In Which the Title Raises Questions It Can’t Answer


You may remember the Viennetta, which entered the United States market in the 80s and 90s as a way to provide a presentable fancy-looking dessert to company you wanted to serve ice cream cake. I did not, which derailed my love’s story about buying one. But this is how we got to finding that YouTube has a video titled “How a Viennetta is made (suitable for kids)”.

So it is. And yet the title implies there must be a similar video too emotionally raw and blunt about the horrors of modern life and the existential dread that an adult knows as the combination of regrets and fears for a too-short future all about the making of this ice cream cake. Where is that video? Who made it? Who is watching it? How badly would a child facing the nightmares behind, oh, chocolate or sugar be scarred by what it has to say? Or is the music just too risqué? What makes this undetected video so unsafe?

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Sycophants vs 24-bit Computing


Sycophants

The Case For: Word turns out to mean “people who tell you where the figs are”.

The Case Against: Is not related the word meaning “people who tell you where the unhealthy elephants are”.

24-bit Computing

The Case For: Represents signed integers of up to 8,388,607 in a single word.

The Case Against: Most implementations are really 16-bit and they just leave the other eight bits in the junk drawer.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Godzilla vs The Yukawa Potential


Godzilla

The Case For: Deft, seamless artistic blend of gods and Nilla wafers.

The Case Against: Too whiny anymore to stomp on the pointy skyscrapers around the financial district.

The Yukawa Potential

The Case For: Is so, so good at describing pairwise particle interactions mediated by either a massless or a massed particle.

The Case Against: Is not the name of any noteworthy prog rock band or album.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Bruce Springsteen vs Sandwiches


So, I’m aware that this is the season for putting things up against other things. And heck, I can think of things. So, here’s my first-ever March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing. I panicked when I was filling out the forms for bracket contest names. Sorry.

Bruce Springsteen

The Case For: All-time classic songs like Born in the USA and Born to Run, plus other non-birth-related songs.

The Case Against: Though he was born in the USA, his strengths are singing and songwriting. His running is nothing of note.

Sandwiches

The Case For: For over 25 years now the most convenient way to keep hot meatballs in your hand.

The Case Against: Hasn’t been a good sandwich song in the Top 40 in months.

MiSTed: Imagine! Your Christmas Greeting Inside a Chinese Fortune Cooky (Part 2 of 2)


And here I finish off the “Chinese Fortune Cooky” advertisement I started last week. I don’t find much in this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic that needs explanation. You can see I wrote this when I still thought I would make a go of that Web Site Number Nine replacement. At the end of this is a bit that’s supposed to be an ASCII art representation of the mailing blanks, and HTML, alas, cannot understand the concept of “I want blank spaces here”. (Yes, I know about the non-breaking space.)

The original advertisement has a line delivered in that insulting “Chinese” stereotype fashion and while I make fun of it, if you don’t want that stuff in your recreational reading, you are right, and can safely skip this. While it was a fun MiSTing to do I can’t say this has any all-time great lines you’d regret missing.


>
> Yes! If you order twelve of these amazing Christmas
> Greetings,

MIKE: Twelve? Who could possibly have twelve friends at Christmastime?

> the price is only $4.98 for the complete package delivered
> to your door — or only about 40c each!

CROW: 45 cents if you don’t have a door.

> If you order twenty-five,
> then each fortune cooky greeting gift cost you only 36c each!

MIKE: If you order 36, then each costs only twenty-five cents.

> If,
> however, you order fifty or more, then the price can be lowered to
> only 32c each, or $15.95 for fifty.

TOM: They sound hesitant.

CROW: Yeah, like they’re rethinking the whole cookie business model.

> This is far less than many good
> quality cards that cannot compare in the impact and joy that they will
> give your friends!

MIKE: I’d like to see a direct joy comparison on these cards.

>
> CHINESE SANTA CLAUS SAY:

TOM: Oh.

CROW: Please, no.

> “Have Happy Thought

MIKE: Oh, dear.

> — Give
> Greeting that is also Gift!”

TOM: That’s enough, please.

>

CROW: Oh, thank goodness.

> Rush your order today to get your cooky greetings in
> ample time for Christmas mailing.

MIKE: Lest Chinese Santa Claus pop back in with more directions.

> Orders received
> after Nov. 20th will be returned.

TOM: Orders received before November 20th will be rotted out before Christmas.

> So send coupon
> right away.

CROW: Please tell me that’s not more Chinese Santa Claus.

>
>
> +——————————————————————-+
> | HARRISON HOME PRODUCTS CORP.,

TOM: The only home products corporation named for President William Henry Harrison.

> DEPT. 10-DC |

MIKE: Department 10-DC, box 37, desk 4, altitude L-24.

> | 250 Passaic Street, Newark, N. J. |

CROW: Newark: where Christmas meets fortune cookies!

> | |

> | CHECK personalized greeting of your choice: |

TOM: Choose wisely. Wrong answers will be punished.

> | ___ Merry Christmas and Happy New Year |
> | Your Name Here |

MIKE: Ah, ‘Your Name Here’, renowned Chinese fortune cookie teller.

> | ___ Season’s Greetings |

CROW: o/` In our souls … o/`

TOM: o/` Yummy Fruity Pebbles in our bowls. o/`

MIKE: Stop, both of you.

> | Your Name Here |

MIKE: If you have no name, the name of someone you know may be substituted.

> | |
> | I want greetings signed ………………………….. |
> | PRINT PLAINLY |

TOM: I want greetings signed `PLAINLY’?

CROW: Worst Mad-Lib Ever.

> | |
> | Please send me ……….

MIKE: Please send me … [ drumroll … ]

> Personalized Fortune Cooky |

MIKE: [ Cymbal clash. ]

CROW: Yeah, still doesn’t quite work.

> | Greetings, complete with Gift Boxes and individual mailing |
> | cartons. |

TOM: Yes, but will they be mailed to you?

> | |
> | ___ Payment enclosed ……. |

CROW: They rolled it up and slipped it into a fortune cookie.

> | ___ Charge Diner’s Acc’t No. ……… |

MIKE: Charge! Diner’s accountant? No! [ Drumroll! ]

> | |
> | ___ 12 for $4.98

TOM: 13 for $5.38!

> ___ 25 for $8.98

CROW: Six will get you eggroll!

> ___ 50 for $15.95 |

MIKE: You know, I’d kind of like a hoagie instead.

> | SAVE MORE! For each additional 25 over fifty add $7.50 |

TOM: For 25 fewer under fifty subtract $7.50, and it’ll all work out.

> | |
> | NAME………………………………………………… |

[ CROW, TOM, and MIKE snicker overenthusiastically through this. ]

CROW: [ to MIKE and TOM ] All right, all right, ssh, shh, shhh …
[ to the ad ] FIRSTNAME …

[ ALL burst out laughing at this. ]

CROW: [ to MIKE and TOM ] Be cool, be cool. [ to the ad ] … M …

TOM: OOoh, hoo, hooooo, the silliness!

MIKE: Sssh, you’ll wreck it, Tom!

CROW: LASTNAME!
[ MIKE cackles ]

> | ADDRESS……………………………………………… |

TOM: [ to CROW and MIKE ] I got this one, ssh, stop giggling …
[ to the ad ] One Two Three …

[ CROW cackles and then keeps giggling ]

TOM: … 123 _MAIN STREET_!

MIKE: [ Clapping, and then to TOM and CROW ] I got this, you’ll love it.

CROW: Oh, how are gonna top …

> | CITY……………………………

MIKE: ANYTOWN!

[ TOM and CROW are bowled out of their seats laughing. ]

> ZONE….

[ TOM and CROW pull themselves up just enough for this ]

TOM: Zone? Zone is forbidden!

CROW: Take permits many.

> STATE……….. |

[ TOM and CROW giggle in anticipation. ]

MIKE: [ Stoner voice ] State of Confusion, man!

[ ALL cackle and hoot at all this, and then … ]

> | |

[ ALL stop abruptly. ]

TOM: Well. What next?

> | In Canada:

TOM: Oh. Canada.

CROW: My something something something land.

> Order from Harrison Home Products Ltd., |

MIKE: A *completely* different company.

> | 675 King St., W.,

CROW: [ As Jimmy Durante ] It’s under the big St!

> Toronto, Ontario |

TOM: Wait, Toronto doesn’t get zones?

MIKE: Canadians just don’t get zones, man.

> +——————————————————————-+
>

CROW: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

[ 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. MIKE has a tray with some fortune cookies on top, and a paper-wrapped shoebox, and another similarly wrapped box about twice the size. TOM and CROW are to the side, watching this. ]

MIKE: Now, each of you has picked one fortune cookie and I’m giving Tom here the chance to trade what’s in the cookie for what’s in the little box, do you want to trade?

CROW: Take the box!

TOM: The box … the cookie … the box … yeah, I’m gonna go with the box.

MIKE: All right, and inside the box is … [ he lifts up the shoebox, revealing two fortune cookies inside ] Ah, another cookie!

[ CROW laughs at TOM. ]

MIKE: Now, do you want to look at the contents of the cookie, or do you want to trade it for the modestly larger box?

TOM: I … I …

CROW: Keep the cookie!

TOM: All right, the cookie.

MIKE: [ Cracking it open and eating the cookie ] And inside the cookie … ‘You get the modestly larger box!’

[ CROW cackles ]

MIKE: And inside the modestly larger box is … [ lifting it up, to reveal another fortune cookie ] … another cookie, with … [ MIKE cracks it open, eating the cookie and reading the fortune ] … ah! You win the original two cookies!

TOM: [ Completely baffled ] Uh … yay?

CROW: Ah, Tom, loser-boy, you get … uh … wait …

[ MIKE slides both cookies over to TOM. ]

CROW: I’m confused.

MIKE: Then we’ve had a good day. And if you at home are having a good day, why not consider the new MiSTings archive lurching its way into existence at http://www.-.com/mst3000/ ? It’s got MiSTings, and … uh … quotes from MiSTings, and isn’t that plenty in these troubled times? Thank you, won’t you?

[ MADS sign flashes; MIKE taps it. ]

[ DEEP 13. PEARL FORRESTER and DR FORRESTER are looking over boxes of DEEP 13-labelled stuff which they study. ]

PEARL: You know, if we have them buy cookie dough, and set delivery …

DR. F: Yeah, then they forget it and we can keep the money and the dough.

PEARL: [ Breaking concentration ] Is that a pun?

DR. F: No! No no no no no no no no … no … wait, was it?

PEARL: That was *totally* a pun. and you know what that means.

