July 30, 2012

Linkdump: The Yes, You Can Have Too Much Frosting Edition

And So I Share This Heavy Burden With You, Dear Reader...

Today, I was reminded of an observation that I've been sitting on for, like, ten years because of this article in The AV Club. Yay internet?

If you were one of the other three people who watched endearing-to-a-point weekly drama American Dreams*, you may remember the episode in which the main character, a dancer on American Bandstand**, got in trouble for bringing home her "favorite band," Jay† and the Americans.

Let us pause to consider this.

Now, don't get me wrong, I LIKE these guys. They had some darned catchy singles, most notably "Come A Little Bit Closer" and "This Magic Moment." Perfectly fine, solid, serviceable pop act, but not exactly possessed of a deep catalog. Jay and the Americans probably weren't Jay and the Americans' favorite band.

Anyway, that has been bothering me for the last decade. I may, perhaps, hold on to small annoyances with excessive tenacity.

Enough with the whining, have a song‡...

*Not to be confused with American Dreamz, the delightfully nasty and Hugh Grant-containing film satire of TV talent competitions.
**American Dreams was a Dick Clark production. 
†Portrayed by Backstreet Boy Nick Carter.
‡See, it would be soooo thematically aces to dig up the Bandstand clip on YouTube, but... yeah. Dick Clark Productions, not so much noted for its lax attention to rights issues. Also, Shindig FTW.

Unlawful Search and Seizure: Nip It In The Bud! You Gotta Nip It In The Bud!

Making the rounds of social media today...  had to share...

Today At The Fancy Eatin' Table

Consumer Alert Re: Hanover Molasses & Rum Baked Beans.

They are not kidding about the "rum" part of that equation. It was a tossup whether to doctor these up with tomato paste or a squeeze of lime and a little paper umbrella. Whew.

July 29, 2012

Dude Up

Look, I know this makes me a bad Citizen Of The World and all, but... the whole Olympics thing doesn't click with me at all. I just don't need to watch televised volleyball. Or people riding bikes very fast. If this is what floats your particular watercraft, then... cheers. You get all the television for the next couple of weeks.

Everyone else--hie thee to On Demand (or, cough cough, find full episodes on YouTube). You must see the Olympic preparation mockumentary Twenty Twelve. Be assured that you do not have to give a horse's tutu about dressage in order to enjoy it... but having had exposure to ill-considered PR campaigns and/or the glories of bureaucracy helps.

FAIR WARNING: Some profane and otherwise naughty language follows. Don pearls should you feel the need to clutch same.

July 26, 2012

Fun With Traffic Sources: "What Is This I Don't Even" Edition

The funny search terms considerately arranged themselves at the top of the list today...

1). Okay, I've heard of Cats That Look Like Hitler... but squirrels? Is this A Thing? Are all small animals required to be pre-Godwinned now?

2). I am seriously tempted to rename this blog "Amazing Cool Russian Tortoise Water Bowls."

Le Dump Des Links

TP Your Own House!

You know, these are actually pretty darned cute. Except for one rather unfortunate detail...

Special Topics In Social Media

When you put in for a student loan these days, you have to complete online financial counseling. Some of it is really very useful (an interactive repayment calculator). Some of it is painfully obvious (Hey, did you know that shredding financial documents can protect you from identity theft?).

And then, once you wrap it all up, you reach this screen...

An option to TWEET? I'm going to assume that it doesn't actually send out your loan amounts or anything... and of course the neb-nose factor is absolutely the only reason why anyone would give an airborne copulation about your student loan counseling.

Now, blogging about why it's dumb to tweet it... that's a different proposition entirely.

July 24, 2012

July 23, 2012

Mystery Science Theater 1962

Enjoy the inherent irony of watching a newsreel about the first publicly available transatlantic satellite broadcast, which happened 50 years ago today...

