Rick Steves Goes To Hell: If you watch public television, you've undoubtedly seen the travel show, 'Rick Steves' Europe'. Steves, who is also a travel author, has been doing travelogues for PBS for over 25 years. He presents himself as an easy-going, kinda-geeky guy, who never loses his fascination with all things European. You'd think after this many years in the travel biz, some cynicism would have crept in, yet, as the late John Belushi would say, "But noooooo!"
Europe is filled with museums - there's one in every little burg, it seems. If there's one memorializing the Holocaust, Rick will visit it. He'll always provide a smug mini-lecture, concluding that "we must always be on guard to disallow man's inhumanity to man," while sad violin music plays in the background of the stark exhibition. Look, I think the Nazis treatment of the Jews, Poles and others was atrocious but, when I go on vacation, I want to have a good time, not get depressed.
What if Rick visited Dante's Nine Circles of Hell? Well, here's what such an episode might be like ... (more >>>)
Nobel Musings: Mark J. Perry pointed out some interesting facts about the Nobel Prize:
• Jews represent only 0.2% of the world population, but they’ve won 22% of all Nobel prizes since 1901.
• Nobel prize recipients from only three countries (US, UK and Germany) have been awarded 54% of all Nobel prizes since 1901.
• Americans have won 33.6% of all Nobel prizes.
• Men have won 20 (and 83%) of 24 Nobel prizes awarded in the last two years.
I'm old enough to remember when the Nobel Peace Prize was based on accomplishments. Once upon a time, it was awarded to folks like Mother Teresa, Lech Walesa, The Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Linus Pauling and Albert Schweitzer. Now it's apparently just an Affirmative Action or Political Correctness award.
It's a little-known fact that, in 1983, I won the Nobel Prize for Acrylic Fabrication. Well deserved, I might add.
In my day, I did a helluva job of making almost bubble-free glue joints on Plexiglas, despite being located in rainy Oregon. It's really hard to produce near-perfect, solvent-based seams unless you're in a desert clime.
I won't reveal my secret method except to say that, in addition to the usual ethylene dichloride solvent (EDC), it involved the use of isopropyl alcohol and wicked, voluminous flatulence.
The Nobel Prize wasn't such a big deal back in the 1980s; there was no money awarded, just some gift certificates from Koala Blue, Casual Male, Chipwich Cookies and the Pennsauken Mart.
Disappointingly, the medal itself was only a piece of foil-covered chocolate. (It did look nice in photographs, though.) Not very good chocolate, either. Yasser Arafat was seen at the awards banquet eagerly chomping on his 'medal' with brown drool running down his stubbled chin. Disgusting.
I didn't have a very good time in Oslo. The days were very short, people seemed sullen and every elevator played an instrumental pan flute version of The Beatles' 'Norwegian Wood'. It made my teeth hurt.
Candy stores sold gummy Swedish Fish, except they were called 'Norwegian Fish'. And they actually smelled and tasted like fish, too. Yecchh. I was happy to return home so I could get back to eating anchovy-free pizza. And watching 'Flashdance' repeats on Showtime. "What a feeling ..."
Ooops, I almost forgot to mention that prize-winners also received a cellophane-wrapped gift basket containing ten kilos of explosives, courtesy of the good folks at Dynamit Nobel GMBH. I still have mine, stored in a proper controlled-temperature, low-humidity environment. Arafat put his to use right away, I was told. (posted 11/6/15, permalink)
I'm Old And I Can't Keep All These Ashleys Straight: This Ashley Madison internet sex scandal has me very confused. At first, I was wondering if she was related to Dolley Madison and sold ice cream.
Then I wondered if she sold sofas at Ashley Furniture. After all, you can't have an affair without a good sofa, especially one with a pull-out bed.
Wikipedia told me that Ashley is a place name and a surname as well as both a male and female given name. The place name is derived from the Old English words 'aesc' (ash) and 'leah' (meadow). Ashley, Pennsylvania, for instance; it's near Willkes Barre, which is itself kind of an industrial ash pit.
Ashley Force is an American drag racer. Ashley Judd is an American actress; I liked her performance in the 2004 film 'De-Lovely'. Ashley Blue, according to Wiki, is an American porn star. In printing, there is also an Ashley typeface.
There was a fiberglass English kit car named Ashley manufactured from 1958-62. Our good friends, Joe & Gwen, have a daughter named Ashley; she seems very nice.
When I was growing up, there were no girls named Ashley. Girls had names like Betty, Mary, Peggy, Carol, Becky, Anne, Sue, Pat and Barbara.
Now, it's Ashley, Ashley, everwhere. My head is spinning. (posted 8/28/15, permalink)
"We Just Need More Volume": There's an old joke about Vinnie and Tony, who decided to become truck farmers. Every morning they drove their little truck down to Vineland, NJ to pick up a load of tomatoes.