[ DR FORRESTER reluctantly turns around and walks, ashamed, to stand in a corner. ]

DR. F: [ Calling out ] Ah, until next time, cookie puss?

PEARL: Clayton! Rules.

[ DR FORRESTER slumps sadly in his corner. ]

PEARL: Cookies. What were we thinking? It should have been pot luck.

[ She presses the button ]

                 \  |  /
                  \ | /
                   \|/
                 ---O---
                   /|\
                  / | \
                 /  |  \

Mystery Science Theater 3000, its characters and situations and everything are the property of Best Brains, Inc, and don’t think anyone is challenging that at all. The Fortune Cooky scheme belongs to the Harrison Home Products Corporation of Newark, New Jersey, of 1962, and was advertised as such in the Diners’ Club Magazine of October 1962. http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2009/01/29/imagine-your-christmas-greeting-inside-a-chinese-fortune-cooky/ for the original.

Keep circulating the posts.

> CHINESE SANTA CLAUS SAY: “Have Happy Thought — Give
> Greeting that is also Gift!”

I don’t even know what this could mean


I have realized that when I have a dream about trying to find a bathroom, it’s because I should wake up and apply the bathroom that we have. Straightforward enough.

What I don’t know how to parse is dreaming that it was very important I wash my hands because I was about to eat a banana. I don’t make a habit of not washing my hands; I’ve been known to wash my hands because I felt like I had got them a little too dry after washing them in the first place. But if I have choose something to eat without washing my hands? A banana has a lot of appeal.

MiSTed: Imagine! Your Christmas Greeting Inside a Chinese Fortune Cooky (Part 1 of 2)


Now for two weeks of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction I probably should have run back in December. Ah well. This is another advertisement reprinted on a now-defunct Modern Mechanics blog, offering just what the subject line suggests.

I set the host sketches for this MiSTing in Season 7 of the show — the Pearl-and-Dr-Forrester year — because there were almost none set then. I think there were more MiSTings where people came up with their own, post-season-6 “new settings” than that short season ever got.

The New Jersey Big Sea Day is something that I, a New Jersey native, never heard of before running across a mention in Walt Kelly’s Pogo. It’s this early-August festival in Manasquan, on the Shore, with sandcastle-building and stuff like that. Von Steuben Day is a late-September celebration of Friedrich von Steuben, the Prussian military officer who introduced General Washington’s Continental Army to “training”.

The riff about where fortune cookies came from reflected the best information I had on hand around a decade ago when I wrote this MiSTing. It’s also not any kind of joke, but what am I going to do with trivia, not shove it in front of people’s faces? That would be impossible.

Axiomatic to my riffing is the supposition that it’s a silly idea to have customized messages printed in fortune cookies. But it’s not that silly. It would definitely get people to talk about whatever you or your organization put in there. It’s just what they would say is, “Huh. Cute” and then stop. It probably would take more than ten minutes to make fortune cookies from scratch, but not that much longer. They only need, like, five minutes to bake, even if you have a 1962 oven.


[ SEASON SEVEN opening credits. ]

[ 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. Desk. MIKE is reading the SATELLITE NEWS; CROW and TOM carrying bags slung over their shoulders enter. The bags are full of greeting cards. ]

TOM: [ Hesitantly ] Ahem?

CROW: [ Coughing ] Um … uh …

TOM: [ Nervous, once MIKE, perhaps unwisely, looks up ] Ah, good day or evening sir and/or ma’am?

CROW: [ Also as a frightened child ] And with the upcoming seasons of seasonal greetings with calling for celebrations of seasonal greetings to be given out around the holiday seasoning …

TOM: [ To CROW ] You’re skipping, let me! [ To MIKE ] And for only twenty cents per card on certain deals you can have a customized and personal message for convenient home delivery?

MIKE: [ Patiently putting down the newspaper ] Oh, let’s see. Tom? Crow? Trying to build an economy on me sending cards to you, Crow, and Gypsy for Christmas?

TOM: Not merely for Christmas mister and/or missus Mike but for any of the holidays you can send out cards for.

MIKE: So I could send my wishes to the three of you for any holiday that I felt like?

CROW: Our fine line of finely lined cards are open to many interpretative holiday acts.

MIKE: Ah-huh. So you’re actually getting me set for the New Jersey Big Sea Day, and not just, oh, running some thing where Doctor and Mrs Forrester get you to swipe my meager paycheck for a promise of delivery of cards about three months after I forget I ever wanted any at all?

[ DEEP 13. DR FORRESTER and PEARL FORRESTER are squinting into the camera. ]

DR.F: Mother, they’re on to us!

PEARL: Clayton, go deep, break left, watch for the long pass.

[ DR FORRESTER runs to the far end of Deep 13. ]

PEARL: All right, if we can’t get you on cards … [ She punches several miscellaneous buttons as DR FORRESTER prances back and forth in the background ] … We’ll get you *cookies*!

DR.F: I’m open!

[ PEARL grabs a piece of Deep 13-crusted camera gear and tosses it at DR FORRESTER, who catches it, knocking him over. ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. MIKE is staring at the camera while TOM and CROW bump one another’s card bags. ]

MIKE: … the heck?

[ MOVIE SIGN starts up. ]

ALL: Aaaah! Movie sign!

TOM: I want cookies!

[ 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1.. ]

[ ALL enter the theater. ]

> Imagine!

TOM: Now stop imagining! Settle! Now rationalize your settling!

> Your Christmas Greeting Inside a Chinese Fortune
> Cooky!

MIKE: A `cooky’?

CROW: What a kookie idea.

>
> Your Friends will be Amazed and Delighted

TOM: You know, the way people are often amazed by fortune cookies.

> When They Open this
> Gay Attractive Package

CROW: What, in public?!

> And See Your Personalized Greeting

MIKE: Even now their eyes are rolling and they’re sighing patiently at your kookieness.

>
> Think of it!

TOM: Keep thinking of it, until you have a good idea instead.

> Just picture this scene, taking place in each of
> your friends’ homes!

CROW: OK, we have a place, now, we need professions.

TOM: Dentists!

CROW: OK, a bunch of dentists at a friend’s home and what are they there for?

MIKE: Elvis impersonations!

CROW: Elvis-impersonating dentists at a friend’s home, there’s our scene, let’s go!

>
> Approximately one or two weeks before Christmas this year,
> your friends’ doorbell rings!

TOM: Sure, like your friends even know people who *ring* doorbells.

MIKE: That doesn’t even mean anything, Tom.

TOM: Er … hush.

> There, in the hands of their postman,

CROW: It’s a letter in the bag for me!

> along with the usual run of ordinary Christmas cards, is something
> completely different

TOM: It’s a Christmas Belgian Waffle!

> — a small, cardboard Christmas container, with
> their name and address on the front, but with no other
> identification!

MIKE: Immediately the bomb squad is called in.

>
> The ordinary cards are tossed aside!

TOM: The recipients panic, wrecking their home while fleeing!

> Eyes focus on this
> mysterious container as your friends slip it apart!

CROW: Your cookies are detonated at a secure facility in Utah!

> And just picture
> the expression on their faces when they draw out of that container a
> lovely Christmas Ornament Box

MIKE: A Box? Why, that’s even better than being *loved*!

> — with its brilliant red braided silk
> string to hang it on their tree

TOM: Murray, you’re supposed to hang it on the Christmas tree, not the diseased elm out back.

> — with the year 1962 in blazing red
> numerals on its face

CROW: The moldy, rotted remains of ancient cookies on the inside.

> — with its sides and bottom covered with gay
> white, red, yellow and brown Christmas figures

TOM: That certainly don’t reflect dopey old-time casual racist stereotypes so stop bracing for that shoe to drop.

> — and with its top
> printed with the command, in red letters, to “OPEN ME HERE”!

MIKE: OR SUFFER MY MIGHTY COOKIE WRATH!

> As
> your friends open that top, as they peer into the inside of that
> beautiful little Christmas box

CROW: .. as they free the unimaginable cookie spirits within …

> — what they see is a Chinese Fortune
> Cooky — the eternal symbol of good luck, good fortune and long-lived
> happiness!

TOM: That were invented around 1910.

CROW: By Japanese immigrants.

MIKE: To San Francisco.

TOM: That’s kind of eternal, right?

>
>
> ON YOUR TREE

MIKE: ON YOUR TREES, EVERYONE! This is *not* a cookie drill!

> — a Gift for Every Friend and Neighbor!

CROW: For up to four friends or neighbors.

> Hang your tree with colorful ornaments that become Gay

TOM: Wouldn’t a cookie drill just break?

MIKE: Huh?

> Greeting Gifts when neighbors and children drop in
> this Holiday Season.

CROW: But the holiday is Von Steuben Day.

TOM: I mean as soon as you tried drilling something with it. Cookies are fragile.

MIKE: Thanks for being on top of that, Tom.

>
> And when they break open that Fortune Cooky, there, inside,

CROW: Is the bomb!

> individually printed on colored Christmas paper, is your personal
> greeting — SIGNED BY YOUR OWN PRINTED NAME!

TOM: Oh, my stars.

MIKE: It’s like a Christmas card, only complicated!

>
> Yes! This Christmas, you can amaze your friends and loved
> ones

MIKE: Never before had they imagined such reasons to avoid you!

> with a completely different kind of Christmas Greeting Package —

TOM: A *box*!

> that gives them a thrilling surprise when they open it

CROW: Wait, you can *open* the box too? That changes everything!

> — that hangs
> as an attractive ornament on their Christmas tree after they open it

MIKE: Peeling the tree open with band saw and corkscrew.

> — that they’ll pick off that tree and show with pride to their
> friends for months to come

TOM: Your friends who leave their trees up for months after Christmas.

> — and yet, that costs you no more than a
> ordinary, good-quality Christmas Card that you buy in a store!

CROW: You know, the kinds of cards that people like.

>
> No wonder your phone will ring constantly the week before
> Christmas,

TOM: As your phone seeks revenge!

> congratulating you on this amazing Christmas greeting!

MIKE: It’s so amazing, you could buy something that takes nearly ten minutes to make from scratch!

> No
> wonder your friends will beg you to tell them where you got it!

CROW: And you’ll withhold the information, cackling with glee at your casual cruelty.

> No
> wonder they’ll hang it in a place of honor on their tree — take it
> off that tree to show to their friends.

TOM: Thereby defeating the point of hanging it on the tree.

>
> THE PERFECT GREETING FOR YOUR COMPANY OR ASSOCIATES

MIKE: “GREETINGS, COMPANY OR ASSOCIATES!”

TOM: Perfect!