NARRATOR (ED HERLIHY): History is about to be made in the science of communication among men. Technicians in Europe prepare to receive a signal from the orbiting Telstar satellite that opens this new era. This is the first formal exchange of an official transmission: A beaming of the Presidential press conference to the Continent, where most of Europe can witness democracy at work. The President has these historic words:

PRESIDENT KENNEDY: I understand that part of today's press conference is being relayed by the Telstar communications satellite to viewers across the Atlantic, and this is another indication of the extraordinary world in which we live. The satellite must be high enough to carry messages from both sides of the world, which is of course a very essential requirement for peace and I think this understanding which will inevitably come from the speedier communications is bound to increase the well-being and security of all people here and over across the oceans. So we're glad to participate in this operation developed by private industry, launched by government, in admirable cooperation.

YOU MAY INFER: Sorensen was probably on vacation that week.

FUN FACT: Because of a timing snafu, the first minutes of the broadcast were actually of a baseball game rather than the press conference.

Sigh. Take it to Reddit, smartass.


July 22, 2012

Ripped From The Headlines Classified Section

A reminder that clip art used to be, you know, literally clip art... here's a strangely mesmerizing gallery of general purpose commercial art images, mostly from the 1960s. (via Boing Boing)

"It's seven feet long! Wilt Chamberlain can lie down in there!"

Backwards and in disturbingly spiky heels...
Open auditions for cover model,
paperback edition of Myra Breckingridge

July 20, 2012


This young woman was killed in the Colorado movie theater shooting last night.

(Link via my friend and former WDUQ colleague Jamila Bey.)

July 17, 2012

And The World Will Open Up For Us

You want a real good toolin'-around-aimlessly-during-a-heat-wave song? Yes, you do! My favorite inebriated Catskillians are back! The Felice Brothers' God Bless You, Amigo drops at midnight, and you can grab "Lincoln Continental" free today at Rolling Stone.

"Bruce went up to the mic and sang a short verse of 'Goodnight, Irene'..."

Little Steven on the infamously truncated Springsteen/McCartney performance...

"To be perfectly honest, we are not the biggest, you know, obeyers of curfews, okay?... we're kind of famous for, like, going over curfews by like an hour or two, usually? Bruce hears the word "curfew," and it just inspires him. In this case, we were like ten minutes past... I mean, it's Saturday night. Who are we disturbing, exactly?"

Day: Made.

Ladies and gentlemen: A choral rendition of the Plants vs. Zombies soundtrack.

July 14, 2012

It's The Berries

"Aww, cool!" I quickly crossed the gravel path at the Rogers flea market. It took some dodging. Though it was past noon and getting hotter by the moment, the crowds just kept coming.

"What is that?" Rob asked, once he'd caught up with me. The dark wooden cabinet was clearly not catching his fancy. But this... this was a part of our technological heritage, a relic of a more regulated business environment, the stuff midcentury slapstick comedy was made of! This...

"It's an old telephone switchboard!" I replied, giddily. Ooh, all the exchanges and the dial--a telephone dial, remember the satisfying rhythm of dialing a phone?--and an honest-to-Alexander Bell Telephone ID plate. It was magnificent.

"What on Earth would you do with that?" Rob is totally unmoved by dead technology.

"I didn't say I wanted it," I lied, "I just said it was cool." I would of course put the switchboard in my library, close the door, and secretly pretend to connect terribly important calls to New York or possibly Boston.

I cast one last loving glance as we walked away, knowing that Rob is my best friend because he embraces the fact that I do stuff like this because am a crazy middle-aged cat lady. (I gave up trying to pass for "adorably quirky" after I passed 30.)


After acquiring between us one (1) pup tent, one (1) flat of fresh figs, one (1) honking enormous box of beefsteak tomatoes and three (3) bunches of scallions that spent the rest of the day fragrance-ing the car, we decided to move on to other adventures. As we left the lot, fully intending to turn left, we couldn't help but notice the ludicrous traffic jam.

"You know what?" Rob asked.


"We're turning right."

"That works."

So we turned right.

I love a good aimless drive. And what a day for it... beautiful, sunny, not too hot. The drought doesn't seem quite so bad out there. We tooled along for a good long time, past endless trees and fields, having neither a destination nor any idea at all where we were. Other than, you know, Ohio.

