin---who knew?

We like Jolly Ranchers, and have the cavities to prove it. I was a bit wary about another spinoff, though, White the Jolly Rancher jelly beans are fantastic, replete with the awesomeness of the hard candy, I thought the Jolly Rancher Bites were revolting, nothing but sour and a weird taste I can only describe as vulcanized sugar. The gelatin is not made by Hershey's, who has owned J.R. since 1996, but under license by Jel Sert, makers of Jell-O competitors Royal and My*T*Fine.

How does it stack up against Jell-O? At first it was very appealing, featuring that unique Jolly scent, but I have to say the flavor was not very strong, and faded fast. Maybe this is common to all Royal gelatin mixes. I have to say it was just all right, not the bowl full o' fantastic one might have hoped.

Still, it's not a bad treat by any means, and I have to give Jel Sert and Jolly Rancher the thumbs-up for trying. I would suspect this would be really popular to make gel shots with vodka for underage drinkers, so there will probably always be a market for it.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Okay, Ash Wednesday is over! Time to drink.

Actually, if you've given up booze for Lent, don't let me be a bad influence. These pages are provided purely as a historical document.

"How to Make the 32 Most Popular Drinks" -- and, somehow I expect Southern Comfort to play a large part in this. Which is odd, because except for a few 80's fad drinks like the Sloe Comfortable Screw, I can't think of a single drink made normally with Southern Comfort. Well, maybe times have changed since that fateful night I heaved the stuff and swore it off.

But this isn't about alcohol, this is about history!

How far back in history? This is one of the recipe pamphlets I inherited, and one of the oldest, but this one has no dinner recipes, just drinks and hors d'oeuvres. But like the others, it was a freebie, and in this case it appears to have come as a supplement to a very popular magazine:

TV Guide, October 24, 1959. Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, and Southern Comfort.

The hors d'oeuvres are all pretty typical for the time. Let's have a look at the drinks:

As you can see, not every one of the 32 drinks is based on the sponsor's booze, so they're not trying to convince you that a Southern Comfort martini is the wave of the future.

One of the coolest things about this booklet is the Southern Comfort drinks shown in famous bars across the 48. The Fontainebleau in Miami, of course, is still around, but Jack Dempsey's in Manhattan closed in 1974. The heavyweight champ himself outlived his restaurant by nine years.

What else were the TV Guide reading hep cats doing in 1959?

Applying for the Diners' Club, for one thing. Diners Club is known as the world's first independent credit card, but in 1959 it was a bit different from what we're used to; the company did not issue plastic credit cards until 1961, according to Wikipedia. Prior to that members had cardboard ID cards. Still around, of course, but maybe now one of those minor credit cards that outfits that take "all major credit cards" don't take. (As for me, I wouldn't take one of those Diners' Club inspired "Diner-flo" cocktails---Southern Comfort and vermouth? Maybe they wanted to make the S.C. Martini the hot new drink after all. Blecch.)

We also see that early Christmas promotion was well known in 1959---here we are before Halloween, and the Southern Comfort Corporation is promoting its Christmas gift bottle. Clever design, too; the brand name was on a clear outer cellophane wrap so you'd know what it was, but when you took that off, the foil Christmas wrap remained. Stick a bow on that sucker and you're good to go.

You could also save half on huge (almost a pint!) steamboat glasses---remember, "the DOUBLE Old Fashioned is THE fashion," which is the kind of drink in the kind of proportions that led to my swearing off Southern Comfort decades later.

You can also get the matching "New! Gay 'Steamboat' Cocktail Napkins," if that's your thing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday.

People have asked what I'm giving up for Lent, and I am a bit torn. I'd like to give up chocolate, but Valentine's Day falls on Sunday, and if I get any I am eating it. I know me better than to think otherwise.

Others say you should focus more on doing something positive rather than giving up something negative. I think you can do both at once, by which I mean focusing on forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a positive act; giving up something is a negative one. By "negative" I don't mean bad, I just mean that you remove something that was there. In this case, a debt you are owed.

We know that the Bible refers to our sins using the metaphor of debt, that when we harm others we owe them for it, that those who have harmed us owe us. One translation of that section of the Lord's Prayer is "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."

I find this very useful, not just because I desperately want my debts forgiven, but also because it gives me a helpful visual aid for those who have sinned against me.

