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Do not hold in hand!

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blackcat firecrackers

Good advice from a package of vintage firecrackers. As kids, my friends and I loved setting off firecrackers. Nowadays, they aren’t something I mess with. My wife hates them, they frighten my dog Murphy, and I live in a state that prohibits their sale and use.

One of the coolest things about firecrackers was the always colorful and usually bizarre art on the packaging. Since almost all the firecrackers we saw were made in China, and there was little difference in the product, the labels were exotic to our eyes and a big factor in which brands we bought.

The only brand I can remember now is Black Cat. So that art comes first in this little retrospective. The other labels came from an informative online article about how the firecrackers were made and sold back in the 1950s and ’60s. Enjoy!

firecrackers_americaneagle-1 firecrackers_anchor firecrackers_blackbat firecrackers_bobcobills firecrackers_bopeep firecrackers_captainkidd firecrackers_catsbrand firecrackers_colt firecrackers_dragontiger firecrackers_fishbrand firecrackers_geogiacrackers firecrackers_giraffe firecrackers_happyman firecrackers_hundredbirds firecrackers_jester firecrackers_junglebrand firecrackers_kingkong firecrackers_ladybrand firecrackers_monkeys firecrackers_nacha firecrackers_navybrand firecrackers_peacock2 firecrackers_redinjun firecrackers_rocket firecrackers_santaclaus firecrackers_spacemissile firecrackers_superatomic firecrackers_typewriter WycMi

How many “Z’s” are in the word “inept?”

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For the third time, the Pizza Hut in Hyattsville, Maryland, has tripped over their own feet when it comes to delivering what their parent company spends millions of dollars, presumably, to promote: Pizza Hut: Make it great!

More like Pizza Hut: Make it WRONG!!!

For the third time, we have ordered online, as part of our family-dinner order, a large Super Supreme, hand-tossed, with extra cheese. The automatons at their Queens Chapel Road facility, for the third time, have delivered a large plain pizza instead of what we ordered and paid for.

Once, I called, and spoke for half an hour with a belligerent and defensive manager at that Pizza Hut facility, and he offered to send out another, properly prepared, pizza if I would hand the driver the earlier incorrect one. I finally agreed. After a two-hour wait, their delivery person delivered ANOTHER LARGE PLAIN PIZZA!

Astonishingly inept.

I think what trips these folks up is when you order an additional ingredient to their standard offerings. They see “extra cheese” and forget the primary choice, Super Supreme. Or they are so overworked they simply don’t give a damn.

I will never give another nickel to Pizza Hut. They aren’t ready for prime time. They are inept. Three strikes and you are OUT!

Never let your customer be your quality-control department. There are other vendors out there who can get it right.

 

Top Ten facts you didn’t know about Peeps!*

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10. Peeps were created by then-governor of Virginia Thomas Jefferson, a confirmed vegetarian, in 1781. Having had great success with his introduction of the French Fry to the colonies, Mr. Jefferson took some homemade marshmallow, formed it into sticks, dipped the sticks into a bath of sweetened lemon juice, and then into granulated sugar, thus forming something oddly similar to today’s Peeps. Forming the candy into a chick shape came much later, during the Truman presidency.

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9. It takes 18,489 Peeps to fill the inside of a new-model Volkswagen Beetle. The old models of the Beetle, discontinued in 1977, held only 14,570 Peeps. The Super Beetle model held 138 more Peeps than the original VW Beetle.

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8. Actress and comedian Sofia Vergara has never eaten a single Peep.**

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7. The Peep is the only candy represented by a marble statue in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Created by students of the Wilfred Brimloon Junior High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1967, this one-inch-high Peep is made of Vermont marble and can be seen behind the much larger statue of Kentucky’s Henry Clay.

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6. Noted pop singer Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich was peanut butter and bacon topped with Peeps between two slices of toasted Wonder Bread.

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5. A baseball bat made of compressed chocolate Peeps was used by Baltimore Orioles outfielder Ronald Basset in a 1987 game against the Boston Red Sox. In his at-bat in the crucial ninth inning of a 4-4 game, with two Birds on base, Basset connected with a slow-speed pitch thrown by Sox hurler Clint Alsop. The ball embedded into the head of the bat, and while Red Sox catcher Walt Brulander and umpire Dennis Wall frantically looked for it, Basset rounded the bases and scored. Look it up!

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4. Peeps hold the honor of having been the only candy ever eaten on the moon by both American and Chinese astronauts. The legend that Neil Armstrong accidentally dropped a Peep onto the lunar surface from the Eagle landing vehicle prior to returning to Earth cannot be proved, though it is entirely possible.

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3. In a 1992 experiment at MIT, engineering students held a contest to find out how thin a Peep could be flattened. Unbelievably, they were able to flatten a single Peep to a thickness of 14 microns, and the Peep, thus flattened, was large enough to cover their football field with a tiny bit left over.

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2. Little discussed by Peeps maker Just Born, Inc., is their ill-fated venture marketing a Peeps version of a Pez Dispenser. The Peeps Hatcher, as it was called when introduced in 1971, sold for $3.99 and came with eight Peeps. Its ungainly size and propensity to gum up combined to make it unsuccessful in the marketplace, though examples on eBay have been known to fetch hundreds of dollars.

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1. Actor Marlon Brando had a Peep in each of his cheeks for his iconic film role as the aging Don in the Godfather. It was said the multiple retakes of his scenes, combined with his love of the marshmallow-based candy, resulted in panicky runs to several Ralph’s supermarkets for supplemental Peeps and substantial production delays in filming. Brando tried to replicate this unusual technique in his Superman movie turn by using Twizzler candy sticks, but the results were unremarkable.

