Friday, March 20, 2015

Fake text can be fascinating

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

That's filler text, and if you've done any kind of journalism, design or layout work, you know it well. (If you're lucky, you never forgot and left it in a document and had it published live.)

But do you know what it means, or why we use it? Read on.

Poor Cicero sure had a bloody death and aftermath, huh?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

PEET-sa? What is this witchcraft?

If you think everything in your life has always been around, think again. My parents were full-on adults before they'd first tasted pizza, and Mom always reported that my dad took one bite and spat it out. 

If he'd had this 1947 recipe, I kind of understand. Biscuit mix, cold cuts, sliced cheese and ketchup! 

They also have to tell us how to pronounce "peet-sa," much like Taco Bell in the 1980s actually had pronunciations for "taco" and "burrito" on their menu boards. ("Tah-COH?")

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Captain America Goes to War Against Drugs

I have a pop-culture book room in my basement, and you never know what's in there.

I found this, and have no idea where it came from. It's dated 1990 and has no price, so I suspect it was some kind of freebie given out by schools. Let's take a look, shall we?

What do we learn from this cover?
--In 1990, it was apparently OK to wear maroon and brown clogs with a scary pink miniskirt that is decorated with a merkin.
--A kid with a '60s bandana around her head would certainly boast an '80s ghetto blaster, '50s saddleshoes, and the flag of Honduras as a shirt.
--Rainbow coalition! You'll want a red-haired girl to represent Ireland, an Asian girl who's giving the peace sign for no apparent reason, an angry black kid in a fuschia sweater vest, and a doughy-faced guy with hypertrichosis of the fist.

According to this awesome Cracked article, this comic is just 1 of 2 issues, apparently the first. I can give you the summary of my lone issue. Cap crashes through a skylight into some drug den (all the best drug dens have skylights, improves the resale) and the drug lords, who look like middle-aged dads on a fishing trip, start shooting him with their automatic weapons. But nothing can penetrate Cap's shield, so he saves the day and the FBI has to suck up to him big time,

"Demery"? "Kathleen"? Maybe this is explained in the other comic, but those names feel too specific to be made up. I feel like some comic artist fulfilled a birthday obligation by getting his girlfriend's name in here.

Now pages of backstory where aliens want to conquer earth, blah blah, gonna be tough, bleep bloop, but we humans have a fatal flaw, which is buying small bindles of drugs from crew-cutted dudes wearing headphones and Yale letterman sweaters.

"You couldn't get into Harvard, Yalie!"

Meanwhile, somewhere in an enormous house in the Hamptons (guessing...), Keith Wilson, a member of the Teen Brigade (let's just pretend this is explained in the other comic) whose room is plastered with posters of Captain America, is writing an email to his hero. (They must've both had Prodigy, it was 1990.)  You see, Mitch, on his baseball team was a great baseball player, back in high school. He could throw that speedball by ya, make you look like a fool, boy. But Mitch isn't passing up the speedballs, apparently, because Keith saw him talking to a cowboy-hatted dude and is convinced he's ON SOMETHING.

Which he is, kind of. Powdered Red Bull, or crushed Pop Rocks, or Pixy Stix, who knows? It made him feel better, briefly, and then he felt worse.

Off to the next day's baseball game. Mitch sucks. Some kid that they're all chanting "no batter" at (me?) hits a homer. Then Mitch beans Ricky in the temple and the other team is about to kill him when "some nut in a Captain America costume" shows up.

Then comes the absolute best panel in the comic, where the cops hear the argument and decide "protect and serve my ass," and are just going to ignore it until Captain America almost decapitates them in their patrol car with his shield. Cracked correctly dubs them, "a pair of cops who apparently have no idea what cops do for a living."

Mitch confesses he was high. An ambulance takes Ricky away. The incompetent cops do nothing. Mitch's parents and coach realize that Mitch's personal failures are all their faults for being jerks.

Mitch finds the drug dealer who sold him the Pixy Stix and pops him one and his face awesomely breaks off, BECAUSE HE'S A SPACE ALIEN. And apparently instead of space aliens just transmorgifying into human form, they have to wear those ceramic masks like your grandma bought in the hotel gift shop in New Orleans that one time and hung on her wall forevermore.