"Well, if we get really lost," Rob pointed out, "we have a tent!"

"And tomatoes."

"And figs!" A weighty matter occurred to my erstwhile companion. "I want to find some sweet corn by the side of the road."

Corn always tastes better when it's from a roadside stand. Scientific fact. That's what makes America great, along with Peeps and representative democracy.

So we drove some more. And more. It was pretty freaking great. Maybe because I spend so much of my time wrapped up in minutiae and process, it feels wonderful to just be completely aimless for a few hours. (Aimless, save the quest for sweet corn.)

In the distance, we saw a handpainted wooden sign with an apple on it. Possible produce stand? Possible corn? We followed.

As it turned out, we'd stumbled upon a pick-your-own berry place, a novelty for both of us. (I've picked many a berry on an amateur basis, mind you.) The patient girl at the counter, clearly used to dealing with well-meaning-but-dense city folk, gave us the rundown on what to do. Bucket and berry boxes in hand, we set off for the blueberry field.

"I've never seen a blueberry tree before," Rob said. "Do they have jaggers?"

"No. Blueberry bushes are pretty easy to get to. I guess that's why the birds like them so much." Indeed, the whole field was covered with black net to protect the fruit from airborne gluttons.

Another patient young woman greeted us at the entrance, setting us up with an appropriate harvesting spot. I'd never seen blueberry bushes so laden with fruit. Because, you know, birds.

It was mightily therapeutic, gently loosening the small purplish orbs from their stems. The sun was pleasant. I sat comfortably on the grass, cursing myself yet again for buying a house with no garden space. Our bucket filled quickly; it was only as we realized that we were going to have to eat all this fruit that we figured it was time to rein it in.

Rob would be less enthused just a few minutes later as we hit the blackberries.

Now, I have a bit of a history with blackberries and raspberries. My grandparents had a great number of both on their property, and Young Not-Yet-Bee did merrily gambol o'er hill and dale in search of fresh berries. There was rarely much to pick, because the Japanese beetles always got there first. I mean always. But I would brave beetle and thorn for my little harvest. I remember some assembling some rather sad little cups of yogurt with, like, three berries... but they were my berries.

"Ow." Rob had discovered that blackberry bushes have thorns. I was just happy that they had berries. Slightly less quickly and merrily, the large berry basket filled. The familiar scratches on my arms felt oddly comforting. I elected not to express this sentiment just then.

The raspberries, well. More, more tenacious jaggers. We'd managed to hit the opposite of the sweet spot seasonwise; there were tons of unripe berries and nearly as many that were shriveled on the vine. Rob began a diligent text conversation. I gleaned what I could, getting really rather badly scratched up. Once I'd collected what I could, we took our treasure to be weighed. I couldn't resist an enormous box of scratch n' dent peaches. Trunk full of produce (and pup tent), we headed home.


Important thing first, Mom and I tucked into some deliriously good tomato sandwiches. The stuff of midwinter dreams... one tomato slice enough to comfortably cover the bread. Tomato-flavored tomato too. Oh my.

And then, to work... I pitted and peeled the whole basket of peaches. Heaven. The biggest of my Pyrex bowls was soon filled nearly to the brim. I found a recipe for "peach cake" which was really more of an upside-down cobbler, knocked one of those out. I realized--unsurprisingly, for very ripe fruit--that I had an unusual amount of juice. Peach ice! I threw the syrup together. A feeling that I was forgetting something settled over me as I looked at the remaining fruit. What was I not making? That was a good quart of sliced peaches, sitting there like a load of chutney... WAIT, yes! Chutney! Woo!

I am really very easily amused.

The peaches dispatched, I turned my attention to the berries. The hard-won raspberries, it had to be said, had not traveled well. Not quite enough to make a frozen treat... enough to make a very respectable dessert syrup, though.

Triage performed, I tucked the rest of the bounty into the fridge.


I'm tired. My arms are terribly sunburned. I will not be complaining about the price of store-bought raspberries any time soon.

This was a great day.