> Wish your clients, customers and business associates
> Good Fortune and Good Luck for this Holiday Season
> and the New Year.

CROW: Their lucky numbers are 24, 33, and 33, and on the back are the Chinese words for “headache” and “potato”.

>
> And how much does all this fun cost you?

TOM: Remember to add the cost of lost dignity.

>
> As you know, regular good-quality Christmas Cards usually
> cost 50c — 75c—even $1

CROW: Two dollars!

TOM: Eighteen dollars!

MIKE: A million dollars!

> or more each!

TOM: Uphill! Both ways!

> But now, if you take
> advantage of this special offer, you can send your friends these
> personalized Chinese Fortune Cooky Christmas Packages — complete —

MIKE: What’s an incomplete fortune cookie?

CROW: That’s where they forget the little laminated bill for the buffet.

> for as little as 32c each!

TOM: That seems kind of pricey for a cookie for 1962.


[ To conclude … ]

MiSTed: I WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO TURN Potatoes into CASH! (Part 2 of 2)


And now let me conclude one of my most giddy, silly Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fictions. As mentioned last week, this started as an advertisement in a 1930s issue of Modern Mechanix. Seems like one of those things that might have been legitimate enough, if you wanted to spend your time and energy making and selling potato chips. I’m going to guess this isn’t how the Better Made chip empire was born, though.

The closing sketch is a riff on the old-time-radio series Lum and Abner, for not much reason besides I like the show. I was getting into it when I wrote this MiSTing originally. (It’s a great example of the 15-minute serial comedy.) And it would not be absurd if Lum and Abner — about two completely guileless Arkansas shopkeepers, often trying some scheme to get some extra money — had a story where they tried to get rich making potato chips.

The end of the sketch has Tom Servo announcing a replacement for Web Site Number Nine. This was a project I was doing back then, to learn PHP and database stuff that might get me a job and also serve the community. I never got happy with the finished project, but I use some of the scripts for that even today, to do all the nice formatting on these MiSTings that give the quoted text a light blue background and that highlights Mike and Joel and Crow and Tom Servo’s names. So if you know someone who’d be willing to pay me, oh let’s say $65,000 pa for that coloring scheme, let me know, okay? Thanks.

The “used Sklar” references the Sklar Brothers, whose Cheap Seats show on ESPN Classic(?) in the early 2000s scratched many of our Mystery Science Theater 3000 itches. But with more sports and spelling bees. I don’t remember whether the blogger gotten for trading Tom Servo meant anyone in particular or just a comment on how, hey, bloggers, they’re always making fun of stuff that doesn’t need it, right?


>
> BIG PROFITS

MIKE: No, bigger!

TOM: It’s a wild profiteeria!

>
> The profits in this business are enormous.

CROW: [ Amused ] They’re potato-y chip-tacular!

> You can
> take $11.50 in raw material

TOM: [ Announcing ] Any raw material! Have some bauxite? Make potato chips with that!

> — run it through the machine

CROW: [ Feebly ] We, ah, we’re still working on this part but it’s going to be great!

> and take out enough chips to bring you $35 cash

MIKE: [ Amused ] Cash or potato chips!

> — selling at
> wholesale. A clear profit for your time of $23.50.

TOM: Wow!

CROW: Why, that’s nearly twenty-four dollars!

MIKE: You can almost buy Manhattan on that potato chip fortune!

> And that’s
> one day’s output for the machine.

CROW: [ Humoring this ] Why, in two days you could make a profit of $47!

> At this rate it is possible
> for a man and wife working together to make $135.00 a week.

TOM: [ Humoring ] Hey, that’s a whole twenty-*seven* dollars a day!

MIKE: [ As the announcer ] The money is just pouring in! And it’s just potatoes and bauxite!

> And now the complete plant — with my new machine —

CROW: I call it … the POTATO machine!

MIKE: It’s amazingly fantastic and chip-based!

> can be
> put into your kitchen or basement

TOM: Or toss it immediately on the pile for the garage sale.

> for less than the down
> payment on a cheap car.

MIKE: Far less than the payment for a whole car company!

>
> SEND POSTAL FOR FREE INFORMATION

CROW: [ Announcing ] Mail anything to anything else!

MIKE: [ Likewise ] Just mail something! You’ll get valuable free information!

TOM: [ Likewise ] And if you meet a Postal then send it!

>
> Send your name and address today on a postal card.

MIKE: [ Announcing ] Include a sample of your favorite potato chip!

> I’ll send you pictures

TOM: *Uh*-oh.

> and information free showing exactly how
> you can start at home and make money the first day.

CROW: Full explanations of what a potato is!

TOM: Clear diagrams show what parts are the skin!

MIKE: Helpful “Frequently Asked Questions” show how to identify a potato in under twenty minutes a day!

> All
> information is Free.

TOM: We make our money selling potato chip toner!

> No obligation.

MIKE: Just your friends and family rolling their eyes and talking to you through clenched teeth!

>
> O. K. MILLER,

TOM: Didn’t he have a series on Mutual Broadcasting?

> 325 W. Huron St.,

CROW: Here on Huron?

TOM: Huron chips!

> Dept. 406 Chicago,
> Illinois

MIKE: Chicago! Potato chip by the Lake!

CROW: 406 potato chips by the Lake!

TOM: Time to blow this popsicle stand.

[ 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … ]


[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. CROW and MIKE are behind the desk, with General Store-type toy junk scattered haphazardly. From one plastic barrel MIKE takes and eats a potato chip. ]

MIKE: [ With an Arkansan accent, kept until the note later on ] Well, if this weren’t one of the most underwhelmed p’tato chips I ever did see.

CROW: [ Similar accent, also kept until the note ] I doggies, Lum, I knowed it, but what are we s’pposed to do ‘gainst the Squire’s p’tato chip monopoly?

MIKE: [ As a jingling bell rings ] Hold on there, that’s a stranger come into our store, ain’t it?

[ TOM, with a bouquet of potato chips in his bubble, enters; he speaks normally but ebulliently. ]

TOM: Gentlemen! Could I interest you in as many potato chips as I have bauxite to make and pass the savings on to you? Please try a sample — my bubble is perfectly hygienic!

[ MIKE samples a chip. ]

MIKE: By gum — this here ‘tato chip tastes like more than p’tatoes!

CROW: Now, that’s plum silly, how can that happen?

MIKE: [ Giving CROW a chip ] But it’s got itself a tasting like they was sour cream and chives in it! Chives!

TOM: Yes! I bring you chives! And at under twenty-three dollars!

CROW: [ Finishing nibbling ] Why if it weren’t the most amazing thing I ever did see! What a future we got ourselves to live in!

TOM: And we are near a breakthrough on dip!

MIKE: [ Folding his hands together, and, bowing — with this, MIKE and CROW give up the accents and resume speaking normally ] And … scene. [ Eating another chip from TOM ] Thank you, gentlemen. Now, Tom, you had a special announcement, didn’t you?

TOM: Why, yes. Our potato chip bit is all in fun —

CROW: [ Muttering to himself ] Potato chip bite.

TOM: *Thank* you, Crow. But for Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fictions or MiSTings, whichever comes first, plus MiSTing quotes yanked out of all context, why not try the shiny new web site

http://www.—–.com/mst3000/

TOM: Thank you, won’t you?

CROW: And what about the Dibs List for future MiSTing authors?

TOM: [ Looking at CROW ] You can’t just let me have my moment, can you? For shame, Crow, for shame.

[ TOM exits, sulking. ]

MIKE: Right, ah, what do you think, sirs?


[ DEEP 13. DR FORRESTER and TV’s FRANK are piling up open baskets of potato chips. TV’s FRANK eats one. ]

FRANK: Dip? Dip?! Why, we’ve almost solved the problem of cheddar cheese potato chips! Get out of here with your dip!

DR F: As the henchling says, gentlemen. Why, at 23 dollars and 50 cents we’ll be rolling in crispy, fried money by tomorrow.

FRANK: Oh, and I’m going to trade Crow for a used Sklar.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. CROW is riled up; MIKE is eating potato chips. ]

CROW: What? Me? What for? Which Sklar?

[ DEEP 13. As before. ]

FRANK: Who knows? Besides, I’m getting a blogger for trading Tom. Hey, Steve, shall I push the button?

DR F: No, Frank, you should push the button.

FRANK: Oh, OK, I’ll do that instea — huh?


                     | 
                  \  |  /
                   \ | /
                    \|/
                -----O-----
                    /|\
                   / | \
                  /  |  \
                     |
                

Mystery Science Theater 3000, its characters and situations and everything are the property of Best Brains, Inc, and don’t think anyone is challenging that at all. O K Miller’s advertisement copy is used for non-commercial parody and commentary purposes so don’t get the idea any infringement-like things are meant. I’m curious how the machine worked. No defamation of the Squire was intended.

Rotisserie League sports have that name because of a group of Philadelphia Phillies fans in early 1980 who gathered at Manhattan’s Rotisserie Francaise restaurant on East 52nd Street for fantasy league meetings. Special thanks for the “tragedy … and party snacks” line as well as to my beta testers.

Keep circulating the posts.

> START YOU in a Profitable Potato Chip Business At Home


[ The End ]

MiSTed: I WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO TURN Potatoes into CASH! (Part 1 of 2)


I’m happy to bring another recovered MiSTing and one I don’t think I’ve read in a five years easily. I remembered having written it, but not most of the riffs on this old Modern Mechanix advertisement. So I’m happy for the rediscovery. This is among my silliest of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fictions. The great bombastic but silly lead of the original material makes it easy to stay goofy. I can certainly hear the Jam Handy Repertory Players narrator reading the advertising copy.

Dr Forrester’s line about “Did you know everything you can count can be turned into money for people who aren’t you?” feels like I’m somehow riffing on the NFT scam, a decade and a half before it was even invented.


[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. CROW and TOM, wearing glasses with pencils tucked against their heads, are going over a mess of papers, as MIKE, wearing a baseball glove and playing with a ball, enters and surveys the scene. ]

TOM: 48 out of 152 by my count.

CROW: Yeah, but there were like a dozen assists.

TOM: They don’t count when you get yelled at for them.

CROW: They do too! Mike! [ Startling MIKE, who drops the ball. ] Tell Tom they count!

MIKE: Tell Tom what counts and for who’s counting, Crow?

TOM: Oh, don’t pad, Mike.

CROW: Our *statistics*, Mike. We’ve got to update our statistics on riffs attempted, riffs completed, laughs gotten, bobbled references, all these things.

MIKE: And this is important … why?

TOM: For our rotisserie league! Sheesh, don’t you follow anything?