Then they drove back and sold tomatoes to customers on the streets of South Philadelphia. Because of competition, they had to sell the tomatoes for just a little more than they paid for them. And that didn't include costs - gas for the truck, wages for Vinnie and Tony, etc.
After two months, they were losing $5,000 per month. "We're going broke!" exclaimed Tony. "Nah," said Vinnie. "We just need a bigger truck."
I fear that the joke is becoming real. Uber Technologies Inc. - of Uber car service fame - is telling prospective investors "that it generates $470 million in operating losses on $415 million in revenue, according to a document provided to prospective investors.
The term sheet viewed by Bloomberg News, which is being used to sell $1 billion to $1.2 billion in convertible bonds, doesn't make clear the time period for those results. The document also touts 300% year-over-year growth."
Probably from buying a bigger tomato truck. (posted 7/9/15, permalink)
It Looks Like A Trip To Canada Is In My Future: In my view, British-made chocolates, such as Cadbury bars, Yorkie Bars and Maltesers, just plain taste better than American-made chocolate. But, in the alleged Land of Free Trade, we'll no longer be able to buy them. Sad, because I'm quite a fan of the chocolate malted milk balls known as Maltesers.
"As a result of a settlement with the Hershey's Company, Let's Buy British Imports, or L.B.B., agreed this week to stop importing all Cadbury's chocolate made overseas. The company also agreed to halt imports on KitKat bars made in Britain; Toffee Crisps, which, because of their orange packaging, and yellow-lined brown script, too closely resemble Reese's Peanut Butter Cups; Yorkie chocolate bars, which infringe on the York peppermint patty, and Maltesers."
Jeff Beckman, a representative for Hershey's, said L.B.B. and others were importing products not intended for sale in the United States, infringing on its trademark and trade dress licensing. For example, Hershey's has a licensing agreement to manufacture Cadbury's chocolate in the United States with similar packaging used overseas, though with a different and poorer-tasting recipe.
Chocolate in Britain has a higher fat content; the first ingredient listed on a British Cadbury's Dairy Milk (plain milk chocolate) is milk. In an American-made Cadbury's bar, the first ingredient is sugar.
American Cadbury bars also include PGPR and soy lecithin, both emulsifiers that reduce the viscosity of chocolate, giving it a longer shelf life. British Cadbury bars used vegetable fats and different emulsifiers, which provide a fresher taste and smoother mouthfeel. (posted 2/12/15, permalink)
"I'm A Lumberjack And I'm OK ..." I had never heard of lumbersexuals before. Had you?
Their attire is apparently "jeans, work boots, and a flannel shirt." And tattoos.
Q: Jeez, how do you tell them from Lesbians?
A: They have facial hair, usually beards, although some gay people still in the closet still have beards when they go to social events at work for visits with family.
Thanks, now I'm really confused.
Defining quote: "He was white. Somehow, at a fairly elegant affair, he had found a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Since then they've multiplied. You can see them in coffee shops and bars and artisanal butchers. They don't exactly cut down trees, but they might try their hand at agriculture and woodworking, even if only in the form of window-box herb gardens."
Window-box herb gardens? Sounds ... ummm ... very metrosexual. Or citified. Or maybe even sissified.
"In the last month, these bearded, manly men even earned themselves a pithy nickname: the lumbersexuals. ... But there's much more to the lumberjack symbol than another glib comment on urban white culture. This particular brand of bearded flannel-wearer is a modern take on the deeply-rooted historical image of Paul Bunyan, the ax-wielding but amiable giant, whose stomping grounds were the North Woods of the upper Midwest. Paul and his brethren emerged as icons in American pop culture a little over a century ago. What links the mythic lumberjack to his modern-day incarnations is a pervasive sense - in his time and ours - that masculinity is 'in crisis'."
As Monty Python used to sing on the final verses of The Lumberjack Song: "I cut down trees, I skip and jump, I like to press wild flowers. I put on women's clothing, and hang around in bars. I chop down trees, I wear high heels, suspenders and a bra. I wish I'd been a girlie, just like my dear papa."
Pabst Blue Ribbon does not a man make. (posted 1/14/15, permalink)
"I'm So Ronery!" North Korea's entire internet went down today, so lonely people are unable to connect using Facebook or eHarmony. The outage is said to affect both computers in the country.
Maybe this was an evil retaliation by the U.S. over the recent unpleasantness at Sony. Or maybe it was just Comcast acting its usual self.
Whoever did this also took North Korea's only electric light - a small table lamp. It reportedly had a cream-colored, sculpted Art Deco ceramic body with a mermaid painted on it and a yellowish-colored shade with maroon fringe at the base.
Purchased at a Woolworth store in the 1940s, the lamp was highly prized by the North Koreans and was sometimes displayed on its own float in parades.
