Thursday, December 01, 2016

Drink A Bite To Eat

On this day, the first Dr. Pepper was served in Waco, Texas in 1885.  Like many soft drinks of that era, it started in a pharmacy, and a kindly old country doctor, wearing a monocle and top hat became the first visual image for the product.  Personally, I think he's more of an evil cross between the Monopoly guy and Mr. Peanut.  While it is reputed that the signature ingredient is prune juice, you might think the 10, 2 and 4 slogan refers to "regularity." 

The 10, 2 and 4 slogan actually began sometime during the 1920's when it was believed that consuming sugar gave you energy (in a positive way.) The official slogan was "Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2, and 4" to reinforce the peppy belief of the beverage. Coca Cola had cocaine. Seven-Up had lithium, but Dr. Pepper only had sugar...and maybe some prunes.
A copyright drawing for an early bottle design.  Invariably, because of the "10, 2 and 4" you would often see clocks in Dr. Pepper commercials, or even clocks made using the Dr. Pepper logo.

Further proof the the subtle genius of Lux Interior of The Cramps, where he wrote a song called "Bop Pills" in which he describes the doctor prescribing "take three Bop Pills at 10, 2 and 4."  It's just past four, so here's to you....

"Drink A Bite To Eat"

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Inka Dinka Doo. I Like Ink. Do You?

Has anyone ever been unhappy shopping for art supplies?  I went to an art supply store the other day.  It's in an old enough building, the floors creak while you walk the aisles.  My goal was to find a new color of ink to use with a fountain pen that hadn't been active in a while.  So many art supplies shops that were present in my youth up until now are gone.  I truly mourn the loss of Pearl Art (still in New York) that we had for a while.  I could spend hours in there looking at paint and colored pencils and all of the beautiful handmade papers.
I studied the inks and decided I wanted to focus on the line made by Winsor & Newton, a company based in London, England, but the ink is made in France.  I also like using Pelikan ink which is made in Germany.  I've never settled on just one color of ink when I'm using a fountain pen.  My mother always used a navy that was then universally called "blue-black."   Even though I was writing thank you notes and letters as soon as I could write, I didn't begin with a fountain pen until I was about 11, and my first color choice was a turquoise then called "Peacock Blue."  I probably remained loyal to that color for two years, then played around a bit more, even using ink colors seasonally (red for Christmas, etc.) which I still do.

Sometime in my early 20's it was all about a mahogany brown that I used with a cream stationery, the envelopes lined with a reproduction of an antique browned map of the world.  My first time in London I went to Smythson's and fell in love with color bordered papers (they even made mourning paper--something I had first read about in "Brideshead Revisited," by Evelyn Waugh.  Sebastian Flyte writes to his friend Charles on his parent's Victorian mourning paper, because he's bored and wants company after breaking his foot in an alcohol fueled fall--and I've always been loyal to Crane paper, started by Stephen Crane in Boston in 1770.
I chose a sanguine red, called "Deep Red" that looks rather like dried blood, and I'm using it for my Moore fountain pen, Moore being a defunct pen company out of Boston.  I bought the pen several years ago from a fountain pen specialist in Somerville, just a short distance from Harvard.  It's nothing fancy, a real workhorse of a pen and it has sentimental value.  I tend to use one color of ink with each pen so that hues don't muddied and not reflect their true shade.  I photographed a recent pen I bought that has a silver and checkerboard effect that I use for emerald ink, and probably for the longest period of my fountain pen existence, I've been writing with green inks. 
You have to slow down and think when writing with ink.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pomegranate Porno: Taste of Persia

 Taste of Persia:  A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan by Naomi Duguid. 
Such an unusual cookbook covering the author's travels and recipes from the Persian regions.  Saffron water, mint oil, rhubarb syrup, tons of flat breads and meals using "greens" (herbs.) A real work of love in this book. I had to share the section where the author teaches you to eat a pomegranate "nomad style." The author was taught this technique by a Khamseh nomad man in the mountains east of Shiraz, Iran.  

 Here is his method:  Pomegranates are full of juicy seeds held in place by bitter pith.  When the fruits are ripe and fresh, sucking the juice is the easiest and best way to eat them.  Start by holding the pomegranate in your hands and squeezing it all over, pressing on it with your fingertips all over until it goes from being a tight-skinned fruit to feeling very soft.  Feel for any firm places and press on them.   
Poke a small hole in the fruit and immediately put your mouth over the hole and start swallowing the juice (it will spurt out if you're not careful.)  Suck and swallow some more.  Keep pressing on the fruit as you suck and keep rotating it around.  The pressing breaks up the seeds, releasing the juice.  As you continue to suck, the fruit will get more and more like a basketball that has host its air, with dents and hollows and softness.  Eventually, when it is very saggy, you can break the pomegranate open.  Inside, the seeds will be a pale pink, having had their juice pressed and sucked out of them.  There may be the odd renegade still red seed or two, those you can eat one by one.  At the end of the process, your pucker muscles will be a little tired, but you'll have had a delicious drink of fresh pomegranate juice without having had to deal with the messiness of the seeds and pits and membranes. 
HA!  I wonder, after writing this out, if I can market it as porn!