Yes, the old Parker Brothers Game of Life Promissory Note, which paves the road to penury and lands you in the Poor Farm at the end. Let's say this represents the grievance committed against me by another. Like, perhaps, vicious gossip spread by someone who meant to get me in trouble.

I decide I will obey Jesus and forgive this person. Not trying to make excuses for her; it could have been a completely evil act, and I still am under orders to forgive her. So there's my promissory note, what she would owe me on the Day of Judgment were I to hold on to the memory like an Irish elephant. But I determine that I am going to forgive this person.

The problem with forgiveness is that I can do it, and then find myself getting mad all over again when the incident comes to mind. C. S. Lewis wrote about this, about not only forgiving once but every time the memory angers us.*

By burning the note---usually just mentally; I don't want to run through board game supplies---I realize that I have to let it go, because it was a bearer bond and I destroyed it. I can no longer cash in that note. It's gone.

In that way, I can make something into ashes, and make it into something good, all at the same time.


* I forget which book that was in---I may make it a Lenten mission to find out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Be glad they have not put up a Viagra guy.

I enjoyed the Super Bowl this year, but I avoided the halftime show. Also, the commercials were the usual parade of crass garbage, freakish nightmare fuel, and maudlin sentimentality, and to hell with them.

Lately I've been getting especially annoyed by prescription medications that are enlisting animated versions of our own body parts against us. We got the latest installment of Toe Theater during the game, thanks to Valeant's antifungal medication, Jublia.

Your toe is fierce. 

Sometimes you can't always tell what body part is nagging you. This blob looks like a heart, but is supposed to be your bladder. He's on your case to try Myrbetriq, by Astrellas.

He doesn't know what it does, but he just needs some. Don't you want a happy bladder?
Some people think that the absolute worst anthropomorphic body part is the intestines, as seen by Gut Guy, the mascot for Xifaxan by Salix:

He's all tied up at the moment.
You have to admire the animators, who probably took to drink when given the assignment. "Okay, Aaron, give me a friendly pile of intestines, something for people to watch while the voiceover guy reads the disclaimer. Make him cute."

"A cute pile of intestines."

"Great, you got the idea. By Tuesday."

Gut Guy---and that is his trademarked name---has got to be the grossest animated body part, right? Not like someone would come up with something really bizarre, like Pete the Prostate.

I don't think that Actavis named Rapaflo's spokesorgan Pete, but it would figure, wouldn't it?

I don't see an end to this. Diabetic meds are going to have people being followed around by a pleading pancreas. COPD sufferers will be chased by a pair of irritating lungs. Not to mention:

Relieve chronic spleen pain with SPLEENQINEX!

Don't let strep throat hang around! Try new UVULAX!
It's bound to happen. They're going to keep doing this. Maybe I should get in on the mascot action. (I wrote the book on advertising mascots, as you know---or at least, A book.)

Drug companies interested in using my designs for Spleeny or Uvula Jack can contact me at frederick_key AT I accept large cash payments by check, money order, PayPal, wire transfer, and briefcases stuffed with bills. Thanks a lot.

And remember, I'm kind of a pill myself.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super flakes.

Last month I reviewed the Batman cereal, tied in with the upcoming film Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It actually took me a while to find the Superman cereal so I could compare. Should have known Walmart would have it.

These are not the first battling breakfast cereals by any means. We all are aware of the endless war between Count Chocula and Franken Berry. But these Justice League cereals aren't even the first to pit a human against an alien. Those would be Quisp and Quake.

The difference here is that Quisp and Quake were identical cereals in different shapes, while Batman and Superman have different shapes and flavors. Batman has bat shapes with chocolate and strawberry, while Superman is "caramel crunch" in the shape of the S shield on his chest. (Which stands for Superman, never mind what lame Kryptonian excuse he makes.)

Superman certainly has the longest relationship with cereal of any superhero. Superman debuted in 1938, and according to Gary Grossman's classic book, Superman: Serial to Cereal, the Superman radio show premiered just two years later:
The radio show brought together two longtime business partners, Superman and Kellogg's. It was a profitable relationship that lasted until 1957, when production on the television series ended. For years, Superman and the breakfast foods were inseparable. Characters from the cast peddled Corn Flakes moments after being saved from an almost certain demise.
On radio, Jimmy Olsen chimed:
Hep Hep Kellogg's Pep
Keep in Tune
Keep in Shape
With Kellogg's Pep

What's the Superman cereal like? Sure enough, it tastes like caramel, but not an in-your-face burnt caramel. Mild and pleasant, and not tooth-achingly sweet. Caramel seems to be important once again; witness Hershey's new dedication to Milton's original candy, and the new Pop-Tart flavor Chocolatey Caramel. Superman is right on that bandwagon.