The rogue nation is completely now completely dark except for two small Coleman single-mantle kerosene camping lanterns. (posted 12/22/14, permalink)
Bridge Fix: During a big and destructive windstorm (wind gusts of almost 60 mph) on December 11, 2014, a giant fir tree on the Cedars Golf Course - just behind our house - fell on the metal bridge spanning the Salmon Creek, seriously damaging the bridge.
So, how did the golf course staff 'repair' the bridge? This is what they did the very next day:
1. Removed large downed tree with chainsaws.
2. Didn't bother with structural examination.
3. Blew remaining sawdust and debris into Salmon Creek.
4. Strung yellow plastic 'Caution' tape in place of missing steel railings.
5. Reopened bridge.
6. Hoped that no one drives golf cart into creek or falls off bridge.
I sent the above photo to my son, who said that it just needed a good sign and sent back this Photoshopped suggestion:
The Look Of Surprise: Recently, I received a catalog from the White House Historical Association, chock full of memorable replicas of presidential do-dads. One page was full of stuffed animal versions of presidential pets of yore, including Socks - the Clintons' cat.
From the expression on Socks' face, he must have just seen what Monica was doing to Bill Clinton in that little room off the Oval Office. (posted 11/7/14, permalink)
Bunch Of Italian Haters: The Seattle School Board voted unanimously for schools to observe 'Indigenous Peoples' Day' on the same day as the Columbus Day federal holiday.
So, instead of Italian water ice, they'll have this:
Researchers in the University of Alberta in Canada found that red wine, nuts and grapes have a complex called resveratrol which improves heart, muscle and bone functions; the same way they're improved when one goes to the gym. Resveratrol proved to be an effective antioxidant when tested on rodents which is why scientists are planning on testing it with diabetics. If results are positive for the benefits of the complex, patient's heart health could be improved just as much as it does when they work out vigorously.
Resveratrol is specifically found in red wine as are some of the beneficial antioxidants referred to when talking about heart health. Red wine is also known to reduce ‘bad cholesterol’ and prevent blood clots. (posted 9/24/14, permalink)
Down At The Shore: My brother recently sent me one of those pulp giveaway shoppers' guides to the New Jersey shore. It contained this ad:
Does anyone think the owners are really Amish? How can a group that rejects technology and all things electronic process EBT cards? And aren't the Amish in favor of self-reliance and against welfare programs?
In the same shopper's guide was an ad for Lucky 7 Pizzeria, just up the street from its apparent sister company, Lucky 7 Gold & Consignment, a place that also offers "all balloons and greeting cards for $1." Both are located on Bayshore Road in Cape May County.
The pizzeria is equally diversified, offering "Spanish Food, Deli Food and much more," including New York Strip Steak, Shish Kabobs, Enpanadas, Pastellios, many combos of pizza and cheesecake at $2.99 per slice.
Nearby American Deli And Pizza, also on Bayshore Road, offers Lobster Salad Hoagies as well as Pepperoni Roll-Ups and Garlic Knots - strips of pizza dough tied in a knot, baked and then topped with melted butter, garlic and parsley sauce.
My wife got a kick out of an ad for a tobacco shop named Sea-Gars. (posted 8/27/14, permalink)
I'll Be Semi-Famous For The Next Few Minutes: I got mentioned and linked in Lileks' The Bleat yesterday. Thanks, James.
Down near the bottom of the page was a reference to the Tom Thumb Restaurant in downtown Philadelphia. James Lileks writes a lot about Minneapolis I've been there several times but don't know the nooks and crannies of the metro area the way a resident like James does. He also writes about Fargo, a North Dakota town I've never experienced, although I've been to Minot, Tioga and other little towns in the state. James grew up in Fargo and his dad still lives there.
James pointed out that, at the Tom Thumb Restaurant in Philadelphia, you could "enjoy delicious soup on the same spot where Thomas Jefferson penned" the Declaration of Independence. Now that's something I know about. The Tom Thumb Restaurant was ... (more >>>)
What A Difference A Month Makes: For years, David Horowitz has written a consumer advocate column for The Costco Connection magazine, exposing various frauds and deceptive schemes.
Judging by his photos in the December '12 and January '13 issues, Horowitz is experiencing rapid aging:
Or, maybe he's been using a 20 year-old photo for the last two decades. Wait - isn't the use of an out-of-date photo just another form of consumer deception, David? "Fer shame," as Grandpa Simpson would say. (posted 1/2/13, permalink)
Apocalypse Now: Many believe that the Mayan calendar indicates that the world will end on December 21, 2012.
When I first read about the Mayan end-of-the-world calendar, I thought it was just a ploy by Wall Street to screw me out of my year-end dividends.
But I just got a sneak preview of Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit page for 12/21 and, it looks like the Mayans may have been right after all:
"Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi, I'm A Lonely Dope." That's probably what George Lucas said to Disney when he offered Lucasfilm to the Mouse. Mickey took the bait; the Walt Disney Company forked over $4.05 billion for the acquisition.
