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Jim’s Nature Corner: Know Your Moths!

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If you’re anything like me, and, after all, who isn’t, you don’t know enough about our friends, the moths. Admit it!

Here’s one I see every year by my front-porch light:

It’s the Ailanthus webworm moth and is about an inch long. Its coloring reminds me, from my scuba-diving days, of a little clown fish, not found by my front-porch light but nonetheless darned attractive and quite friendly:

According to Wikipedia, these pretty moths are originally from South Florida and now found all over the country. They do no harm and are known for their biting wit, ability to sing in a four-octave range, and have a life span of up to 122 years.

Okay, I made up the last three items but they are still an interesting little creature and I look forward to seeing each year’s new batch. From my own observation, they do have the ability to stay in one place for days at a time.

The Office May End, But Scanton Lives!

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Just heard from my son-in-law, Greg, that next season (season nine) will be the last for The Office. Too bad, but it had a long run and was always entertaining.

Greg and I visited Scranton, Pennsylvania, home to the fictional show, a couple of times and took the Office Tours of some of the locations where the show either filmed or mentioned frequently. The other Office fans on the tours were always a great bunch and we had a lot of laughs with them.

Scranton lays claim to being the Electric City and the electricity there was certainly splendid.

Poor Richard’s Pub, often mentioned on the show, is actually in a bowling alley across the parking lot from Alfredo’s Pizza Café, where I had what may well be the best pizzas of my life.

Scranton is an interesting city even without the Office connection. It has lots of trains; the Steamtown Mall downtown is adjacent to the old Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad yard that goes back many decades and still has steam locomotives moving about. It smells very odd; coal fumes, I guess.

Thanks to the good folks at http://www.Shorpy.com, we can see a view from just about the same position taken in 1900. Doesn’t look all that different, does it? That long, sloping walkway is still in place, leading now to a railroad museum, I believe:


Scranton is also in coal-mining country, though I’m a little too claustrophobic to want to tour a coal mine.

Poor Richard’s is more my style:

There’s a street-corner sign claiming to be the site of the birth of doo-wop but I didn’t have time to explore the site or the claim. The town’s newspaper building has great old-fashioned elevators and there’s a 1930’s-era radio broadcast studio there that’s most interesting.

Greg and I had lunch both visits at Cooper’s Seafood House as part of the tours. That’s one of the tour buses in the photo below. Cooper’s as seen on the show is a Hollywood recreation, but they did a good job of it; it’s a fun and funky place and the food is excellent. You may not think a beet salad would be something special, but at Cooper’s it was. The bathrooms are even themed: Elvis for the ladies and The Beatles for the gents. Click on my photo below to enlarge it and you’ll see the pirate above the entrance and the octopus on the deck above that! Wonderful place and very near where Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton’s dad were born.

If you plan to visit Scranton, the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel, as the name implies, is the old train station repurposed and a very pleasant place to stay.

I didn’t take the two hotel photos; they’re from the hotel’s website, and the old black-and-white railyard photo is from the Shorpy.com collection of glass-plate and other historic imagery. All the other photos were taken with my trusty iPhone.

I hope to visit Scranton again. There’s a lot to see and do.

Jimmy Can Cook!

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Actually, I can’t cook worth a hoot, but I was able to concoct something that is attractive and darned tasty and have decided to brag about it.

This year, I grew, from seeds, four varieties of peppers: ampuis, Anaheim, cherry and cowhorn. These, according to the website I ordered the seeds from, are spicy but not hot peppers. So it seems. Here they are in their little starter pods:

And then as seedlings on our back deck a month and a half later:

And as they are today:

Of course, I now have an abundance of peppers on my hands and am compelled to do something with them. Thus my little cooking experiment.

Background: My wife, Patty, is a phenom at cooking among other things and I am not. I sustained myself through college, in that pre-microwave age, by toasting bread and dumping whatever Boil-In-Bag item I had in the freezer on top of it. If I was feeling ambitious, I’d throw a slice of American cheese on top. Vegetables? Canned corn, pork-and-beans or spinach would be about as far as I would attempt.

But this year, faced with a bumper crop of peppers, I knew I had to come up with something to do with them. Patty flatly refused to cook with them, as she doesn’t like hot or spicy foods. So . . .

First I made some pepper vinegar with my cowhorn peppers, laced with some red-pepper flakes and a couple of other peppers from my crop. Worked great, but only used up a small number of peppers.

Then, crazed with that success, I created this concoction of provolone cheese, sliced peppers, mozzarella cheese and anchovies. Isn’t it great looking?

Tastes great, especially when placed on top of Triscuit crackers.

Recipe: A layer of provolone slices in a Pyrex dish (put down some Pam spray first), add the sliced peppers, then a layer of shredded mozzarella topped with a can’s worth of flat anchovies. Bake for 25 minutes at 350° and then hit with the broiler for a couple of minutes.

Try it and thank me later!

We’re Having a Party . . .

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Got the FJ Cruiser all packed up with gear. In addition to the stuff shown, which is my rock/rockabilly/Bakersfield country rig, there’s my ’51 Reissue Fender Precision bass, D-41 Martin acoustic, spare amp (Fender silverface Vibro Champ), my trusty Shure SM-58 mike and stand, essential cables and other little goodies.

Dave Martin is having his 23rd Annual Adelphi Music and Arts Festival this afternoon and evening, and the weather is certainly cooperating. Live music will be going on from about 3pm till midnight and there’ll be a wide variety of music; from authentic Islands reggae to Flamenco to classical to rockabilly and Appalachian folk tunes.

We always look forward to this event and have a lot of fun. Yee-hah!!!

Who Killed the Burma-Shave Poet?