MIKE: Constantly. What rotisserie —

[ MADS SIGN flashes. ]

MIKE: Oh, for the love of … hello?

[ DEEP 13. TV’s FRANK is sitting at a collapsible table with many sheets of grid paper and books as he works. DR FORRESTER sits opposite him with a small pile of cash. ]

FRANK: So center seat I’ve got Mike … left seat I’m going to stick with Tom … right seat … what do you think, ten bucks for Crow?

DR F: Absolutely.

FRANK: [ Handing a bill over to DR F ] All right! I got a team!

DR F: [ Pocketing the bill ] You’ve got a rare talent, Frank.

[ DR FORRESTER faces the camera. ]

DR F: Well, now, minions. Did you know everything you can count can be turned into money for people who aren’t you? It can. Now off to the theater and let’s generate some statistics, mmm? Your game today is an advertisement for potato chip manufacture … riff all you want, boys, we’ll make more.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. ]

TOM: Did he just Jay Leno all over us?

CROW: This can only end in tragedy. And party snacks.

[ MOVIE SIGN flashes; general alarm. ]

MIKE: Later, we got movie sign!

[ 6 … 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … ]

[ THEATER. ALL file in. ]

CROW: All right! Tie game so far!

> MODERN MECHANIX

MIKE: And practical jokes!

CROW: Like the spelling.

> AND INVENTIONS
> June 1935

TOM: [ Snorting ] Blazing its way from print, to us, to you.

MIKE: It’s not so much snail-mail as continental-drift-mail.

> http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/05/03/turn-potatoes-into-cash/

TOM: Oh, now we’ve got blog all over the … potatoes into cash? The heck?

>
> I WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO TURN Potatoes into CASH!

MIKE: Worst counterfeiting scheme ever.

>
> START YOU in a Profitable Potato Chip Business At Home

CROW: [ Taking odd offense ] Yeah? Well … start *you* in a profitable potato chip business at home, then!

>
> THE invention of a marvelous new machine

MIKE: Excuse me, that’s [ Booming, announcing ] *A* marvelous *NEW* machine.

> throws the big
> potato-chip market wide open again.

TOM: After the big Ruffles-Lays bailout.

> Even if your community is
> being supplied with old fashioned chips,

CROW: Hand-carved by traditional artisans working under a stern but understanding taskmaster.

> I’ll show you how to
> step in and grab the market,

MIKE: [ Booming ] Unless you meet my demands immediately!

CROW: Won’t the potato chip market be all greasy and have that salt grit all over your fingers?

> rake the profits into your own
> pocket.

TOM: I don’t have a pocket.

MIKE: [ Announcing ] I’ll show you how to afford a pocket!

CROW: I don’t have a rake.

MIKE: [ As above ] You’ll be able to afford a rake!

TOM: A pocket rake!

> You simply manufacture and sell to stores at wholesale
> — let stores sell for you.

CROW: Stores selling things! Why, it’s brilliant!

MIKE: Oh, now, he’s thought of everything.

> I furnish complete plant and
> exact instructions for making profits the first day.

TOM: [ Announcing ] The fourth, sixth, and ninth days you have to wing it!

>
> "GREASELESS" Potato Chips Made by New Machine

MIKE: One hundred percent John-Travola-free in minutes!

>
> Think of it — for the first time —

CROW: They’re right! It’s amazing! For the first time!

TOM: Third time it’s just kind of `huh’.

> a Potato Chip
> from which all excess oil has been extracted by my new
> "wringer".

TOM: [ As the advertiser ] And sold to the worldwide potato oil cartels!

> Look better, taste better, stay fresh longer.

CROW: What if I want to stay fresh wider? What then?

> No
> wonder the public is crazy about this new kind of chip.

MIKE: Potato chips with the great, great taste of guys who buy stuff from Modern Mechanics ads.

> No
> wonder my operators are having such big success,

TOM: And fabulous cash prizes!

> even with no
> experience.

CROW: Even with no potatoes!


[ To conclude … ]

Statistics Saturday: Gifts Given for Squirrel Appreciation Day This Year


Pie chart showing gifts given for Squirrel Appreciation Day. Popular gifts: acorns, peanuts, mixed nuts, more peanuts, walnuts, cashes, the rest of this peanut butter sandwich, the first two seasons of _For All Mankind_ on Blu-Ray so they can finally see what's so great about it, more peanuts, popcorn, texting gloves, and Brazil nuts.
Not listed: burned almonds from all those times it turned out the window to take roasted almonds off the stove is almost 0.0625 seconds long. Also, I want someone to give me For All Mankind on Blu-Ray so I can finally see what’s so great about it.

Reference: The Jersey Game: The History Of Modern Baseball From Its Birth To The Big Leagues In The Garden State, James M DiClerico, Berry J Pavelec.

Reposting The Stages Of The Road Trip: Stage Three


Not mentioned when I first posted this, but implicit, is that much of this is drawn from real life. Preventorium Road, for example, which exists in Howell, New Jersey. (It once had a hospital for children with tuberculosis, which makes the oddness of the name less merry.) Also the vegetarian burgers; there was this place we went a couple of times and every time they had one of the vegetarian burgers that my love and I wanted, so I’d settle for the portobello mushroom. Porbotello mushrooms are what restaurants offer when they feel like they have to offer a vegetarian option but don’t want anyone to actually order it.


It’s still a lot of fun reading the names of the streets off the overpasses. “Fangboner Road” alone threatens to keep the gang giggling for hours. “Preventorium Road” inspires everyone to toss out out their ideas of what this could even mean. This goes on for so long and for such a merry time that by the time anyone can think to look it up they can’t remember what exactly the road name was. They know it wasn’t Vomitorium Road, but that’s as far as the consensus will reach. Amanda’s claim of knowing a “Squankum” are shaken off. It feels like a bad laugh although they’re not sure exactly why.

The fourth great field of sheep is not so much fun as the first. Dan insists the problem is the sheep aren’t trying to be interesting. Sophia asserts that few things would be worse than sheep that compel your interest. The menace of the hypnosheep masters keeps the group’s spirits up for the next two fields of sheep before they sink beneath all possible commentary.

Is that a strip mall with two yoga centers? Josh says it’s three, but he’s definitely mis-reading tea room as a yoga center. Right? We mean it’s one of those tea rooms too fancy to be comfortable. Well, there’s definitely at least two. Maybe this is just the yoga center district of town?

Well, this is a restaurant. All right, it’s not a vegetarian-friendly restaurant. It seems determined to put meat into things that don’t even need it. There’s a high-pressure gun in the kitchen. It injects chicken and processed lobster food product into everything. “We just want some garlic toast,” beg Josh and Amanda. “We don’t need animals to have died for the cause!” The restaurant tries to cope with the concept of someone who wants the tomato soup that hasn’t had a fist-sized chunk of pig flesh ripped off and unked into it. But the effort fails. There’s a mishap in the kitchen, and it sprays chicken cutlets, which are dug out even of the glove box up to three months later. At least that’s how the story goes. Really it’s more that the waitstaff has to come back to apologize that they don’t have a second black-bean burger patty, would a portobello mushroom be all right? And it really wouldn’t, but Josh would take it to not cause trouble for people who have to deal with much worse customers. It’s all right, since it turns out they don’t have portobello either. He gets a plate of melted butter with a scoop of mashed potatoes. Later he tries to insist that mashed potatoes would be a good substitute for the burger patty, earning him so much grief.

That’s a weird bunch of sheep but nobody wants to reopen the subject.

All right but serious talk. Or anyway, comparing the bathroom stuff that different hotels give you. Everyone takes turns asserting they’ve seen the most preposterous blend of things. Sophia claims to have been at a long-term hotel once that had a single tube which claimed to be soap, skin lotion, shampoo, hair conditioner, toothpaste, mouthwash, energy drink, makeup remover, transparent nail polish, shoe polish, stain remover, windshield fluid, transmission fluid, and fish ick treatment. Two miles later she says she thinks she went on too long for the laugh she could possibly get. Dan says that a combination mouthwash and energy drink is a great idea and she should patent that. Amanda questions whether you could patent … what, coffee with way too much mint? This allows everyone to learn a little bit more about each other, as they say what kinds of things they can or can’t eat right after brushing their teeth. This causes everyone to realize their friends are daft. This is worse than when they learned what podcasts everyone else listened to.

All right but is that a two-story strip mall? Is it possible to be a strip mall if it has got a second story? Yeah, we know about that strip mall with the two-story Borders that used to be there, but that was just the one place. If the mall has a second floor with different shops upstairs isn’t that … well, we clearly don’t have the words for this concept. What is it and how many yoga centers can it have?

Reposting The Stages Of The Road Trip: Stage Two


A couple years after my original posting of this? I still listen to all those podcasts. Well, except for the one that ended.


The gang is ready to set off. It’s going to be a long trip. Maybe the longest they’ve ever made. Maybe the longest there ever will be. Anyway it’s at least two hours longer than the last one the group’s managed. Dan is not saying that if he were in charge he would set up a definite rotation for driving. He’s just saying that a definite rotation for driving would be good. After the third iteration of this Sophia answers that if they rotate too much they’ll end up right back where they started. Amanda has the bad luck to mention 180 degrees in this. This brings lively but unproductive talk about the differences between 180 degree, 360 degree, and 720 degree turns. Dan attempts to propose a 270 degree turn just to lighten the subject.

Still, better if we set out sooner rather than later. No, sooner than that. Maybe a bit earlier than that. After three different chat rooms have settled on five different start times Dan proposes that everyone set out the night before and meet up at the park-and-ride twenty minutes out of everywhere. He’s being facetious, everyone tells themselves.

The compromise is to move the start time 90 minutes earlier. The morning of the start everyone is running about an hour late, so they agree to just start 30 minutes ahead of the original start time. Then somehow just getting everything in the trunk and one last trip to the bathroom takes 75 minutes. Josh insists that by starting 45 minutes late they’re running ahead of schedule. Dan is not convinced by this. It will be until the state welcome center before the topic has been debated enough that everyone lets it drop.

The seat belts are locking up. Just the ones in back. They do that. There’s a trick to it. You have to sit so you’re facing forward. No, not that forward. Dan, just … no, you need to … there, see? Now it’s pulling out. All right, now it’s locked up. Maybe you should get out and get back in the car the correct way this time. No, the other correct way. Look, both feet on the floor, that’s the first thing you need. Now face forward. Not that much forward. All right, why don’t you try the other side? That’s right. Now sit facing forward. Not that much forward. Don’t pull the seat belt out that fast. All right, let it out and back again. Not that slow. You want to go medium speed. More medium than that. Not that … look, this is before your turn but why don’t you try the front seat? Oh good grief. All right, let’s try where you started again. Right. You know most of us can use a seat belt. Yes, try facing forward. Not that forward.