George Lucas is already richer than God and doesn't really need more money. But the dude who revolutionized sci-fi film making with the 1977 Star Wars, has become a caricature, spending his days "improving" his earlier film releases - kinda like Michelangelo resculpting David riding a Vespa - and ferociously licensing Star Wars Everything in the frenzied manner of an amphetamine-crazed Hello Kitty product manager humping a manic Franklin Mint marketing exec. Talk about squandering the franchise.
Let's face it, with the exception of 'Return of The Jedi', every Star Wars movie after the original stunk worse than a herd of African bush elephants after a rampage in an Ex-Lax warehouse.
So, what will happen next? Well, Disney is probably planning on building a slew of attractions and retail establishments, like It's A Small Galaxy After All, the Millennium Falcon Space Coaster, Jabba the Hut's Wild Ride, the Planet Hoth Snow Toboggan Experience, Princess Leia's Hair Salon and Cinnabon Bakery, the Death Star Mortuary, Luke Skywalker's House of Bad Plastic Surgery and the Tatooine Sand People Desert Adventure. The possibilities are endless.
Disney has already confirmed that there will be more movies with new stars. I'm betting on Sarah Jessica Parker as Jar Jar Binks. New plots could include things like R2-D2 going nuts (after numerous Microsoft upgrates, bugs and bad patches) and wreaking havoc on the galaxy. Or C-3PO coming out. Or an aging Princess Leia confessing to her cocaine addiction as she appears on numerous intergalactic talk shows.
As for George Lucas, I suspect that he'll spend some of that money on a Lifestyle Lift for that bullfrog chin. (posted 11/2/12, permalink)
The End Of The Internet ... is right here. (posted 12/1/11)
Twelve Least Popular Amazon Black Friday Deals (In Toys & Games):
||• Occupy Elmo
||• Lady Bird Johnson Angry Bird
||• Wham-O Kardashian Slip 'n Slide (personal lubricant not included)
||• Baby Alive: 'Dysentery Dorothy'
||• Transformers: Gay, lisping Decepticon Barney Frank converts to straight cyborg heroic Autobot with ray gun. (Megan Fox action figure not included)
||• Disney Princess Fairytale Crematorium
||• Tickle Me Jerry Sandusky
||• Lightning McQueen Ghettoized Donk Version
||• My Little Pony Glue Factory
||• Matchbox Maybach 62 Limousine (closeout - discontinued item)
||• Lil' MD - Colonoscopy Play Set (sedative not included)
||• Lego Ninja Ron Paul figure.
(posted 11/28/11, permalink)
Here's a bonus listing - the 13th worst selling toy
||The Amtrack Bailout Express: Hey kids, it's just like the real thing!
Features chronically late trains, hard-to-book sleeping accommodations, frequent unscheduled stops, food shortages and poor on-time performance.
Every time it goes around, the train stops and asks for another subsidy.
Fifty Years Later: Harper Lee's Pulitzer prize-winning book was first published in 1960. I read it when the paperback edition came out in '61 or '62. The first film version of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' was very good but I thought 'TKAM III: Revenge of the Sith' really sucked.
Gregory Peck won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Atticus Finch. Who knew that the character's grandson, Darth Finch, would turn out to be so evil.
Like many people, I have a voice in my head. Mine sounds just like Gregory Peck. It never tells me to do anything crazy ("Kill them all! Use your axe."), rather it simply reminds me of ordinary tasks which need to be done, giving commands in a clipped, precise, calm voice: "Take out the trash tonight. Tomorrow is trash day, you know."
Or: "Don't forget to brush your teeth before you go to bed."
And, occasionally: "There are some things that you're not old enough to understand just yet. There's been some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn't do much about defending this man."
In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that - a long time ago - I had a voice in my head that told me to "Kill them all! Use your axe." But it sounded just like 'Bobcat' Goldthwait, so I never took it seriously. (posted 7/16/10, permalink)
Great Discoveries: Found in my files from 1980 or so ...
Why We Must Suppress Time Travel: Yes, yes, I'm aware of the usual concerns about disrupting the consequences of history: do-gooders would try and stop the assassinations of Lincoln, Kennedy and Archduke Franz Ferdinand with possibly disastrous results.
Not to mention those who would 'save' Jesus from the Crucifixion, probably with lasers, several armored Hummers, Bruce Willis and machine guns.
These are all worrisome but I'm most disturbed that various federal agencies, especially the EPA and OSHA, might get their hands on a few time capsules. And that's where the real trouble would begin:
• The Declaration of Independence would be considered invalid because a Spanish translation was not immediately made available.
• Ike would be required to file a 7,000 page environmental impact statement before D-Day.