July 10, 2012


It was with great pleasure that I handed my old ID and my new camera card to the nice, patient lady at the PennDOT Photo License Center yesterday. For one thing, I'm terribly pleased that I can stop nursing along the tattered address update card that I've been carrying around in my wallet for the last two and a half years. Mostly, as you might suspect, I'm so glad to move on from my old photo. Yikes. I can deal with looking sleepy or looking goofy, but I just looked snooty in my old pic. Nose in the air. Smirk. Couldn't quite get the hang of the camera, and the last clerk I dealt with was not the kind to suffer retakes gladly.

But that four years ago, back in the dingy, labyrinthine old State Office Building. The new Downtown license center is a comparatively spiffy base of operations--clean, well-lit, plenty of seating, equipped with a steroidally-enhanced version of a bakery take-a-number system. There's a helpful greeter at the front who makes sure you have all your ducks in a row and then gives you a ticket.    

You are royalty if you've got your camera card ready. The place was packed, yet I doubt I waited ten minutes. I watched the triage of new customers as I waited, and it was striking that most people who were there for renewals (not the driving test) either didn't have camera cards and/or had assumed they could pay by cash or charge. Never face a bureaucracy without learning its rules. You might not find them rational, but you'll save yourself some waiting-room time.

So, I now have my new card... and one of the more inoffensive ID photos I've had in recent years. Certainly beats the drunk-Paul McCartney-in-drag look I'm sporting on my Panther Card. And now I'll even be able to vote in the fall.

And, on that subject... whatever happens with the legal challenges to the photo ID requirements, it seems to me that now is the time to work as individuals to make sure our fellow citizens may exercise their right to vote in November. How about each and every one of us works to make sure that someone without a current valid ID gets one? And how about we do it now, before what's sure to be a last-minute rush as the election approaches?

Let's share in the experience and adventure of Democracy with our friends and neighbors...  that, and the Constitutional right to chortle over your horrible ID photo.

July 6, 2012

Sophie, Warrior Princess

In the wee hours of this morning, a mouse was tenaciously attempting to commit suicide by cat.

Unfortunately, the closest thing we have to a cat is Sophie. While Sophie loves glaring at things and growling and such, she is not what you might call an efficient killing machine. Sophie often loses fights to the little yellow pom-pom toy we call Turducken.

I become aware of the intruder when I hear Sophie's warrior growl (usually reserved for said Turducken); she runs past with something small and not yellow clenched between her jaws. I realize my plan of settling back for a nice quiet evening with a book has evaporated as quickly as the ice in my water.

She drops the mouse. It's already in pretty bad shape; wounded, limping, but still moving. It runs directly into Sophie, all but begging for a mercy killing. She picks it up in her mouth periodically before dropping it and starting all over. Over and over again. The cat-and-mouse-game metaphor did not emerge from the aether.

I'm not thrilled that there's a pest in my home, but I don't want it to suffer. I find myself in the odd position of coaching my cat to kill.

"You started this, you finish it off. It's YOUR RESPONSIBILITY," I say in a stern, parental voice, "AS A PREDATOR." Sophie flops over on her side. The mouse stays put, doubtlessly wondering if it should have just found a really tiny Saturday night special with which to end its life.

Sophie loses track of where she dropped the mouse. "Over here." I snap my fingers. "This side." She heads in the general direction of the mouse, then actually walks past it. "No! Back! You had it right before--there ya go!"

She grasps the poor creature in her jaws. "Look." I sigh. "Pretend he's trying to clip your claws. I know damned well what those jaws are capable of." She looks around quizzically with a mouthful of dead or pathologically compliant mouse. She drops it again. It was merely resting.

This goes on for an hour or so. It's hot. Sophie is lazy to begin with. Motivation is not high. I look in on the scene. She is again flopped over, eyes bright with the thrill of the low-speed chase, sides heaving with excitement. The mouse is lying on its side, visibly panting. I note reality's trite attempt at symmetry with disapproval. I wish I had the heart to--what? What do you do with a half-dead mouse? (I tried scooping it up with a snow shovel on the theory I could release it outside; the mouse is far more afraid of the shovel than the cat.)