But Mitch's troubles aren't over. Turns out Ricky's entire team has somehow changed into street clothes and put those weighted donuts on their bats and are just striding around alleys looking for the guy who beanballed their teammate. They smack him lamely in the stomach and then Cap shows up. Blah blah you can't stop us old man I'm on the school boxing team (1990 schools had boxing teams?), blah blah Cap shows them what for, blah blah they run off in their stylin' puffy purple vests.

AND NOW THE BIG FINISH. With blood pouring from his nose, though he was struck in the belly, Mitch rants that he's heard all the drug speeches. But he hasn't heard this one! Cap tells him that "we're on your side," and that "drugs just destroy the gift you have." Feeling down and unhappy is normal, so suck it up, boy, because you're not gonna be happy 24-7.

Of course it works. Mitch takes all responsibility for using drugs a whole two times and he's clean, even though he tells Cap it was an "alien monster" who gave him the drugs.

SNORT. Cap decides the kid should write science-fiction. "Space monster drug pushers, what an imagination..."

And then he finds grandma's broken mask from Bourbon Street, and you can hear the sad trombone TOLD YA! back on the alien's home planet.

Well, I wouldn't believe Mitch either. He's a drug-using idiot.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Between the crosses, row on row

Now this, people, is a book dedication.

It's from Frances Parkinson Keyes' wonderful "Came a Cavalier," which I'm now reading, and though it's out-of-print, you can buy it for all of one penny (plus shipping) at Amazon.

Here's just one Amazon review:

"Some books are destined to become timeless from the moment they are written. Came a Cavalier is one of them. Having read this as a pre-teen, it has stuck in my mind all these years. I often tried to remember the name of it but was so young when I'd read it that I had no idea the author was so famous for her books. I often tried to find it, but had little details other than "a young American nurse in WWI", which immediately made people say "Never heard of it" thinking perhaps, that WW I had been so long ago, they couldn't possibly have read anything about it. However, I lucked out when someone recognized my few details and led me to the title and author. I immediately went to Amazon hoping that they could get it for me and lucked out again. I sat down and re-read the entire thing in 2 evenings, lost back in the lives of Constance and Tristan, the terrible losses they incurred, the deep devotion for each other and their home and the far away days when I myself was only a young girl enjoying a "grown up" book. The story line itself is filled with every human emotion, the characters so true to life that each one you will already recognize as someone in your own lives; their habits, their foibles, their attitudes are familiar to all of us. Ms. Keyes makes stories come to life and the events of World War I may now only seem to be a few lines in history books, but the cruelties, the horrible loss of men, the leading up to World War II and the atrocities committed against the people of France, the traitors, the heroes...they are all here in this wonderful book. If I had a daughter I would see that she read this for simple enjoyment and received a lesson in history at the same time. Thank you Amazon for carrying not only the "new" authors, but the well loved and long enjoyed ones too!"

You may also find reading about the author to be pretty fascinating -- I did. (I keep pronouncing "Keyes" as if it's "keys," but apparently it rhymes with "skies.") I find a certain peace in the older books, reminding us that our ancestors came through world wars, and surely we can get through our own issues, big and small. Now I want to read all of her other books as well.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The torturer who doesn't feel sorry

If you're not already addicted to the wonderful work collected at Longreads, you should sign up for their newsletters or follow their Twitter feed.

I've always been fascinated with the Khmer Rouge and their bloody history in Cambodia, and the horrors of Prison S-21, which in more innocent days was once a high school. Imagine traveling into that buildings past and seeing the students going to class there, laughing with friends. Then imagine telling them, somehow making them understand that the place where they're sitting in peace and friendship will be as infamous as Auschwitz one day. Could they ever understand it? Can we today?

Rithy Panh not only survived the Killing Fields of Cambodia, he interviewed Duch, its notorious commandant. This story is both horrible and necessary.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The smell of victory

Sure, Marshmallow Peeps milk is getting all the attention, but we're forgetting the already established Marshmallow Peeps Yankee Candle, dammit.

Yes & No Books, for ages 7-77

Oh man, did I spend a lot of boring car trips engrossed in these invisble-ink yes and no books

They're no Minecraft, kids, but we old folks had simpler tastes. Get off mah lawn.

78-year-olds, sorry, you're too old for these. YOU KNOW THE RULES. THEY'RE RIGHT THERE ON THE COVER!