• The Alamo would be condemned and boarded-up because it was not ADA compliant.
• Kaiser Shipyards could not produce WW II destroyers and aircraft carriers until everyone completed the mandatory diversity seminar series.
• OSHA would require that the first astronauts on the moon bring equipment to construct regulation safety railings around craters.
• Many 1930s unemployed would be transported to the 21st Century to serve jail time for selling apples without proper food handler permits.
• The Battle of Antietam would have been canceled because there were insufficient bioswales to contain the blood.
• The Gettysburg address could not have been given because there was no one standing at Lincoln's side to 'sign' for the hearing impaired.
More on time travel here and here. (posted 6/25/10, permalink)
Sure 'n Begorrah ... lovely old Times Square in New York was almost blown up last weekend by mad, lonely Irish Catholic Tea Partier Thomas McSorley, who was angry about health care and illegal immigration. This is a striking blow to our Hibernian-American president, Barry O'Bama, who has spent two years reaching out to his Catholic brethren all over the world. Mayor Bloomberg's guess that the failed bomber would turn out to be "homegrown, or maybe a mentally deranged person, or somebody with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something" was almost dead on.
Turns out that it wasn't one of those scary, aging Tea Party people. Not disgruntled 62 year-old Tommy McSorley but Faisal Shahzad, a 30 year-old Pakistani native, who recently returned from a five-month trip to the tribal region of Waziristan near the Afghan border, where he keeps a wife and/or a goat. Faisal was trying to flee the United States and was headed for Dubai when he was apprehended by federal customs agents.
Time magazine has reported that Faisal had "returned to the U.S. in February after spending a number of months in Pakistan, where he traveled after becoming a naturalized American in April 2009. Pakistani media are reporting that Shahzad is from Karachi and spent significant time in Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, where the government is waging a fierce war against Taliban militants."
A Pakistani government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Time that the suspect had ties with militants while in Pakistan. "He was here at a training camp," the source said. The source also claimed that members of Shahzad's family were arrested in Karachi.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has made sure that Faisal was read his Miranda rights. Hmmmm. Was it in English? Or Urdu?
Mark Steyn has observed, "Whenever something goofy happens - bomb in Times Square, mass shootings at a US military base, etc. - there seem to be two kinds of reactions:
a) Some people go, "Hmm. I wonder if this involves some guy with a name like Mohammed who has e-mails from Yemen."
b) Other people go, "Don't worry, there's no connection to terrorism, and anyway, even if there is, it's all very amateurish, and besides he's most likely an isolated extremist or lone wolf."
Unfortunately, everyone in category (b) seems to work for the government."
Our clueless Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, has repeatedly discounted or downgraded Islamic terrorist attacks as either mere "man-caused disasters" or "isolated incidents", depending on her mood, while eagerly hyping the threat from American veterans and Mad Tea Partiers. While Islamic militants have been busy trying to destroy us, Napolitano's TSA has been busy hassling old ladies at airports as if they are septuagenarian drug mules or orthopedic shoe bombers.
I didn't think much of Napolitano when Obama appointed her. Now it's even less so. Mark Steyn has called her Janet Incompetano.
Finally, I would note that, despite all the news reports published in the past couple of days, none have identified Faisal Shahzad's religion. I have a feeling he wasn't Roman Catholic. (posted 5/5/10, permalink)
The Truth About Bed & Breakfast Establishments: Some of my worst lodging experiences have been with B&Bs. I'm sure there are some good ones but too many are operated by amateur ''hobbyists" who are doing it for "fun."
I won't stay at such places for the same reason that I wouldn't choose a hobbyist brain surgeon having "fun" with his with a homemade MRI made from parts scrounged from a '47 Chevy Fleetline sedan and a '52 Muntz Radiation King television with the big 11-inch screen. And offering budget trepanations using a Makita and modified spade bit.
I want a place run by flinty-eyed, money-grubbing professionals with a bar and an ice machine. (The prior sentence refers to lodging, not neurosurgery ... although, I suppose such characteristics would not necessarily be a bad thing if facing a craniotomy.) (posted 3/25/10, permalink)
Breaking Science News: Water has been found on the moon.
In a related story, an espresso maker has been found on Mars, leading scientists to speculate that there may be Starbucks stores on the red planet. (posted 11/16/09, permalink)
The Truth About Nobel: It's a little-known fact that, in 1983, I won the Nobel Prize for Acrylic Fabrication. Well deserved, I might add.
In my day ... (more >>>)
Exodus 2009: The Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction."
Moses led them into the desert and said unto them, "This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat."
The Israelites grumbled.
"You expect me to eat off the floor?"
"How do I know this is Kosher?"
"I'm gonna to file a complaint with the Health Department; I'm texting them now."
"Eeeeewwww. Mine's all full of sand." "This is a meal?! It looks more like an appetizer. And not a very good one."