Fine, we just won’t crash the car this time.

There is a great sense of thrill and delight at finally being off. And then stopping again because Sophia needs to stop at the convenience store ATM for some overpriced money. Dan does too. Also Josh. Amanda doesn’t need any but, you know, it wouldn’t hurt to get some Combos. This turns into getting sour cream doughnuts instead. And then there is great thrill at being off again.

There is also great thrill at seeing the trip’s first group of sheep. Who knew there were sheep and they were just standing there, tending sheep tasks, off on the side of the road, just like that was a normal thing? So, sheep. Yeah.

This is the time when everyone learns their friends have the worst taste in podcasts. Josh is partial to three guys laughing at each other, with occasional guest hosts. Dan prefers one guy trying to remember all the things he wrote down in the notes he doesn’t have. Sophia likes one person interviewing three people about something she never heard of before and will never hear about again. Amanda likes hyperbolic descriptions of movies and TV shows she never really watched, they were just on. Sometimes two or three can find a podcast that satisfies them, but there is no hope of all four enjoying what they’re listening to. The shows keep getting interrupted for explanations of the in-jokes that don’t need explanation.

It’s pointed out that if the trip doesn’t ultimately have a 360 degree turn then they can’t ever get home again.

What has placed an undue strain on my credulity today


Wait, you expect me to believe this whole factory — the entire thing, building, machinery, stock, even the staff — is made of cheesecake? No, my friend. I remember how I was fooled by tales of a factory made wholly of old spaghetti. I shall not buy into this.

I do however want cheesecake.

Reposting The Stages Of The Road Trip: Stage One


The series may be awkwardly titled. But I still like this bit from autumn 2019 about going on a road trip. Writing the first one, I realized I had something, when I got to about a thousand words and didn’t feel half started. Usually my best ideas peter out at about 500 words and I need to spend a couple days thinking to have a second idea to bring in. So please enjoy this glimpse of a time when getting a bunch of people together and driving somewhere wasn’t an irresponsible thing to do.


The gang agrees a road trip would be great. It’s been so long since the last one. There’s not going to be many more good chances this year. The weather’s getting to be more of itself. Work is getting busier. There’s the chance the state might discontinue roads for the rest of the year. No telling. If we don’t get to it soon we might never start at all.

Which car to use? There’s the obvious choice. That’s the one that would reach its scheduled service mileage about one-third of the way through the trip. That’s … something we could handle? … Right? … Daniel insists he can handle it. Nobody believes it. The cashier at Pita Pit asks Daniel if he’s all right, or if he’s lying about something powerfully important to him. The guy at the car wash just leans in and hugs him, saying, “I don’t know why but, man, something about you says you need this. Whatever it is, it’ll get better.” Amanda’s the first to admit this won’t work, though, even after finding car dealerships roughly along the planned path.

It’ll be Josh’s car instead. It’s less comfortable. But Josh insists he’s glad to host the trip. “It’ll be great! I can finally get updates to all my state maps!” Nobody’s sure whether this is serious. But in that little cubbyhole in his car doors are a lot of maps. So many maps. Gas station maps. Maps from Esso gas stations. A map of the Washington, D.C. area that still shows “Lee Family Estate” where Arlington National Cemetery should be. A map showing the Colonie of Nieuw-Nederland. It’s pristine. His car is three years old. There have always been things about Josh nobody understood. Now, knowing a little more, everyone knows him less.

Road snack purchases are a hot debate. There’s the faction that wants things bought ahead of time, so the gang can set off without false starts. There’s the faction that sees the false start as tradition. There’s the faction that insists there’s rest areas on the highway for a reason. Amanda tries to be the sensible one and insists road snacks aren’t necessary if everyone just eats good meals. There seem to be more factions than people going.

Fourteen hours of heated debate spread over three chat groups, none of which have all the participants in it, agrees at least to go to the same convenience store and stock up. This after ninety minutes of argument about the supermarket being cheaper. Or the neighborhood grocery store being better for the long term economic health of small business all right THANK YOU we get it. It’s twenty-five bucks’ worth of Fritos, economic justice doesn’t enter into it.

The cooler issue will not settle. There’s good economic reasons to get bottles of soda, even small bottles, and keep them in cooler. This crashes into the faction that fresh-poured fountain drinks taste better. A hard-shell cooler works better but bangs the knees of everyone in back. A soft-shell cooler fits between people but Sophia’s read things about breeding bacteria? Somehow? It’s all very tiring.

The day before the trip the low-tire-pressure light comes on. Josh has a pressure gauge for just this problem. It’s not the front driver’s side tire. It’s not the rear driver’s side tire. It’s not the front passenger’s side tire. It’s not the rear passenger’s side tire. Two hours of increasingly cross words follow in three of the now-five group chats. Fourteen separate web searches for symptoms follow. Eight of them end up on Yahoo Answers. Despair sets in. Sophia has the breakthrough insight: could it be the spare tire? Yes, it could, but it is not. Thirty minutes later the low-tire-pressure light stops lighting. Daniel offers it was his suggestion to put electrical tape over the dashboard that did it. The real explanation remains unknown. Perhaps the tires just wanted some attention.

“Fritos are not a matter of economic justice” becomes the newest in-joke for the group. Three and a half years later it switches to being Cheetos not being a matter of economic justice. No one is able to explain this phenomenon. It becomes a matter of great angry debate when anyone tries to insist that it was originally Fritos.

The level I’m operating at today


Spent a long, long time chuckling at how this “Smoky Carolina BBQ” vegan jerky advertised itself with a picture of Kentucky, a state that is neither North or South Carolina, before finally noticing the company name is “Louisville” and that’s the largest single thing on the entire package.

Photograph of a package of Louisville Vegan Jerky Company's Smoky Carolina BBQ. Under the 'Smoky Carolina BBQ' is a picture of Kentucky, with a dot representing Louisville. While 'Smokey Carolina BBQ' as the flavor is prominent, the word 'LOUISVILLE' is more than twice as large.
Part of the trouble may be that I don’t eat jerky, so it shouldn’t much matter to me where it comes from.

So this week as you see me not understanding things, consider, this is my understanding-things baseline.

I’m Out of Practice. Is This a Thing?


I’m trying to get back into writing short stuff, but, you know. I’m out of practice. Is this a thing?

The dragon was nonplussed by the offering of a vast quantity of fish. after a lot of thought the dragon explained, “You must have got something wrong … I don’t have a hoard of herring. I’m just a little deaf in this ear.”

Anyway please let me know on a scale of things, ranging from “a small thing” such as maybe an apple slicer through to “a reasonable-sized thing” such as a loaf of ciabatta bread. On looking back over this, also, I’m not sure I’m not just hungry.

Statistics Saturday: What Some Cooking Terms Mean


  • Brazened Apples. To take apples or any other fruit with edible skin and subject them to a display of outrageous behavior.
  • Deglaze. To take food off the window.
  • Reassembled Eggs. Scrambled or stirred eggs which have been placed back into a shell or similar hard container. It is not necessary to unstir them; if one does, the result is called “Delmonico Eggs”.
  • Oignon Brute. A half-peeled onion placed on a skillet in a manner characteristic of 1960s and 70s architecture, generally reliant on concrete, with the working structure implied by the shapes of the visible exterior or of elements within the living interior space.
  • Adumbrate. To set a relish or other briny material on the shelf in the pantry by mistake until you remember it maybe should be refrigerated, but you’re not sure if that’s really necessary or just cautious.
  • Roast Jeté. To set something in the oven while jumping.
  • Discoursing the Meat. To remove the edible part of an artichoke from a golf course or other public walkway.
  • Naked Spaghetti. The most dangerous pasta.
  • Icing. To make any kind of food wait for you.
  • Serendipity Sauce. Any process which moistens your cooking surface without your effort, including the automatic sprinklers going off.
  • Blornching. To over-stir the meat, meat substitute, or thick pudding, to the point you neglect everything else, and you end up not even liking the meat either.
  • Escanaba. (Localism.) To have or serve food in Michigan’s upper peninsula.
  • Scowling Cheese. Any hard or semi-soft cheese which has been made to disapprove.
  • Western-Fried (as in steak). To southern-fry something while lost.
  • Chunked Wheat. To sort into four or fewer categories a pile of flour or other wheat product.

Reference: Defining NASA: The Historical Debate Over The Agency’s Mission, W D Kay.

Statistics Saturday: What Your Most Common Misspelling Of “Parmesan” Says About You


  • Parmesean. Your family had the joke pronunciation of “par-mee-see-anne” and now you are willing to fight for it.
  • Parmisan. You understand vowels are flexible things but darn it, you have to call it as you hear it.
  • Parrrmesan. You think Talk Like A Pirate Day should last longer.
  • Parmejean. You wish to encourage Italian, as a language, to do more with the letter ‘j’.
  • Parrmeesianne. You have a hard time stopping once you’ve really got started on something.
  • Parmsan. You are in a hurry and don’t have time for this.
  • Sherbert. You misunderstand questions.
  • Parmasan. Your ability to spell this was ruined forever by learning the cheese comes from Parma.
  • The Green Bottle Of Cheese. You are so afraid of typos that you forget it’s not kept in a bottle but rather a canister.
  • Parm. You hope to acquire prestige by posing as closer to cheese than you are.

Reference: Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation, Peter L Bernstein.

Statistics Saturday: Some Fictional Spices


  • Paragon
  • Oleomangels
  • Antitheseed
  • Dingo peppers
  • Melankonkus
  • Qualia
  • Mega-vanilla
  • Oregoo-no-look-out-it’s-loose
  • Sysop
  • Manganese
  • Vermillion Sands
  • Hypochondria
  • False Coriander
  • Balsam and Soapbark, Radio’s Smile-A-While Boys
  • Cassio

Reference: Amelia Earhart: A Biography, Doris L Rich.

60s Popeye: Popeye in the Woods and … did Wimpy invent the bacon cheeseburger?


Today’s is a cartoon from 1960. I always lead with that, but I want that year particularly remembered. The story is by Ed Nofziger, and the animation direction by Eddie Rehberg. So you know the producer (and director) was Jack Kinney. So, again, from 1960, here’s Popeye in the Woods.

This is another cartoon that feels like two cartoon ideas pushed together. In particular, it feels like a regular cartoon onto which a public service announcement was grafted, like Gene Deitch’s Tooth Be Or Not Tooth Be. Here, it’s a camping cartoon plus a warning about not setting the forest on fire.