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Actually, Burma-Shave brushless shaving cream, sold in tubes or jars, died from the growing popularity of shaving cream packaged in aerosol cans, and their advertising signs were killed by the growth of the U.S. interstate highway system. Drivers were moving too fast after that to read the Burma-Shave signs.

But, as a marketing guy, I have to admire the spirit and fun of the Burma-Shave signs, which were sequential red-and-white signs along the sides of roads during the period from 1925-1963. They were usually a comic verse, and during the time they were used, they were the most effective marketing device known.

Here are some examples of the more than 600 verses used to sell Burma-Shave. You can find plenty more on the Web.

Within this vale
Of toil
And sin
Your head grows bald
But not your chin–
–Burma-Shave

Eeny-meeny
Miny-mo
Save your skin
Your time
Your dough–
–Burma-Shave

When the stork
Delivers a boy
Our whole
Darn factory
Jumps for joy–
–Burma-Shave

If you
Don’t know
Whose signs
These are
You can’t have
Driven very far–
–Burma-Shave

The big blue tube’s
Just like Louise
You get a thrill
From every squeeze–
–Burma-Shave

The tube’s
A whopper
35 cents
Easy shaving
Low expense–
–Burma-Shave

From New York town
To Pumpkin Holler
It’s half a pound
For
Half a dollar–
–Burma-Shave

Many signs cautioned drivers to drive safely.

If daisies are your
Favorite flower
Keep pushing up those
Miles-per-hour–
–Burma-Shave

Thirty days
Hath September
April, June
And the speed offender–
–Burma-Shave

What you shouted
May be true
But
Did you hear
What he called you?
–Burma-Shave

Past
Schoolhouses
Take it slow
Let the little
Shavers grow–
–Burma-Shave

Don’t lose
Your head
To gain a minute
You need your head
Your brains are in it–
–Burma-Shave

A man
A miss
A car–a curve
He kissed the miss
And missed the curve–
–Burma-Shave

My favorite:

A peach
Looks good
With lots of fuzz
But man’s no peach
And never wuz–
–Burma-Shave

Why were these signs and slogans so effective? They were funny; people slowed down to read them. Folks talked about them and remembered new ones they’d read or old favorites. A very effective job of advertising! They made consumers feel like friends.

John Buscema: Giant Artist, Giant Heart

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As a high-school kid, I’d fly up from Naples to New York City in the summers to do what I could at the comic-book publishers there. DC and Marvel were the biggies. DC was at 575 Lexington Avenue, and they wouldn’t give me the time of day; they were corporate. Marvel, over at 635 Madison Avenue, was more welcoming.

The wonderful man who took me under his wing, for some reason, was John Buscema. He was big, bearded and a bit scary at first to a green kid. And, man was I green. Within a few minutes, though, I realized that Mr. Buscema, in spite of his being a “real” comics artist– and one of the very best– was also a sweetheart and remembered what being green felt like. I worshiped him. I don’t know if he usually worked at the Marvel office, or was just there hanging out, but I was glad he was around!

He didn’t give me a lot to do and what I did do I probably did to excess. I bought an electric eraser and some various eraser sticks for it and reported in every day. I remember cringing whenever I saw a Jack Kirby page ready for erasing after being inked. Mr. Kirby drew with the softest pencil imaginable on a plate-finish board and it was all a smudgy grey-graphite mess for me to clean up!

The prime memory I have of that time was the day artist Gil Kane came to the “Marvel Bullpen,” which wasn’t a bullpen at all. I worked in a crowded closet using a cardboard box for a drawing table. Mr. Kane sat at one of the real drafting tables in the bigger room and started roughing out something in pencil. I sneaked over to watch, and was stunned. Kane could draw faster than I could think. It shattered me. I slunk back to my little closet and burst into tears. Here’s one of Kane’s rough sketches found on the Web:

Mr. Buscema found me and sat me down for a lecture: “Jimmy, we get paid by the page, not by the hour; no salary in this business. Gil’s fast and good because he’s smart and talented, but also because he’s been doing this for 25 years. Don’t over-react; you’ll get there.”

But I knew in my heart that no; I would never get there. I didn’t want it bad enough. As I went back to Newark that evening I knew my comic-book career was over before it really started. But I also knew that I had gained a friend who was a rare person; a giant with a giant heart.

John Buscema was called the Michelangelo of comics and take a look at some of his work to see why. His anatomy’s as good as Kubert’s and his ability to frame a scene is almost scary. He also had some of Jack Kirby’s ability to convey power and force:

A wonderful man; best known today, I guess, for his work on the early Silver Surfer and Conan the Barbarian.

The wonderful coloring on this Buscema Conan drawing is by a fellow in Morocco who goes by the name of bekkouri, and he did a stunning job:

And I still have my old electric eraser:

How To Make A Granddad Feel Great . . .

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And the answer is not a quart of Old Grand-Dad!

As mentioned in an earlier entry, I visited my daughter and grand-daughters today in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Patty had to work and Aaron is away for the week, so I drove up by myself. Being the world’s worst driver made me nervous about the trip, and I couldn’t stay as long as I wanted to.

So we toured the Utz factory, explored Hanover a while, and then, back at Neenie’s, I got to play with Sophie (nine months old and now crawling) and Maddie, who’s three. Maddie and I did a jigsaw puzzle, watched some TV, and Maddie played her pink Dora the Explorer guitar for me.

After I got home, I was a bit downcast that I couldn’t stay longer than a few hours, and then Neenie emailed me something that made my day. When Greg came home after work, he asked Maddie. “Did PopPop come visit you today?”

And Maddie replied, “Yeah; it was awesome!”

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