"What are we supposed to drink with this? Beaujolais? A Riesling?"
"Is this gluten-free?"
"Anybody got Purell?"
And: "How come God didn't give us little individual tubs of cream cheese to spread on this?" (posted 9/10/09, permalink)
Thirst: What did people do before bottled water? I know the answer because I was born in 34 BBW (Before Bottled Water).
Of course, bottled water of sorts has been available for a century or more, but mostly in European countries: France, Greece and Italy come to mind. Bottled water became the norm over there because the tap water in most European cities was awful. Now you know why the French drink so much wine.
The U.S. had been disinfecting its municipal water since the early 1900s, making it eminently drinkable, but there had always been a small American market for bottled water - often 'miracle cure' products from 'health springs'.
Mineral water was drunk for its medicinal value, based on the Law of Cod Liver Oil: "Anything that tastes this bad must be good for something." Or because of its laxative properties.
Before 1977, most Americans drank tap water. Then Perrier launched a $5 million U.S. marketing campaign for its imported bottled water. Perrier's timing was perfect; it took advantage of growing pollution concerns and the emergence of brand-conscious Yuppie consumers who loved expensive, ordinary things with European (or European-sounding) names.
By openly carrying Perrier bottles around, Yuppies could demonstrate their sophistication and elevated status. Saturated advertising by Perrier's various bottled water competitors made consumers aware of and fearful about the dangers of "not being properly hydrated."
They had a right to be concerned. I remember growing up in the early 1950s and seeing the dry husks of people, lying on pavements, waiting for the municipal water truck to rehydrate them. There was nothing more heart-rending than the sight of dried-up midgets blowing down the street like tumbleweed.
In New York City, sanitation workers outside the U.N. Building were getting ready to haul away what they thought was a discarded heap of rags with wax Halloween teeth on top when one of them accidentally spilled water on it. It turned out to be a very dehydrated Eleanor Roosevelt.
In Philadelphia, the city had a fleet of water trucks which plied residential streets during the day, spraying water on the deathly thirsty. (In the evenings, the tanks were filled with DDT and the same neighborhoods were sprayed for mosquito control.)
There were so many inspirational, lifesaving stories resulting from water truck heroics, that 'Hydration Squad', a 1952 television series, was produced - starring Broderick Crawford and a young Lloyd Bridges.
When I was growing up, the closest thing to bottled water at our house was Clicquot Club sparkling soda water in a big glass bottle with the familiar happy Eskimo boy on the label. It was not for casual thirst-quenching; the exotic clear liquid was employed strictly as a mixer for alcoholic beverages whenever we had 'company'.
So, what did children do in the primitive BBW era? We drank tap water, sometimes (when our parents weren't looking) direct from faucet to mouth. We imbibed from neighbor's garden hoses after letting the water run for a while to cool it off and get rid of some of the elastomer taste. But you dared not run the hose for too long, lest the lady of the house chase you with a broom, yelling, "Stop wasting my water!"
If we couldn't find any water, we chewed gum, which - ironically - was made from elastomer.
In 1976 (1 BBW), a mere 300,000 gallons of bottled water were consumed in the U.S. In 2002 (25 ABW), consumers paid $7.7 billion for almost six billion gallons of bottled water. By 2008, Americans were quaffing at the rate of fifty billion single-serve bottles of water per year.
Today, 20% of all Americans refuse to drink tap water at all, sticking with brands like Evian, which is Naive spelled backwards. But - good news - there are no longer near-lifeless husks wafting down the street in the hot summer breeze.
God bless Progress. (posted 8/3/09, permalink)
Cell-Phone Homeless: Ed Anger has asked, "Who the heck are they talking to with these cell phones anyhow? The voices in their heads? Their fifty cats? Back in my day, we didn't have homeless people. We had hobos, winos and bums! They rode across the country on trains to spread out their stinkiness, instead of the way they do today, sitting on the same street corner for years and smelling up the place."
I, too, remember the good old days, when the homeless cooked Dinty Moore stew right in the can over campfires or flaming cans of Sterno. Every time there was a recession, there would be more bums and hobos. Sales of Dinty Moore, Sterno and Ripple would skyrocket and that's what brought the economy back to life again.
Unfortunately, that doesn't happen any more because tramps are now fed by government-funded soup kitchens. Once again, the gummint has destroyed the very thing that once saved the economy.
You won't find any of this in the history books. They'll tell you that Ike and his Treasury Secretary, Bob Anderson, cured the 1958 recession. Not true. It was a coalition of tramps from the Newark, N.J. area who stockpiled Sterno, fearing a supply shortage - a rumor started in a hobo camp near Evansville, Indiana. This canned heat buying spree turned the economy around and put people back to work.
Most of the homeless were able to find jobs again and soon could afford modestly-priced compact cars, which explains the success of the Studebaker Lark.