So it sends Popeye and Wimpy out to the woods, past a quick shot of commanding billboards, to sleep. They’re out in the open, without even sleeping bags. Popeye is kept awake by the quiet sounds of the woods. Apart from a squirrel dropping an acorn and a frog beating its chest, these are all insects. Or mushrooms popping up. I’m not sure why it’s almost all insect noises, except I guess for the comic exaggeration that a caterpillar is so very slight a sound.

There’s also the good comic instinct that Wimpy falls asleep and stays asleep. This after complaining he wanted hamburgers that Popeye said they couldn’t cook here. Wimpy snores, so we know he’s asleep. But he’s also interrupted by mutterings about hamburgers. And the most interesting one is a muttering, “hamburger with cheese and bacon”.

So, do you know the story of The Bacon Cheeseburger? Granting, yes, it’s always hard to track down where foods actually started. But the least-disputed claim is that bacon cheeseburgers first appeared at an A&W restaurant on then-US 16 in Lansing, Michigan. In 1963. (The road is now either Grand River Avenue or Cesar Chavez Avenue, depending on where the restaurant was.) Then-franchise-owner Dave Mulder thought the cheeseburger would be even better with bacon, and what do you know, was right. (Mulder would go on to be chairman of A&W, so, good instincts all around.) Granted, it’s absurd to suppose that no person ever had the thought of putting bacon on a cheeseburger before 1963. This still seems like an early publication of the idea.

And this is not Wimpy’s only act of food pioneering this cartoon. After Popeye finally silences the forest, the quiet wakes him up. Again, good story structure there. Wimpy sees the mushrooms that appeared and declares “mushroom-burgers are delicious”. He sets them grilling on what seems more like a mushroom kebab than anything else, but, still. Today, restaurants offer portobello mushrooms, for vegetarians who want something like a burger only disappointing. When did that start? When did that become widespread? People aren’t copying Wimpy’s inspiration here, right?

A chagrinned Wimpy imagines the burned-out forest, with survivor raccoon, two deer, and a rabbit crying over their fates.
If that were a skunk rather than a raccoon, I would wonder whether former Disney animator Jack Kinney was alluding to the movie version of Bambi. I’m still a bit curious whether that was still the goal but they thought a skunk would be a distraction in a way a raccoon wasn’t.

Wimpy’s campfire starts a forest fire, and Popeye eats his spinach so he can stomp it out. Wimpy has to jump into the water to put himself out, and ruins his mushroom-burger-kebab. And Popeye explains how bad forest fires are, starting from the killed trees to the displaced animals to the floods and human misery that result. And then cooks a chagrinned Wimpy some hamburgers, in a proper grill, because he’s Popeye the safety-in-the-woods man.

As with the tooth cartoon I’d like to know if this was meant to be a public service. I wouldn’t think it hard to fill a whole five minutes with camping jokes, especially since so much of the time was jokes about not being able to get to sleep. It makes more sense they couldn’t find five minutes of jokes about woodland fire safety, at least not before deadline. It would also make sense of Wimpy feeling regret about the innocents he might have harmed.

And I would so like to know whether Wimpy bestowed on us all the bacon cheeseburger and the portobello mushroom burger and didn’t even make a fuss of it.

Statistics Saturday: Some Failed Ways To Reheat Pizza


  • Set it in the microwave without turning the microwave on.
  • Transfer the pizza repeatedly from one thermos bottle to another.
  • Get people on social media talking about it a lot.
  • Give the pizza a stern lecture about the importance of conserving its heat.
  • Set the pizza in a hot bath.
  • Ask your neighborhood’s ice elemental to never cold your pizza up. This may involve a Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck-like argument about “you will” “I won’t” “you will” “I won’t” “You won’t” “I will” “Have it your way, Doc.”
  • Set the pizza on top of a coffee mug that, on inspection, turns out to hold iced tea.
  • Hypnotize the pizza.
  • Shine a laser on it, but it’s one of those keychain lasers you get as a gift when the department wants you to not actually feel better about working there.
  • Engage the pizza in a heated debate.
  • Embarrass your pizza by reminding it of that one time it had a Tweet go a little viral and it misspelled “public” and it was twenty responses in before someone pointed it out.
  • Wrap the pizza in some cute sweaters.

Reference: Airborne Trailblazer: Two Decades with NASA Langley’s 737 Flying Laboratory, Lane E Wallace.

(I didn’t plan to pair this with Popeye’s Pizza Palace, but what the heck.)

60s Popeye: Popeye’s Pizza Palace, an exciting journey into pizza-themed madness


Popeye’s Pizza Palace is a 1960 Jack Kinney joint. The story and the animation direction are both Eddie Rehberg’s doing. It’s … a cartoon, certainly.

It’s hard to imagine now but there was a time when just mentioning pizza was a sure-fire laugh line. Foods go through this as they become part of The American Diet. In the 80s, sushi was such a crazy idea that saying someone liked it was the shorthand way to establish they were Not From Around Here. Possibly not from the planet. I recall a Fred Allen quip, circa 1940, where he described a bagel as “a doughnut with a hangover”, an image funny enough it doesn’t matter it doesn’t make sense. Somewhere in my copybook is a note about H L Mencken protesting the people who eat olives instead of a good normal salty food like anchovies.

Snoopy, in his doghouse, which is just under the eaves of the Brown house from which a giant icile dangles, thinks: 'I'm doomed!' Inside, Lucy watches Charlie Brown place a call. Charlie Brown: 'Hello, Humane Society? We need your advice ... how do you get a dog out of a doghouse before an icicle falls on him?' To Lucy: 'He said to try coaxing him out with his favorite food ... something he just can't resist ... ' As he picks up the phone he asks, 'What's the number of 'Villella's Take-Out Pizza Parlor''?'
Charles Schulz’s Peanuts for the 12th of February, 1960, from a story that even as a kid I thought was weird because since when is Snoopy’s doghouse right next to the main house? And why the quote marks around “Villella’s Take-Out Pizza Parlor”?

So. The late 50s/early 60s were pizza’s turn to be really hilarious as everybody in America discovered they liked the basic idea. This observation gives us the premise, sure. It also gives us the choice to fit the word “pizza” into every line of dialogue. It’s a bold choice, one that works in a way I’m not sure Rehberg intended. Like, I believe Rehberg figured he was stuffing the dialogue with a zany funny word. But the endless repetition ends up creating this absurdist word music and I got into that.

Popeye holds up his 'parasol pizza', an umbrella whose surface, apparently, is a pizza. There's olives dangling from the edges.
Does … does Popeye know how people generally use pizza in their lives?

The whole — I can’t really call this a story. The whole scenario has this absurdist air. It starts with Popeye juggling pizzas and shuffling a stack of pizzas like cards, and ignoring Wimpy’s pleas for hamburger pizzas. The absurdity grows as Popeye lists a bunch of bonkers pizza concepts. This includes the doughnut pizza you eat from the inside out, the sun bonnet pizza, the parasol pizza, and the Leaning Tower of Pizza. (Every time my Dad drove me up Route 17 in North Jersey he’d point out where the Leaning Tower of Pizza restaurant used to be in the 60s.) There’s not a one of them that customer Brutus is at all interested in. It sneaks up on those Monty Python “dictionary” sketches where they run through asking the same thing four hundred different ways.

Popeye tugs a circle of pizza dough down his head, looking uncannily like the Fat Albert character 'Dumb' Donald. Both of Popeye's eyes are visible through the pizza dough.
You may ask why Popeye has two eyes peering through a layer of pizza dough here, but if we’re going to be honest, having just the one eye would somehow be hideous. Instead it just looks like that Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids character you remember as being named Mushmouth, but who was in fact “Dumb” Donald.

As a story there’s not much here to make sense. Wimpy trying to cadge “hamburger pizzas”, sure. Turning to Brutus when Popeye won’t even answer him? Sure. Brutus offering to buy Wimpy pizza? All right. Popeye then asking Brutus what he wants, leading to the long string of baffling concept pizzas? Introducing the weird pizza conveyor belt? Brutus deciding he wants a tamale pizza and Popeye getting red-hot furious at this idea? I can’t figure any motivation here. It’s all people tossing off strange sets of words into an absurd universe.

Because it’s an odd moment, to close off a string of odd moments, let me share Popeye’s closing rhyme:

I’m Popeye the Pizza Man
I’m Popeye the Pizza Man
I beats ’em and rolls ’em
As fast as I can
‘Cause I’m Popeye the Sailor Man!
Pizza!

This is an apt summary of the cartoon.

Popeye stands behind his counter, holding up a pizza, vertically, to the audience. On the pie are the words 'The Pizza Ends'.
Fun activity: what scene in this cartoon, if any, convinced you that the animators knew exactly what a pizza was and how it looked?

MiSTed: Eating for Death, Part 2 of 2


Did you enjoy the first half of Eating For Death? This was another of my pieces of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fictions, written in late 2015 I believe, and taking apart an article from the March 1922 issue of Physical Culture. I bet Bernarr Macfadden is felling all foolish about his whole crusade to get people to eat when they’re hungry instead of bored or feeling obligated. The very unneeded joke about the Snorks is there because I was reading the Wikipedia article about the Snorks for some reason and that stuck in my mind. I apologize for putting the Snorks in your mind now too.


>
> The “eat-to-keep-up-your-strength” idea that
> has been advocated for generations by allopathic
> physicians,

CROW: *And* Popeye!

MIKE: Gotta respect Popeye on strength.

> has sent, literally, millions of people to
> premature graves.

TOM: Underneath a giant avalanche of casseroles and loaves of bread!

>
> Even a person in good health can miss one meal or
> fifty meals, for that matter, without serious results.

CROW: Fifty meals! You’d be spending your whole day eating at that rate.

TOM: You know you miss all the meals you don’t eat.

> But abstinence of some sort is absolutely essential if
> appetite is missing; and is especially necessary in many
> illnesses.

MIKE: Like chronic mouthlessness.

TOM: McWhirtle’s Indigestibility Fever.

CROW: Temporarily made of cardboard; can’t take liquids.

>
> There is no sauce better than hunger;

CROW: Except bleu cheese salad dressing.

> and there
> can be no health of a superior sort, unless food is eaten
> with enjoyment.

MIKE: Wait, so now enjoyment is a sauce?

CROW: *Yes*, and it’s made of bleu cheese.

>
> When you eat a meal with what is known as a
> “coming appetite”

TOM: My appetite went upstairs and it can’t find the way back.

CROW: “The stairs are past the third door!”

MIKE: “I can’t find the door!”

CROW: “Are you in a room or in the hall?”