Which is better? Although I didn't have any Batman cereal left to do a head-to-head test, I am able to say that I personally prefer the Superman cereal. The strawberry-chocolate combo is not one I swoon for, but I've always loved caramel, and I think that gave Supes the edge. Just a personal preference, not a judgment.

But who had the best review? A friend brought to my attention a remark from Facebook by one Rudy Vucelich, who reviewed the cereals and said, "My local grocery store didn't have any of the Superman cereal left. Also, the Batman cereal has a bitter, chemical taste to it. The Superman is much more delicious. Guess that's settled then..."

To which his comrade, Brian Pittman, replied, "Batman's cereal is just bitter because his PARENTS ARE DEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAD!!!"

Almost made me want to join Facebook.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Inappropriate treats.

These popped up at a meeting I attended recently:

The package was new and unopened, until we tore into it headlong. So, how're YOUR New Year's resolutions working out?

JC's makes all kinds of pie-like treats, as seen on the company Web site. I don't think they make actual pies, but they make pie pops (frozen pie-inspired pops) and these pie bites, or pie-inspired truffles. The bites are available as turtle (caramel chocolate), s'mores, and so on; seasonally, the above white chocolate peppermint. So whoever catered the meeting was buying off the out-of-season discount rack. "Tis the Season" says the package; "Twas the Season," anyway, at this point.

And that's the funny thing---one bite of the truffle and I felt it was all wrong. The peppermint was as out of date as a leisure suit. I was astonished at the inappropriateness of the treat, more than a month after Christmas. Pumpkin would have been less weird; that will be around again in nine months, not eleven.

It's odd, how off the truffles were. It wasn't that they had passed their sell-by date. These things keep, and they come in an air-tight package, too. And it's not like we're beyond the trappings of Christmas, which in the secular sense include snow, always snow---we had snow yesterday and maybe more coming next week. But that peppermint and white chocolate combo was like a relative that had come for Christmas and was determined to hang around until hog-brandin' time.

All that said, the truffle was pretty good. Very sweet, of course, but that didn't seem to slow anyone down. Resolutions be damned---it'll be Valentine's Day in a week or so, and that's another avalanche of chocolate and calories anyhow.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Squeeze it dry.

Do you know what this is?

It's a clip designed to squash the toothpaste tube flat in an orderly manner, ensuring a nice even squeeze and a thorough emptying of the tube. I got it at the Container Store, but they're made by Jo!e, who sells them under the name Squeeze Ease Tube Squeezers, and they work just as advertised. Three bucks for a set of three. Of course, they are designed not to contain, but to un-contain, but perhaps the Container Store is branching out.

The Squeeze Ease Tube Squeezers may never make back what they cost in terms of how much more toothpaste they get from the tube, but they in addition to easing the squeeze, they ease your fears of waste, from which, as the proverb promises, want follows. (Further, there are pricey prescription medications that come in tubes and for those, these little devices may quickly prove their value.)

It got me thinking of opportunities for other stuff-removal products. The other stuff that's on the bottom of your tube or bags or boxes and so on is never worth very much, but it always seems like a waste to let it go. This could open the door for some enterprising young fellow---like me! (Or you, if you'll cut me in.) Here's some ideas I had---just spitballing, you understand....

Aspirin Dust Assembler---Takes all the dust at the bottom of the bottle of aspirin; reassembles it into a single aspirin pill. Any leftover dust can be saved and combined with the dust in the bottom of your next bottle. Works for Tums, too!

Saltine Mill---Cleverly takes the crumbs inside the saltine sleeve and grinds them into fine salty bread crumbs, which can be used with other plain bread crumbs to top your tuna casserole or make meatloaf or whatever weird thing you do with bread crumbs.

Cereal Sugar Refiner---Just pour the shards and colored sugar at the bottom of the Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries bag into the refiner, and out comes perfectly good decorator's sugar, excellent for cupcakes or cookies. Nothing like a little dose of Lucky Charms on your already sugar laden desserts.