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Little Demon In The City of Light: Guest Blogger Michael

Little Demon in the City of Light--Steven Levingston
On this day, 125 years ago in 1889, a well-heeled, silk-hatted boulevardier named Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé was murdered by Michel Eyraud and his accomplice, Gabriellle Bompard in Paris.  Gouffé was lured to his death by the beguiling young Gabrielle to the scene of the crime set like a theater piece, fully in keeping with the spirit of the Belle Epoque city. (I would add the month of his death, Gouffé had already slept with 20 different women. Il a obtenu environ.) 
This small murder mystery was to become a sensation in the City of Light.  It started with a lost, gamine girl of 21 who was a remarkable hypnotic subject and became an international man and woman hunt, ending at the Bois de Justice and Monsieur Guillotine.  This case evolved into an early tabloid fueled celebrity murder (concurrent with Jack the Ripper activity in London) and had bouche et des oreilles buzzing.  It was an early example of a "hypnotic" defense as well as the emerging sciences of forensics and neurology. 
Cube is currently reading Cesare Lombroso's The Female Offender from the late 1800's.  A text given serious use for it's time, and a huge piece of misogynist clap trap. According to Lombroso, men steal from basic need, women from the desire to gain material wealth.
As the Little Demon crime carousel revolves, it passes The International Exposition with it's gallery of machines to usher in The Industrial, erection of The Eiffel Tower.  Sigmund Freud, The Moulin Rouge, electric lights, telegraphs, while café society and Toulouse-Lautrec sipping absinthe...the green fairy.

Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé and a real lady killer until a lady killed him.
All of this and more in a new book called Little Demon in the City of Light by Washington Post journalist Steven Levingston, the story of murder and mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris. This story would make a great movie or HBO series.  I've already fantasy casted Gerard Depardieu as Marie-Francois Goron, the mustachioed head of the Paris Sûreté.  A man who stubbornly refused to give up the chase until the suspects were in custody. 
Michel Eyraud

 The Little Demon
Gabrielle Bompard
The traveling coffin and infamous trunk

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Apocalypse Now: Why We Really Love Zombies

Who's Your Stylist?

I have questions about zombies after watching World War Z last night:

 What happens when everybody becomes a zombie (an apparent zombie goal) or do they not even have a goal…are they just zombies?   They don't seem very organized.

What is worse: having a zombie on the plane, or snakes on the plane? If zombies are on the plane, can you ask for their peanuts since they won’t be eating them--just you?

This harkens back to the question, "What if everyone is now a zombie?"  It seems when people become zombies, they have a radical weight loss and are wearing rags. So if everyone is a zombie, THEN what do they do…just stagger around…or open Zombies R’ Us? Zombie toys. “The flesh tears away in a realistic manner.” Zombie boutiques. A zombie buying a McDonald’s franchise and calling it McDead?

The zombie glass where you will drink...what else...Zombie cocktails!

 Zombies are dead so they can’t die. So what happens if everyone is now a zombie and there is a lack of living flesh? Do they starve? They can’t die. They can’t reproduce and having tiny zombie babies. But. If there were zombie babies, the zombies could open milk bars and call them “First and Last Latch.”

Just what the heck are zombies so pissed off about anyway? Being undead? Get over it. 

 I remember reading that Brad Pitt had a difficult time with studio heads in selling the idea of this movie, and consequently, getting funded for it. A studio executive argues, “World wide domination of zombies? Think of what that would cost to cast, or the special effects?” Would Brad Pitt counter with, “Zombies are a growth industry.”

The new Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday

 How could Brad Pitt work at the United Nations with that hair and be taken seriously?  His boss, even though he was fighting a world war zombie epidemic, had on a suit and tie the entire time. What is Brad Pitt going to say? “I need time off for low lights?” (For zombies: that’s a hair highlighting technique.)

 One zombie survived the plane crash and was twisting and snarling held in by his seat belt. If he can’t open the seat belt, and Brad Pitt doesn’t help him, which he didn't,  does that mean he spends eternity stuck in seat 12A?

 Brad Pitt figures out we need an inoculation of viruses and bacteria to camouflage us from zombie interest, but don’t we carry those things around in our bodies anyway?   And…would this be a productive counter argument to those parents who are anti-innoculators. “Your child will become a zombie.” 

 Why don’t the zombies like Nova Scotia and Wales? What do they know that we don’t know.  At one point, looking for a safe destination, it was said, "India?  Forget it.  It's a black hole."  I thought, "Whoa. Calcutta, maybe." I heard the populace of India yelling "HEY!"

 In the book “The Last Myth,” by Matthew Barrett and Mile Gilles, the authors postulate that allowing the challenges of the 21st century to be high jacked by the apocalyptic story line, we find ourselves awaiting a moment of clarity when the problems we must confront will become apparent to all—or when those challenges will magically disappear, like other failed prophecies about the end of the world. 

The real challenges we must face are not future events that we imagine or dismiss through apocalyptic scenarios of collapse—they are existing trends. Collapse of the economy, the arrival of peak oil, global warming and resource wars. The evidence suggests much of what we fear in the future has already begun. We can wait forever while the world unravels before our eyes,  or we can wait for an apocalypse that won’t come.