The mouse is not going anywhere. I don't want to watch this part. I didn't want to watch any of it. I settle into the living room and wait for the inevitable. Why don't I have a nice, quiet pet fish? Or a turtle. Turtles are good people. They let you read all you want.

Things are quiet after a while. I check in. It's all over. Sophie looks tremendously pleased with herself as she saunters over to the water dish. I roll my eyes.

July 5, 2012

Support For Continued Existence Thanks To...

My poor little potted spearmint plant has finally expired in the heat of my kitchen. I'm trying mightily not to join it.

I am so very, very thankful for the small comforts that allow adaptation to the heat wave...

  • Abundant, cheap, safe water. Hang out with some international development types and see if you take it for granted anymore.
  • The magic duo of a damp washrag and an electric fan.
  • Good ol' cheap popsicles. 
  • A very special thank you to the glass bottle of Hank's black cherry soda that got just a little bit slushy in the fridge. We were only together for a few minutes, but I'll remember you fondly, always.
  • Midnight loads of laundry. Somehow, hot, freshly-laundered towels seem less able to effect your demise when it's a mere 85 degrees in the house.
  • Post-dinner iced coffee. Cheap, delicious, and soothing as all get-out. Uber-caffeinated, too!
  • Soft, yielding chocolate. It doesn't make you feel any less overheated, but it's so freaking good.
  • Canned air. I have never felt such a desire for a clean keyboard as I have this week. Endothermic chemical reactions FTW.

July 4, 2012

A Good Life: Andy Griffith

On the surface, it might seem odd that someone who scrapped like hell to get out of small-town living and would sooner extract her own remaining teeth with a set of rusty pliers than go back dearly loves The Andy Griffith Show. But only on the surface.

What gave Mayberry the breath of life was the interdependence and tolerance and love the characters had for one another--even, perhaps especially, for the oddballs. It was what we all want small towns to be: An environment in which the bumps and quirks of life bring people together rather than drive them behind literal and metaphorical walls.

Mayberry was to communities as the Bartlet White House was to political life: The way things could be, probably should be, and rarely are. Not without conflict, not without sadness, not without error, but guided by genuine appreciation for the uniqueness and value of each and every person.

Bits like this work because they're driven not by pursuit of an easy laugh, but by affection for the characters. I adore how visibly relieved Andy and Barney are when they hear Otis making his way back... don't buy for a moment the idea that "friends as family" is a completely modern TV phenomenon.

You know that line from Robert Frost? "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in."

If Andy Griffith had done nothing but create Andy Taylor and his world, he would have accomplished plenty. But he was a much more versatile performer than many people realize, and it's wonderful to see a rich and varied career being properly celebrated. Here are just a few of the fond remembrances of a genuinely interesting artist:

I'm especially partial to this column from Rich Kienzle in the PG because he does an infinitely better job of explaining why you should watch A Face In The Crowd than I will ever be able to. (I know this for certain because I actually tried to write a post about the movie a couple of weeks ago and couldn't get beyond HOLY CRAP IT IS GOOD AND ALSO TIMELY. Pauline Kael did not bequeath me her thunder.) Also, don't miss the related podcast covering Griffith's music career.  

Finally sold on checking out A Face In The Crowd? It's good! And timely! TCM will be running it on July 18.

20 Wonderfully Irrelevant Andy Griffith Show Conversations

Interesting, but I think whistling was indeed the way to go. Here's the Andy Griffith Show theme song with lyrics.

Opie Ron Howard recalls life and career lessons learned on set.

I maybe teared up a little.

Git Aht The Snoopy Sno-Cone Maker And Start Crankin'

Celebrate the holiday with the true spokesman for our fair city...

July 3, 2012

Shocked. Shocked.

Dang I'm getting good at that! So, it seems that the Barnes Foundation wasn't in such awful financial straits after all. It's almost like... people who should have known better and been better lied in order to justify prioritizing their personal desires over donor intent.

July 1, 2012

I Demand A Remake Starring Paul Giamatti

Because it's hot as Hell in Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, and pretty much everydamnwhere... here's how SMLTS kicks off the holiday week...