Cheeto Reconfigurer---From the people that brought you the Aspirin Dust Assembler, it's the Cheeto Reconfigurer! Shakes the cheez and meal bits out of the "empty" bag and turns them into a complete Cheeto (or however much of a Cheeto can be created by what's available). Scrape off your orange fingers into the Reconfigurer and take bets on how much of a Cheeto can be churned out from the powder. Makes a great drinking game!

Peanut Oil Deglazer---Why waste all that good oil on the inside of your can of cocktail peanuts? The Peanut Oil Deglazer scrapes the can like crazy, yielding as much as .001 tablespoon of delicious salty peanut oil.

Wine Box Squeezer---Any good drunk will tell you there's more wine in that Mylar bag inside the box of Peter Vella's finest. The Wine Box Squeezer will flatten the box and the bag and give you the fine taste of the Chablis inside. Good to the last drop!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Smell like Bruce.

I came upon an interesting bit of disputed trivia, about Bruce Springsteen, the Jersey Shore, 1960s teenage boys, soap, and maybe Star Trek.

As Springsteen fans know, his first real band when he was a short, skinny teenage dork in Freehold, New Jersey, was called the Castiles. Brucebase reports that the band played at least 115 shows, and also made some recordings.

The site also reports that the band was named "after a brand of soap." Peter Ames Carlin, in his book Bruce, said the name of the band was a "tribute to Castile shampoo, the brand local teams seemed to favor".

They're both right and wrong, I think.

Castile is not a brand of soap but a kind of soap; as Webster's tells us, castile soap is not made from animal fat, as many soaps are, but is "a fine hard bland soap made from olive oil and sodium hydroxide" or other vegetable oils, originally associated with Spain's Castile region. Back in the 1960s there was not quite the preponderance of soaps that there is today, and certainly nothing like the vast variety of shampoos. I found precious few trademarks on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site using the name "castile" that dated to that era. So who was making castile soap when the Castiles began playing in 1965?

Kirk's Castile Soap, made with coconut rather than olive oil, has been around since 1839, and is still around today. I suspect this was the soap that the boys in the Freehold area liked, and it would have been perfectly acceptable to use it as a shampoo too. (Pace Carlin, although Kirk's makes a shampoo now, but I would guess that they didn't fifty years ago.)

Bottom line: If I'm right, you can find out what Bruce and his buddies smelled like in 1965 by buying some Kirk's. I got this bar at Walmart.

Is it worth the effort? Well, if you're into non-animal-fat soap, I suppose this is a good option. It's not expensive; it's a nice, soft soap, feels pleasant on the skin, and doesn't seem to be any more drying or less effective at cleaning than your average bar soap. The scent is mild, not perfumey, and not at all coconutty, at least to me, so you don't smell like a big piña colada as you mosey down the boardwalk.

As for the Star Trek thing: I was just imagining if the Castiles had actually used the brand name rather than the type of their favorite soap, and called themselves the Kirks. In 1965 they might have sounded like a religious folk group from Scotland. But in September of 1966, they would have sounded like Star Trek fanatics. And they kept playing until 1968, so the name might have grown uncomfortable.

I guess they could have changed it to the E Street Band or something.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In the meadow we will build a no man.

I was very happy to see yesterday that Punxsutawney Phil and Staten Island Chuck, those two great rodent meteorologists, failed to see their shadows, so we are due for an early spring. Their predictions seldom align, so I think we can call this one a lock.

Sadly, Winnipeg Willow croaked just days before her forecast, leading some to believe she was done in by a consortium of Canadian snow shovel manufacturers and ski resort owners, a shadowy group called Big Brrrr.

Interestingly, we have not even had that much of a winter here in the lower Hudson Valley. One big snow last week, but far less than they got in South Jersey. I built a snowman in the front yard; he kind of sucked, but he sucked a lot more a few days later. This was what was left on Monday:

And this was Tuesday:

And today it's supposed to be in the 50's and rainy.

As I've said before, this is the weather than brings out the weather worriers, those who feel a spiteful Gaia is going to smite us starting with the Maldives, but I have no fear. I vividly recall last year, when we were already so socked in by layers of ice and snow (I could walk across it on the lawn without sinking, honest) that when Phil called for six more weeks of winter I was ready to kill and eat the little furry freak. So was everyone else in New York and Pennsylvania.

But so far so good, and no complaints.