If you play the record 'Disco Inferno' by The Trammps backwards, you'll find hidden messages which document all of this. It is a little known fact that 'Disco Inferno' memorializes a Sterno fire which got out of control when a dancing hobo spilled Mad Dog 20/20 on it at a camp just south of Tacoma, WA.
"Burning, burning, burning, burning ..." (posted 4/3/09, permalink)
The History of Boeing ... taught by those 'educators' who received their degrees during the '80s when everyone partied and watched MTV instead of studying and paying attention in college. (They still remember a few facts but struggle to weave them into coherence.):
In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Boeing made America's first flight in a fabric and toothpick aeroplane with Kitty Carlisle singing while dancing the Charleston on the wings. Orville later became a bandleader and invented a blender for making cocktails, known as 'drinkies' in those days.
Wilbur 'Lucky' Boeing gained additional celebrity when he flew the first plane across the Atlantic but became despondent a few years later after his only child was kidnapped. He cheered himself up by meeting Adolph Hitler for the occasional brunch and political discussion. Boarding a plane at the Munich airport, Lucky walked into a propeller and was horribly disfigured.
Afterwards, he stopped dating Hollywood starlets and became a recluse, buying gambling establishments in Nevada. He saved his urine in milk bottles which he stacked like Legos in his personal bank vault in his Desert Inn penthouse. Lucky had a mean streak and once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
Lucky passed away in the 1970s in Mexico, surrounded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He was dressed in a anti-bacterial surgical smock and his toenails were 46 inches long. (posted 10/19/07, permalink)
Error Message: Al Gore has previously proclaimed that nine of the ten warmest years in history have occurred since 1995. And made a movie - and a career - out of it.
But a change in climate history data at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies recently occurred which dramatically alters the debate over global warming. Apparently the whole thing was a computer error - a Y2K kinda error. Hmmmm. I thought Clinton/Gore spent all our tax money to fix that particular weak strut in our Bridge to Tomorrow. Remember?
Anyhow, NASA now says that four of the top ten warmest years in American history occurred in the 1930s, with the warmest now in 1934 instead of the much-publicized 1998.
This is all very logical, since there was a lot of warm air generated by the horn sections of those '30s big bands. All that wind is how the Great Dust Bowl was created ... in case you didn't know. Damn you, Benny Goodman.
Once the new data become widely disseminated, Al Gore will probably vanish. People will theorize that he was eaten by a chilly and overjoyous polar bear. Or the ghost of Glenn Miller.
And furthermore, here's a headline from the 1922 edition of the Washington Post (11/2/22): 'Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt'. Excerpt: "... great masses of ice have now been replaced by moraines of earth and stones ... at many points well-known glaciers have entirely disappeared."
Must have been caused by the body heat of all those flappers doin' the Charleston. (posted 8/15/07, permalink)
Model T: Dan Neil has written an piece for Time magazine titled 'The 50 Worst Cars Of All Time'. I was surprised that: 1) Time was still around, 2) Neil, who does very nice road tests for the LA Times, wrote stuff for Time (maybe his contract allows him to write for anything with the word 'time' in it) and 3) this Pulitzer-winning scribe would write anything so silly.
In selecting the Model T Ford for his list, he notes "with its blacksmithed body panels and crude instruments, the Model T was a piece of junk, the Yugo of its day." Oh, pulleeeeze. Holding an ancient machine to Lexus standards set nearly a century in the future is a bit unfair, isn't it? Kinda like comparing a 1910 Baldwin steam locomotive to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Neil acknowledges that "the Model T did everything that the history books say: It put America on wheels, supercharged the nation's economy and transformed the landscape in ways unimagined when the first Tin Lizzy rolled out of the factory." But then declares the idea of a Car for Everyman as very bad: "A century later, the consequences of putting every living soul on gas-powered wheels are piling up, from the air over our cities to the sand under our soldiers' boots."
So ... the Model T fostered the rise of radical Islam? Oh gosh, then let's all just go back to horses and everything will be swell again. Somebody call the Ottoman Empire and tell them it's safe to put their feet back up.
In his book, 'The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible', Otto Bettmann wrote of "streets caked with animal waste", noting that there were over three million horses in American cities at the turn of the Century, each producing 20-25 pounds of manure per day. During dry spells, the pounding of hooves refined the manure to dust which blew "from the pavement as a sharp, piercing powder to cover our clothes, ruin our furniture and blow up our nostrils."
Then there were the flies. Disease-carrying flies. And the smell. New York City of the period was described by a visitor as a "nasal disaster."
Bettmann noted that the 15,000 horses of Rochester NY produced enough manure in 1900 to cover an acre of ground with a layer 175 feet high. This steadily increasing production caused more pessimistic observers of the period to predict that American cities would disappear like Pompeii - but not under ashes.