MIKE: “I … don’t know?”

> you are often treading on dangerous
> ground. This “coming appetite” is often due to
> overstimulation of nerves

MIKE: By the penetrating electropasta needles.

> rather than to natural bodily
> demand, and is, therefore, frequently of the voracious
> character. It compels you to overeat.

TOM: To be fair, ordering a box of Hypnofood didn’t help.

> You are not
> satisfied until you eat so much you cannot hold any more.

CROW: Eat until fingers don’t work. Got it.

>
> At such times a fast is often necessary. But if
> you cannot do that it is absolutely essential that the
> meals should be very light,

TOM: Chew on a balloon, or possibly a bulb of some kind.

MIKE: Any method of general illumination will do.

> if you desire to avoid
> illness that might be serious in character.

CROW: Try illnesses that are lighthearted in character, such as clown flu and the a deficiency in vitamin giggle.

>
> Three square meals a day will send any one to an
> early grave.

TOM: Diversify your meal with triangles and ellipsoids.

> You may be able to follow a regime of this
> sort in growing years, but when full maturity arrives
> look out for trouble if you persist in this habit.

MIKE: In your fallow years just sit in the middle of a room not eating and waiting for death to overcome you.

>
> Three light meals or two medium heavy meals daily
> will prolong your life and increase your efficiency
> mentally and physically.

CROW: Four times a day grab an open-faced sandwich.

TOM: Six times a day, just gnaw on the kitchen counter.

MIKE: When feeling restless, lick an oven door.

>
> I eat but one hearty meal a day, and that is
> preferably taken at noon, though sometimes it is eaten in
> the evening. Occasionally I eat a light meal in the
> morning or evening,

MIKE: Thursdays I spend passed out in a bathtub full of potato salad.

> if I have a craving for food, though
> these light meals frequently consist of fruit alone or
> nuts and fruit with a warm or hot drink.

TOM: Occasionally I rub a slice of lettuce against one cheek.

>
> But the main point that I want to emphasize is

CROW: Food is a good idea but it will never be made practical.

> the necessity of avoiding the habit of eating by the
> clock — without appetite.

TOM: Wait until your clock cries and then feed it all it needs.

>
> Wait for a definite feeling of hunger. Let your
> stomach dictate your eating habits.

MIKE: And leave me some of the garlic-stuffed olives, people.

>

> http://blog.modernmechanix.com/eating-for-death/

CROW: I had death for lunch, can’t we have joi de vivre for supper?

MIKE: Who wants a bowl of hot, buttered MURDER?

TOM: And with that, everybody, good night and be merry!

MIKE: Happy.

TOM: Whichever.

CROW: Night, folks.

                                       |
                                    \  |  /
                                     \ | /
                                      \|/
                                   ----O----
                                      /|\
                                     / | \
                                    /  |  \
                                       |

Disclaimer: Mystery Science Theater 3000, its characters and situations and premise and all that, are the property of … uh … I was going to say Best Brains, but I guess it’s Shout! Factory and Consolidated Puppets? Or something? I’m not positive. Well, it’s theirs, and I’m just using it as long as they don’t notice. Bernarr Macfadden’s “Eating For Death” appeared in the _Physical Culture_ magazine from March 1922 and I believe it to be in the public domain. I ran across it from the Modern Mechanix blog linked above, and it’s a crying shame that’s gone defunct because it was so much fascinating reading. Supporting Snorks: Sad Wikipedia sub-section, or saddest Wikipdia sub-section?

> You can be a palpitating force, a veritable human
> dynamo, or you can be a half-alive mass of human
> flesh — not unlike the jelly-fish.

MiSTed: Eating For Death, Part 1 of 2


So I’m going to run another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic here. This one’s short enough to do in two segments — it’s a bit long for a single piece — and it’s riffing on an article of dietary advice that the Modern Mechanix blog ran years ago. They used to run weird bits from the back issues of their magazines and it was such a delight. I wrote this somewhere around late 2015, if my notes are right. See if you can spot where I future-proofed a riff!


[ START. The Brains are in the theater. ]

>
> Eating for Death

TOM: My favorite _Columbo_ episode! Patrick McGoohan plays this world-famous chef being blackmailed and …

>
> By Bernarr Macfadden

CROW: Um …

TOM: Yeah, exactly which parts of that name are spelled wrong?

>
> _Physical Culture_, March 1922

MIKE: I forgot to renew my subscription!

>
> THE crime of the age is meal time eating — without
> appetite.

CROW: Also that Sacco and Vanzetti thing. But mostly eating.

TOM: Snacking is the misdemeanor of the age!

>
> It is the direct cause of more suffering,
> weakness and disease than any other evil.

CROW: Even more than not appreciating your parents?

>
> It poisons the life stream at its very source.

TOM: Its Snackables!

>
> “The blood is the life.”

MIKE: The spice is the life?

TOM: The blood is spiced?

> The quality of this
> liquid determines vital activity throughout every part of
> the body.

CROW: I think Bernarr Macfadden grossly underestimates the importance of acetylcholinesterase.

MIKE: You’re *always* accusing people of underestimating the importance of acetylcholinesterase.

CROW: I just think it’s very important is all.

>
> You can be a palpitating force, a veritable human
> dynamo,

TOM: You can be a large turtle-like artificial intelligence!

CROW: You can be a leading importer of cheese to Denmark!

MIKE: You can be several key innovations in the history of Timothy hay!

> or you can be a half-alive mass of human
> flesh — not unlike the jelly-fish.

CROW: Jellyfish are made of human flesh?

TOM: Ew ew ew ew ew ew *ew*.

> It is the quality of
> your blood that determines entirely to which class you
> belong.

CROW: Is this gonna be one of those stories where Bernarr Macfadden finds out his blood was replaced with a high-grade polymer and suddenly nobody will talk to him anymore?

>
> Eating without appetite means devitalized blood.

MIKE: Or that you’re putting more melted cheese on everything.

> The stomach is not ready to digest food at such times.

TOM: It’s off wandering around, taking in museums, reading good books, and then you throw a big slab of bean-and-cheese burrito at it.

>
> It is appetite — a strong craving for food —

CROW: A lesser craving for pottery shards.

> which
> definitely indicates that the stomach is ready for
> digestion.

TOM: Why not just wait for the stomach to call?

CROW: Yeah, like, ‘Hey, stomach here. I’m raring to digest!’

> The food eaten is then keenly enjoyed.

MIKE: Well, it is like 2016.

TOM: So?

MIKE: So who calls for *that*? That’s more like a tweet or a text message or something.

CROW: Excuse *us* for maintaining some dignified propriety, Mike.

>
> The pleasure in eating serves a very valuable
> purpose.

MIKE: It gives us a reason to go eat a second time, sometime.

> It not only causes an unusual activity of the
> salivary glands, but also of the glands of the stomach.

TOM: Glands! Is your stomach going through puberty?

CROW: It’s so awkward to have esophageal zits.

> So that when the food arrives in this organ, digestion
> and assimilation progress rapidly and satisfactorily.

MIKE: Though not without some sarcasm.

>
> Now when you eat without appetite, these
> invaluable functional processes are inactive or entirely
> absent

TOM: They take one sabbatical year and everything comes crashing down!

> and the food can do nothing but lie like lead in
> the stomach.

MIKE: Stop eating lead! There’s your problem.

>
> You say it won’t digest.

TOM: *You* say it won’t digest. We’re just nibbling some here.

> Why should it? No
> self-respecting stomach will allow itself to be outraged
> in this manner, without protest.

MIKE: My stomach’s wracked with depression and low self-esteem though.

CROW: Well, so you can eat any old time.

MIKE: Which … fits.

>
> Eat at meal time if you are hungry, but if the
> food has no taste respect the mandates of your stomach

MIKE: And sprinkle on the MSG powder.

> and wait until the next meal or until your appetite
> appears, even if it takes several meals or several days.

TOM: If you never eat again, then you may be losing weight.

[ To conclude … ]

60s Popeye: Wimpy’s Lunch Wagon so why is it about Popeye?


We have seen the name W Schmidt before. He was credited or co-credited for the story for Popeye the Popular Mechanic, for Popeye the Piano Mover, and Popeye the White Collar Man. The Internet Movie Database also credits him for the story for Popeye the Fireman, though the title card says otherwise. Given that pedigree it’s odd to see a cartoon suggesting Wimpy gets a job instead. Volus Jones gets the animation direction credit, and Jack Kinney produced. Here’s the 1960 sort Wimpy’s Lunch Wagon.

Why is Wimpy in this? I trust Wimpy enjoys rare expertise in the eating arts. But in cooking? Why not Rough House, who does run a cafe, and who in the 1960s was finally allowed into animation? It’s got me wondering which studios got to use which minor Thimble Theatre characters, although it’s far too late for me to start tracking that. All the character does is leave Popeye in charge, and then come back to see the aftermath of the chaos. That doesn’t have to be the more familiar Wimpy.

But also, why does Popeye need an excuse to be in charge of something? W Schmidt was comfortable giving Popeye jobs like piano-mover or fireman without explaining how he got there. Why not short-order cook too? It would make more sense out of pleasant little jokes like Popeye observing how the newspaper guy never misses.

In the kitchen, Brutus laughs at Popeye, who's fallen and is covered by a set of pots and pans and strainers and such. Popeye's oversized spinach hoagie sits on a table.
My friends with kitchen jobs tell me it’s like this all the time.

The conflict, once it starts, is Brutus pushing a juke box into the restaurant and shoving the organ-grinder (and monkey) out. This is surprisingly realistic, given how vicious the coin-op business could be back in the day. Popeye’s lucky not to have got shoved into a pinball machine. Brutus moves in, to “protect me business interests”, and we get a quick version of the Brutus-grabs-Olive-Oyl, Popeye-rescues-her storyline. It’s all ordinary enough, but well done and nicely decorated. There’s fun bits like Olive Oyl calling “save me, sir knight!” to a Popeye covered in tin pans. Or Olive Oyl answering Popeye “we’re out of duck … oh, that kind!” when she has to dodge. I don’t have any serious complaints about any of this; it does its business well. I just don’t see what Wimpy adds to the events, besides a punch line that everybody forgot the organ-grinder.

60s Popeye: Spinach Shortage and so is Brutus just a food tycoon this cartoon?


We have many things to thank Jack Kinney for, this cartoon. One is producing and directing it. Another is the story. Animation direction’s credited to Alan Zaslove, though. Here’s the 1960 short Spinach Shortage.