You think this is bad?  Bring on the zombies!

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis I : First "To Do" List

The Beautification of Run-D.M.C. I'm putting this on the new Pope's "First To Do" list: Declare Sainthood on Run-D.M.C. 

 1) First, you have to die. Jam Master Jay died in 2002. 

 2) Once you have been dead at least 5 years a cause for sainthood can be opened. Done...and the cold case file on Jam Master Jay is still open 'cause they never solved his murder. 

 3) The local bishop or other religious leader will assign someone to collect all sorts of documents and conduct interviews about the life of the candidate. Joseph Simmons aka Rev. Run has got that covered. The Adidas, the chains, the snap brim fedoras. I offer as my own proof an English muffin bearing the image of Jam Master Jay holding aloft his gold record.

 4) Once they have all the information, the file will be sent to the Sacred Congregation for the causes of Saints in Rome. They will study the file and, if it seems the person exhibited some form of heroic virtue, that person will be declared a Servant of God and an official Cause for Sainthood will be opened. Reeling from their first taste of failure, personal problems began to surface for the trio. McDaniels, who had been a heavy drinker in recent years, was losing control to alcoholism. Jay was involved in a life-threatening car accident and survived two gunshot wounds after an incident in 1990. In 1991, Simmons was charged with raping a college student in Ohio, though the charges were later dropped. He was also battling depression and would frequently mix poison with Coca Cola—his signature drink—later coined "The Jimmy Simmons". They survived depression, car accidents, shootings, alcoholism. The early saints would starve for their faith? Run-D.M.C. drank POISON for theirs. 

 5) More investigations and interviews will be conducted and if the person passes all favorably, they will be named as Venerable. With so much personal chaos and professional uncertainty, the members turned to faith to try to steady their lives. Both Simmons and McDaniels joined the church, with Run becoming especially devoted following his legal troubles and the toll it took on his finances. There are no atheists in foxholes, Son. 

 6) Next, more investigations and at least one miracle must be confirmed and verified due to the intercession of the candidate. Again, I submit Exhibit A. Got that covered. I've already wrapped and gotten it ready to go to: "The Pope - Vatican City - Italy."

 7) If all goes well, the candidate will then be Beatified by the Pope and receive the title of "Blessed." "Blessed Rev. Run." "Blessed Run-D.M.C." Could chart...with a bullet.

 8) In the final stage, more investigations and at least one more miracle must be verified. Once all that has been done, the file is turned over to the pope who will make the final decision. It will be up to the pope to declare a person a saint and then arrangements are made for the official canonization ceremonies. This process can take many years, even centuries. Of course, the person became a saint the moment they entered heaven. The Church just needs to investigate to make sure the candidate is worthy of emulation and makes a good role model for future generations. The Pope is Francis I.  I wanted him to come out and sing "My Way."  Either that or "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." Don't they make Adidas in Argentina? 

 I'll go to the Immaculate Shrine today and light a candle in petition. "We praise and bless you, Father, for having enlightened the mind of man to discover new musical techniques. Its mission is to uplift and educate men and society both materially and spiritually. Lead us not into temptation, oh Lord. Deliver us from the temptation toward ruining the gifts given to us by You with such wisdom and love. May they sing to your Glory. Through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, grant this prayer.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

You've Got To Fight For The Right To Party...Into Old Age

I am in the final stages of finishing My Life  by Sofia Tolstoy.  She continues to amaze me:  how much she accomplished, and how she remained so supportive of her husband and family which at times was a thankless task.  

She wrote of the celebration of a great poet, nearing the end of his life, and the community was going to hold a fete.  She arranged for garlands and wreaths to be sent in her family's name, and many of her family members (minus her husband) participated in the celebration.  She wrote, "As for me, I simply found it a pleasure to organize and take part in the event.  As a rule I am quite fond of celebrations, glamour, fun, beauty, the company of pleasant people, although apart from the latter, I do have the company of pleasant people.  I was destined to live my life completely outside of that whole (sphere.)  On this occasion, too, fate robbed me of the very celebration I had organized."  (She had to remain home nursing sick children.)

Later, she found in her husband's diary, his comments on that event: "Everybody's terribly silly, overeating, overdrinking, and singing.  Even gross!  Vainglory, luxury, poetry, it's all quite enchanting when one is filled with the energy of youth, but without youth or energy, with on the dullness of old age permeating everything, it's gross."

Sofia reports, "For some reason, however, I did not find it gross.  I was happy to bring what might have been a final pleasure to this celebrity poet.  Life is too hard, grey and complicated and that it's good when one sees flaring up from time to time, if not sunlight, then at least a tiny star!"  I agree with her.  This has been on my mind lately: the process of aging gracefully and not falling prey to the undertow of jadedness and negativity.  It's an easy way out.  You don't have to make much effort to be a curmudgeon.   I hope I can keep striving for that light, or at least a tiny star.

Postscript:  The photograph that I used was the last taken of the couple on their anniversary, September 23, 1909.

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