In 1999, I wrote a piece for a car club publication, titled 'Cars of the Century' (an updated version is posted here), choosing the ten most "significant cars of the last century ... a list of ten cars which had the most profound impact - on the auto industry and society." The first car on the list was the Model T Ford: "Before the T, cars were mere playthings for the rich. Henry's T didn't just put America on wheels, it put the world on wheels."
And put the brakes on the proliferation of horsecrap. The world is much better for it, even though, unfortunately, Dan Neil has just added some to the pile. (posted 9/12/07, permalink)
When History Sort-Of Repeats Itself: In 2007, Paris Hilton received a 45-day jail sentence. "It's not right!" she reportedly shouted, then called out to her mother in the audience: "Mom!" But she served her time and returned to fame, semi-adulation and became part of America's history.
She has much in common with another country's historical icon:
(posted 6/10/07, permalink)
In India, considered Father of the Nation
In America, considered Slut of the Nation
When jailed, people protested the 'unfairness' of it
Used rigorous fasts to control weight
Tried to attain state of Brahmacharya by leading a simple life
Tried to attain state of Higher Fame by appearing in The Simple Life
Often appeared before people of lesser castes (untouchables)
Often appeared before people of lesser castes (fans, general public)
Subjected to house arrest in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune
Subjected to house arrest in her own palace in California
Rumored to use bronzer to enhance/even tan
Once quoted as saying that he is the "iconic baldie of the decade"
Once quoted as saying that she is the "iconic blonde of the decade"
Never awarded Nobel Peace Prize
Once labeled as "New Deli's Leading Pacifist"
Once labeled as "New York's Leading 'It' Girl"
Frequently appeared in underwear or other state of undress
Famous quote: "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won."
Famous quote: "When I despair, I remember to turn to love and record it for history. By the way, is that video camera turned on?"
Parodied in South Park episode
On jail: "This is what Hell must be like."
On jail: "This is what a Holiday Inn must be like."
Two words: Passive Resister
Two words: Untalented Celebutard
Chuffley-Waite Motorcar History: Ever since its founding in 1903, the Chuffley-Waite Motorcar Company, Ltd. of Bumpford-on-Thames, England had been known for the very powerful motorcars which it produced. The sheer might of these cars was symbolised ... (more >>>)
Do It Yourself: Jerry Flint has opined that car company mergers and joint ventures (internal and external) are, generally, bunk.
Excerpt: "GM says it is shifting to global development of its cars and saving wads of money in developing new models and in buying parts. What this really means is that the Germans in Europe are developing the basic engineering for most of GM's future American cars. They tried this before without much success. What if Americans just don't like the cars developed by GM's engineers in Germany? As for saving money, GM always says it is saving wads of money, but a funny thing keeps happening on the way to the savings bank: The losses in the North American automobile business grow and grow. So I have trouble believing all those tales of savings."
I agree. In my manufacturing company, we only did one joint venture. It was successful because it was with another local firm that had the same values and work ethic as ours. We worked for a single customer - a firm with well-defined objectives for the project. I have rejected every other joint venture offer since because something - the people, the product, the objectives and/or the market - was mushy.
I know I sound like Grandpa Simpson, but there's too much mushiness in business today. Why ... when I was young, business people were decisive. We'd interview, hire and even fire executives and dance the Charleston at the same time, I tell ya.
Now that was multitasking! (posted 10/6/05, permalink)
It's a Little-Known Fact ... Google is great. When you type in a phrase, it immediately spits out just what you're looking for. But it also provides pages and pages of links to semi-related obscure trivia.
It finally dawned on me that Google is a virtual Cliff Claven, sitting in some cyberspace Cheers! pub, being careful not to spill beer on his postman's uniform, while rattling off little-known 'facts' to anyone within earshot
Best Cliff Claven quote: "Due to the shape of the North American elk's esophagus, even if it could speak, it could not pronounce the word lasagna." Runner-up: "It's a little-known fact that the smartest animal is the pig. Scientists say if pigs had thumbs and a language, they could be trained to do simple manual labor. They'd give you 20 to 30 years of loyal service and, at their retirement dinner, you could eat them!" (posted 9/13/04, permalink)
History Isn't Bunk ... but sometimes historians are. A well-known historian once said that you can't begin to write history for 40 to 50 years after an event - the details, consequences and context aren't really complete until that much time has passed.
Proof of this is the moronic remark made by 'noted' historian Arthur Schlesinger (who should have known better) in May, 1988: "A few years from now, I believe, Reaganism will seem a weird and improbable memory, a strange interlude of national hallucination, rather as the McCarthyism of the early 1950s and the youth rebellion of the late 1960s appear to us today."
Arthur couldn't have been more wrong. (posted 6/12/04, permalink)
Other Pages Of Interest
copyright 2004-16 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved
The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.
Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.
If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.
If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.
Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.