The Road Runner must stay on the road, otherwise, logically, he could not be called "Road Runner"

The 9 unbreakable rules of  the Wile E. Coyote universe.

"Rule 8: Whenever possible, make gravity the coyote's greatest enemy."

I serve mine in my dishwasher-safe Bacon Bowls

And now there is such a thing as Marshmallow Peep-flavored milk .

Includes Egg Nog flavor, because it's always Christmas somewhere.

Seems like you'd need awfully small hands to milk a Peep, but then what do I know, my dad had only beef cattle.

Sadly/gladly, depending on your homeland:"PEEPS® milk is only available in the following Mid-western states: IL, IN, KY, MI, MO, MS, TN, SE WI, E IOWA and SW OH."

Friends in those states, you know what to do. (Move!)

Take that, Japan

If there are dishwasher-safe Bacon Bowls to be made, America will make them, dammit.

Scrappy whaaa?

So apparently my hatred of Scrappy-Doo is not universal, at least according to this petition an anonymous PCJM reader posted in the comments.

Oh, "yonger" viewers (spelling theirs), trust this old fogey, you do not need a reboot of that annoying pup. Just watch the "Simpsons" Poochie episode a few times. Scrappy has to go, now, his planet needs him. If that planet is the planet of terrible sidekicks, that is.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Best "In Search Of..." episodes

We all loved Leonard Nimoy as Spock, but in all the discussion of that wonderful character, one of his other classic roles has been forgotten. It's hard to find a 1970s kid who doesn't have fond, freaky memories of "In Search Of...", and Nimoy's straightforward, Spock-logical narration was a huge part of it.

Now we know that this show was often a TV version of "The Weekly World News," and its pre-show disclaimer tried to cover itself, admitting that it was based on "theory and conjecture," and "the producers' purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones."

Here's a look at some of my favorite episodes.

The Bermuda Triangle, first season
Just the idea that our planet had thee mysterious places that could never be explained was both terrifying and fascinating for a kid who'd maybe never left their own hometown.

Bigfoot, first season
Oh yes. He could've been this show's mascot. Completely made up, yet with enough delightful sightings and fuzzy photographs to keep the myth alive.

Killer Bees, first season
Oh, this terrified us. Spotting any bee became akin to seeing your executioner after we watched this one.

Atlantis, first season
It seemed like one day we might even be able to vacation there, playing basketball with the Sea-Monkeys and dunking on Aquaman.

The Lost Dutchman Mine, second season
A supposed lost gold mine in Arizona or Mexico or maybe just made up, but the idea that when we grew up, we might just be able to dig a hole and get rich was a kid's American dream.

Michael Rockefeller, second season
Disappearing people are fascinating, Disappearing zillionaires even more so. Disappearing zillionaires who may have been eaten by cannibals? Score!

The Great Lakes Triangle, third season
Because the Bermuda Triangle was just too darn far away.

The Money Pit Mystery, third season
I feel like this one ran every other week, and we ate it up. It told the tale of supposed buried treasure in a pit in Canada, and every group who went digging for it ended up giving up. Blackbeard's treasure? Marie Antoinette's jewels? There's probably nothing there, but damn, the chase was enticing.

The Lost Colony of Roanoke, fourth season
"Where did they go?" mysteries are always intriguing. See also: The Mary Celeste, numerous other found-sailing-without-crew stories as told in cheesy Scholastic paperbacks.This one is America's first, and the one-word clue CROATOAN makes it even juicier.

The Abominable Snowman, fourth season
If Bigfoot is this show's mascot, the Yeti is his understudy. We kids of the '70s totally believed in these big guys.

Jimmy Hoffa, fifth season
The END ZONE. He's in the END ZONE.

MIAs, sixth season
Were there still Vietnam vets being held prisoner, a la "Rambo"? One of the saddest and most disturbing episodes of a show that usually was much easier to snark at.

The Elephant Man, sixth season
Even if you thought you were funny-looking, hated your braces or glasses or a dumb birthmark, you had nothin' on John Merrick

Houdini's Secrets, sixth season
Houdini had it all for a show like this. Dazzling escape-artist magic, worldwide fame, an abrupt and early death, the whole thing about telling his wife Bess he'd try to talk to her from the beyond. We could only hope that one day, in our lifetime, there'd be another Houdini. (David Copperfield/Blaine, you guys do not count.)