I saw Frosty beating cheeks to grab the last train to Saskatchewan, so he's heading for the North Pole. His lack of confidence in this winter fills me with hope.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A world of tears.

ANAHEIM (AP)--Disney officials have confirmed that the popular "It's a Small World" attraction at Disneyland will remain closed indefinitely pending completion of an investigation into what has been alternately referred to as "an act of vandalism" and "a doll-caused disaster."

"We are glad this occurred after hours and no one was hurt, but we still do not have a clear idea of what happened," said Margot Scrump, spokeswoman for the entertainment giant at a press conference Monday, two days after an explosion and gunfire rattled the famous family ride. "There seems to have been a problem with some of the dolls, but what we've seen doesn't make any sense."

According to leaked reports from Disneyland employees, two explosions were heard from within the ride at approximately 1:05 Saturday morning by security guards on the park grounds. That was followed by several bursts of gunfire. Police were alerted, and within minutes the Small World attraction was cordoned off. But no people were found within the structure, and surveillance video showed no unknown people anywhere in the park.

Scrump added, "The primary damage appeared to have been in the African room, where vandals apparently strapped some kind of explosives on two Middle Eastern dolls, which then detonated in the midst of some Nigerian dolls, destroying all the dolls in the room. We suspect someone had set this up hours earlier, although no remote or timing device has been located."

More curious were the gunshots, which "blew the faces off" dolls in the European scene and the Finale. "Guns were discovered, both near dolls that were not originally set in those scenes," added Scrump. "There was also mangling of several female dolls in the European room. Someone has been playing with our dolls."

Anaheim police and federal investigators had no comment on the active investigation, although one source with the Orange County Sheriff's Department said what happened in the beloved brotherhood-based ride was "bizarre" and "inexplicable" and "totally unforeseeable."

"We think this is a possible act of racial animosity expressed with the attraction's figurines," said Deputy Knute Loess, "possibly by some white hate group. Our position is that it is impossible that there could be anything but white prejudice causing such harm to the lovely harmony expressed in this attraction."

Scrump agrees, adding, "This seems to be an act of hatred of some kind, and hatred, discrimination, and lack of respect is the antithesis of 'It's a Small World' and Disney itself. It's not who we are."

Monday, February 1, 2016


I forced myself to give up Angry Birds Go!, Angry Birds 2, and Candy Crush because I got to levels that appeared to be completely impossible without buying powerups. I really dislike free games that are constantly at you to buy powerups. I'd rather buy the game and be left alone. 

But don't worry; it's not like my colossal amounts of free time will be put to something useful. Lately I've had this: 

Smashy Road: Wanted from Bearbit Studios is an insanely addictive app that encourages you to drive so badly that the armed forces are called out to subdue you. Seriously, tanks.

Your goal is to cause havoc and collect dollar bills that have been left conveniently here and there in town, suburb, and desert environments; when you get 100 dollars you have a chance to get a new car for your garage. (There are currently 90 possible cars.) You set out on the road and start driving poorly, and right away the cops come after you. Then cops in SUVs and choppers. Then army trucks, and army choppers. Then tanks.

Sure, it's fun, but not something you'd want to emulate in real life. In classic video game style, every game eventually ends badly. "Busted" (arrested) or "wasted" (dead).

And here we are, getting busted. 
Like the classic arcade games (thinking of Spy Hunter here), it's just the same thing over and over again, driving until you can't anymore, then Game Over. The real hook is building your garage, and aside from the incessant ads, this is where Bearbit makes some money---if you get frustrated about being unable to win particular cars, you can buy them with real dough. Some of the cars have special powers, which makes it more tempting---Money Man collects cash faster; the Oil Truck lays down oil slicks; the Flipper flips opponents over; and so on. Others vary in speed, endurance, handling, offensive capability, and coolness.

I have 88 of the 90 cars and have been sorely tempted to buy the other two---the Bumbee and the 1967 are just ordinary cars, but I WANT THEM! Got to get them all! I'm starting to think you can't get them unless you buy them. These Common cars (cars are ranked from Common to Legendary) are a buck apiece. It will be interesting to see if my desire wins over my cheapness before boredom or frustration conquers all.

On the whole it's a great game if you have twenty seconds or so to kill. And if you find yourself on the army base, make sure to drive through the barracks or hangars or whatever those buildings are. Ka ching.