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*Mainly because these facts are not true; I just made them up. Peeps are a registered trademark of Just Born, Inc., Bethlehem, PA, USA. No offense to Just Born or their fine products is intended.

**She eats them in multiples.

Dasheen Dreams . . .

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If you’ve never heard of dasheen, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger; I hadn’t either. My daughter, Colleen, is the historian of our family and is always finding, archiving and annotating old family photos. Here’s one she found from 1923, showing my grandfather, James P. Page, Sr., and his dad, James Graham Page, at a meeting of the Nassau County (Florida) Dasheen Growers Association in the little town of Callahan:

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My grandfather and his father were very active in that organization, or at least they had leadership roles. My grandfather was a heck of a businessman, and owned a lot of businesses that did well. I can’t say how well he and his dad did with dasheen; it put some of his land holdings to productive use, I suppose.

According to what I’ve been able to find out on the Net, dasheen is another term for a type of taro root, and, in the early 1920s, the Florida Secretary of Agriculture was promoting the cultivation of this plant for areas of Florida with boggy land not suited for growing much else except snakes (this part of Florida has 31 types, including six or seven “hot” ones, as the herpetologists call venomous snakes), alligators and pine trees. Here’s a Google satellite photo pinpointing the town of Callahan in Nassau County; my brother, Jeff, and I were born on Amelia Island, where the town of Fernandina Beach is located:

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The red arrow points to Callahan, Florida. The dark area to the left of Callahan is the Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in the U.S.; a shallow, 438,000 acre, peat-filled wetland straddling the Georgia–Florida border. Okefenokee is an Indian word meaning “trembling earth.”

Since the area our family is from borders the Okefenokee Swamp that hugs the Georgia line, it’s ideal for such an effort. Here’s a photo of a dasheen plant, and also a photo of the edible root.

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Looks like an elephant ear plant, doesn’t it?

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Can these make good French fries? America waits for the answer!

This enterprise probably didn’t amount to much, but it’s kind of a nifty idea. Another Net resource mentions that at the height of the dasheen-growing effort, ten boxcar loads of the roots were shipped from Callahan, where we still have a family farm. I don’t think any dasheen is grown on our farm now, though I did see that someone else has a dasheen farm in the area nowadays. Good luck to them!

UPDATE:

Thanks to my daughter, Colleen, for finding the letterhead below from the Dasheen Growers Association in a history of Nassau County. There’s also a little paragraph describing the operation. You can see from the annotations that the photo above, showing the intrepid dasheen growers in Callahan, was from this same book, which was published some years ago.

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RE: My 1960s Naples Mystery Novel

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Mrs. Waples From Naples

The Ill-Fated Mrs. Waples from Naples in his or her prime.

A friend from Naples Before It Was Hip let me know about this earlier today (thanks, Deborah!). It’s a recap of the “Mrs. Waples from Naples” murder. My brother, Jeff, had been on the ambulance crew that worked this incident, and told me– on the QT– that the crew was shocked that Mrs. Waples, a longtime Naples resident and eccentric character, was really a man.

That stuck in my mind, and when I wrote my mid-1960s Naples-based cozy mystery, I used that story as the main element in the plot. Here’s my book, available on Amazon.com, if you care to read it:

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Sugar-Sand-Beach-Naples-ebook/dp/B007CADRI8

So here’s a recap of the true story of Mrs. Waples from Naples:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151625354205199.1073741831.236706715198&type=3

Today’s Mission: Save This Planet!

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Don’t worry; today’s entry has nothing to do with Al Gore. It’s all about something much more compelling, realistic and important: Comic-book covers!

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Mystery in Space, a DC-published comic that ran for 110 issues from 1951 to 1966, was one of my favorites. Edited by the amazing Julius Schwartz, it featured art by some of my favorite artists: Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, and Murphy Anderson.

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When I tippytoed into the world of professional comic-book production for a couple of summers while in high school, the first thing I learned was that the covers sold the books. It was no accident that the covers of comic books were printed on glossy coated stock using high-resolution screens while the interiors were tossed off on newsprint with coarse screens and muted color reproduction. The art on the covers was almost always much better than what was found in the interiors of the book. So what? It was a stricture of the art form, and covers were what sold the books.

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One of the leitmotivs of DC-comics covers, along with purple gorillas, Jimmy Olsen turning into something weird and Lois Lane in trouble, was perils to Earth. In the Mystery in Space books, editor Schwartz took this to a high level in the early days of the series. For pre- and early-teen American boys, this had resonance: we were just beginning the American space program, and who knew whether this might set off some trip-wire arranged long ago by aliens? It was worth staying up at night to worry about!!! Also, and even more unsettling, these covers indicated that it was the Northern hemisphere that these evil aliens were focusing on. They could care less about Europe, Asia, Africa; their eyes were on the U.S.A!!!

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Were aliens watching our every move? Probably! Were they thinking “Hmm; the primitive Earthlings have now reached the stage where they have both atomic weapons and the ability to rocket into space. We’d better smush them like bugs before they prove troublesome to us!!!”? What a burner for our species, huh?

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So we kids would look for, buy, read and re-read these comics. So what if this clarion cry came from a funny book? The guys who wrote and drew them were obviously smart; look at all the scientific facts crammed into these stories!

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Here are, for your enjoyment and amusement and so you can prepare for our destruction, some of the great Mystery in Space covers showing Earth in peril.

BE WARNED! THE ALIENS ARE OUT THERE AND THEY’RE WATCHING US!!!

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