Ask someone to describe a Popeye cartoon and they’ll give you a plot-driven summary. Popeye and Olive are doing something, Bluto/Brutus horns in, Popeye eats his spinach, beats up the bad guy. But ask what makes a Popeye cartoon interesting, especially the black-and-white ones. You get a response more useful to making lasting cartoons: it’s the mood. Popeye facing a silly or perilous situation and muttering silly comments. If you want a good Popeye cartoon, get a premise and a couple solid scenes riffing on it.

Spinach Shortage isn’t quite there. It’s got a good premise. Bluto/Brutus has tried to deny Popeye spinach before (see the inspired How Green Is My Spinach) but the idea is sound. And it takes a different angle here: Brutus has cornered the world spinach market and just won’t sell to … well, there’s a mystery.

Is this cartoon’s Brutus trying to get Popeye? Or just to get rich? He spends a lot more time chuckling about the rise of spinach prices than about what this is doing to Popeye. At one point he says how spinach has gone up to 10.25 per ton, and later to 50 per ton. That seems low, even for 60-year-old prices. But what do I know the price-per-ton of spinach? This brought me to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service report on spinach commodity pricing. This brought me to learn I don’t know how to read a USDA Agricultural Marketing Service report on spinach commodity pricing. I can see where most every market is “steady” or “about steady”, which seems nice. Another site says that in 2014 spinach for canning was about $68 per ton, so I guess Brutus’s quotations were in line.

Sign reading 'SOLD OUT!'
Yeah, I remember when spinach was something you ate for the music. Now? It’s all about affecting a consumerist pose. Total sellouts.

Back on point, though. The cartoon has this dreamlike flow to it. Popeye stocked up his spinach supply last week. It evaporates as he walks over to it. Popeye searches and finds nothing but store signs about there being no spinach. Popeye tries to break in to Brutus’s warehouses. The scenes feel like when Speedy Gonzales is trying to break into the cheese factory past Sylvester or Daffy Duck. Except the plot demands Popeye fail in ways Speedy can’t. Popeye tries riding a balloon into the warehouse, and falls into the sewer, to climb into the warehouse, and find he can’t pry open a box. It’s almost a nightmare logic of obstacles temporarily overcome and then renewed.

Reel out the events and I guess there’s a thread of action that makes sense. The cartoon’s most interesting, though, when it’s being strange. Popeye’s spinach stock disappearing. The progression of signs telling Popeye there’s no spinach. Good, strong, weird scenes.

So why don’t I call this is a good cartoon? I’m not sure. I’m near to reasoning myself into calling this good. But then I have to explain why I more enjoyed writing about it than watching it. I notice the strongest scenes are all front-loaded. Popeye trying to break into the spinach warehouse is a bit pathetic for one of the first generation of superheros. There’s some nice silliness in the ways Popeye tries to break in, like trying a fishing pole to snag a can, or riding a balloon. But they’re also mundane, at least for a cartoon world. Too plot-driven a way to break in, and to have the attempts fail.

Heap of spinach spilled over a box. Sitting up is a silhouette of Popeye in spinach; just his pipe is clear and not covered in the leafy green vegetables.
So if this cartoon’s Brutus doesn’t know who Popeye is, then he just went and tried to kill a guy who was just trespassing. If this cartoon’s Brutus does know who Popeye is, then he just went and dropped a heap of spinach on him. I don’t insist that characters never take actions against their own interests but it seems like Brutus should have thought through what he wanted to accomplish a bit more.

The cartoon ends with Popeye punching Brutus into an Eat More Spinach billboard. There’s no hint that Brutus’s corner of the spinach market will end, or that spinach supplies will return to normal. This isn’t the first cartoon to not bother establishing the status quo will return. And goodness knows we don’t need reassurance that in the future Popeye will eat spinach. It does feel like an unresolved chord, though. I can defend this. We don’t need the central premise of a nightmare resolved to finish the nightmare. It could be the cartoon needs to lean more into the nightmare feeling.

60s Popeye: County Fair, and that’s about all there is to say about it


Are we back to 1961? Yes, we’re back to 1961, and Paramount Cartoon Studios. County Fair is directed by Seymour Kneitel, like every Famous Studios or Paramount Studios Popeye short. The story’s credited to Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer.

The Popeye Wikia for this short summaries it: “Popeye and Brutus are farmers who enter a county fair contest to see who is the best. As per usual, Brutus resorts to cheating.” It’s a struggle to think of more to say about it. This group of people had been making Popeye cartoons for 28 years when this was made. They could probably have done it in their sleep.

What I expect from a Paramount-made cartoon, here, is that it’ll be crafted correctly. The animation will be sluggish, but it won’t have errors. The writing will be plain, but will make sense. We’ll never have a baffling fiasco of a cartoon. The worst that will happen is the cartoon will be dull.

And that’s what we have. It’s your standard Popeye-versus-Brutus contest, going several rounds with Brutus cheating. Remarkably his cheats work half the time. In this sort of setup I expect either all the cheats to work or none of them to work. The score being tied at the last event is novel. Also the last event is spinach-eating. That’s an odd choice; all the other events sound like County Fair contests. But, it’s a Popeye cartoon, the spinach has to be somewhere.

Farmer Brutus and the pig he holds looking shocked and amazed that Farmer Popeye has his arms full of dozens of wrapped hams.
Oh, here’s the other moment of personality this cartoon. Popeye winning the hog-calling contest demands he do something spectacular with calling a hog. So it has to be either he gets an enormous number of pigs, or at least one tremendous pig, or, this, here to horrify that adorable pig Brutus has.

Fleas a Crowd I liked as a solidly competent cartoon with flashes of wit or imagination or silliness. Here’s another cartoon solidly competent. It lacks those flashes, though; even the cartoon’s title is a generic content description. Its only distinctive part is Popeye and Brutus trying to distract each other at the tastiest beef-burger contest, about 7:00 in the video. (Why not say ‘hamburger’? Surely there weren’t enough turkey burgers or other variants in 1961 that you’d need to specify a beef-based hamburger.) They do a couple rounds that are almost literally, “Hey, look at the distraction!” I can imagine being annoyed by this and calling it laziness if I were in a foul mood. As it is, I’m basically happy, so I see it as a gleeful embrace of the artifice or something.

Still, I’ve watched this cartoon three times in the last 72 hours, and will remember nothing of it 72 hours from now.

60s Popeye: Barbecue for Two, which has to be good since Popeye’s in his old outfit


So this is a weird one. It’s back to the Jack Kinney studios, with a cartoon produced and directed by Kinney himself. The story’s credited to Dick Kinney and Al Bertino. And it’s dated 1960, in a title card that sure looks like the copyright was superimposed later. The credits warn that it’s going to be a cartoon to pay attention to. The production credits are given this striking rhombus background, for one thing. And the music is abnormally long for the King Features run. We’ll get into more of these peculiar things in Barbecue for Two.

So if you’re not alert to the subtleties of animation production, like, if you’re a kid watching these cartoons, you maybe realize something’s strange about this. We settle in to Popeye’s suburban home, although it’s not his usual Boring Suburban Home from Kinney productions. But the real giveaway is our first look at Popeye. He’s not in the white, Navy-derived sailor suit. He’s back in black/navy-blue, like in the comics and the 1930s cartoons. Also he looks … somehow more squished and angular at once.

The Popeye Wikia says this was “the pilot” for the King Features Popeye cartoons. The Internet Movie Database says it was the first short made for TV, but that Hits and Missiles became the pilot. Who’s right? Clearly, impossible to know. But this sure reads as the pilot, particularly for having different models for all the characters. And for how studiously they avoid naming Brutus. The closest we get is an admiring Olive Oyl saying of Popeye’s neighbor, “What a handsome brute [ something ]!”

Popeye holding in his arms Swee'Pea, Wimpy, and Brutus. Popeye's wearing his old blue sailor suit. The sky behind is the same pea-soup-green as the lawn.
I suppose Popeye knows what he’s doing, but, Swee’Pea on the left and Wimpy AND Brutus on the right? That’s a heck of an unbalanced load. I’d put Wimpy and Swee’Pea on one side and Brutus on the other. Save your hips the agony.

The premise is that Popeye wants to have Olive Oyl over for a barbecue for, well, it’s there in the title. Brutus intrudes, becoming obsessed with getting in on the action. This would be obnoxious except Popeye starts the aggressions here, swiping petunias from right under Brutus’s nose. Wimpy joins the action because he can smell the hamburgers. Swee’Pea jumps in because he’s very young and should have some adult at least within screaming range. Brutus starts hitting on Olive Oyl by singing the rock-and-roll she loves. His lyric, “Don’t drop no mustard on my clean white shirt, baby”, is just wonderful, and his swaying, like he’s me trying to dance, is an extra nice goofy bit.

Olive Oyl rejecting Popeye’s square music evokes Coffee House, the Beatnik cartoon, certainly. The other Jack Kinney cartoon this makes me think of, though, is Popeye’s Car Wash, for its plot structure. Particularly for the way Popeye has to run between several stations — hamburgers to Wimpy, the swing for Swee’Pea — before getting back to fighting Brutus, or trying to.

I like this short, but have to admit it’s a complicated liking. The models for the characters are weird. Our first view of him is the skinniest Wimpy apart from the weight-loss cartoon I’m sure they did. There’s some snappy lines in it, such as Olive Oyl declaring, “If there’s nothing I like the least, no-gentlemen is the most”, or observing, “What’s that? A plane? A train? A rocket? It’s Wimpy!” Or there’s weird lines. Thinking here of Brutus taking off Olive Oyl’s shoe and dropping lumps of sugar in. Less good, and more baffling, is Brutus’s rage at being called Junior. I cannot see how this is a “sissy” name and I wonder if some other name got changed to Junior in the recording. His declaration “My name is … ” before Popeye punches him across the continent (and knocks the world off-axis) is a funny bit for everyone who noticed the avoidance of Brutus’s name.

Olive Oyl and Brutus singing together, caught at a moment when Olive Oyl's mouth is wide open and looking a bit Pac-Man-ish, really. The sky behind them is this solid green mass.
I know this isn’t a very good look, but that muddy green is just what the sky looked like before the Clean Air Act.

Much of the music sounds, to my ear, like leftover Famous Studios sound cues. This makes sense for a pilot. There are a few bits where Popeye huffs his pipe. It’s a faint thing, softer than the huffing he does in other shorts.

It’s always easy to like the first, or first couple, episodes of a series. They tend to be weirder, and that stands out. I suppose if the whole cartoon series were like this then this one wouldn’t stand out. As a one-off, showing a way that Popeye might have been animated and wasn’t? It’s compelling.

Popeye’s still being a jerk about those petunias, though.

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