Home

Do not hold in hand!

Leave a comment

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?”

1 Comment

Image

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!*

3 Comments

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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

Image

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.

Image

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

Image

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!

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

*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 . . .

4 Comments

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:

Image

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:

Image

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.

Image

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

Image

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.

James_Graham_Page_info_on_Dasheen_Growers_Assn__from_WNCPH

RE: My 1960s Naples Mystery Novel

Leave a comment

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!

2 Comments

Image

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!

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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!!!

Image

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?

Image

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!

Image

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!!!

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

It’s a Phone Phreak’s Life! Gaming Ma Bell . . .

Leave a comment

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, subscribing to magazines was a big deal. Every family took pride in having a slough of magazines arriving at their home and reading them was a pleasant way to stay informed and pass a lazy afternoon.

My mom subscribed to McCall’s, Good Housekeeping, Vogue and some other fashion magazines; my dad, who was a pilot, subscribed to a bunch of different magazines. There was Trade-A-Plane, a tabloid showing planes for sale across the world printed on yellow newsprint. It always had a sixth-page sized single-panel pen-and-ink cartoon on the first page/cover, and that publication printed a cartoon of mine in 1962.

As a fourth-grader, this was an enormous deal for me (I was now a published cartoonist!!!) and my dad was stunned when he saw it in his magazine. He also got Flying magazine and whatever else was available concerning airplanes, along with Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, True, Argosy, Reader’s Digest, and, of course, National Geographic. The family also got Life, TV Guide, Look and the Saturday Evening Post. We loved them all.

I don’t recall my brother, Jeffrey, subscribing to anything, but I subscribed to Mad, American Heritage and a couple of Superman-family comics. My favorite was the magazine put out by the folks at the Boy Scouts of America: Boys’ Life.

Boy's Life Covers

The Boys’ Life of my day was a terrific read. Not only did it have stories about hunting for fossils in the Far West or what it was like to be a cadet at West Point or what was happening next at NASA; it also had some top-notch comic-strip features that I looked forward to seeing every month.

Space Conq2

Several cartoon features were promotional comic-strip-type ads by big companies. My favorite was the adventures of Chip Martin, College Reporter, which was sponsored by Bell Telephone and had art by the young Neal Adams, who went on to revolutionize the look of comic books in the late 1960s. His slick, clean style really caught my eye.

Chip Martin 1960-10 pt1

Chip Martin 1960-10 pt2

One unanticipated result of all this info pouring into the homes of kids of the early 1960s was that it gave some of us naughty ideas. We may have been Boy Scouts, but we were still boys with time on our hands and vivid imaginations and we came up with some creative ways to have fun, as you will see.

Most of my readers weren’t around in the days of no-such-thing-as-a-cell-phone when most telephones had rotary dials and were wired to a wall and there was one big phone company that made certain that long-distance phone calls cost a fortune, so the following may be hard for them to imagine: Many of us kids, including a couple of brainiac nerds named Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, got interested in computers by way of our attempts to hack free long-distance telephone service from the Bell telephone monopoly. We proudly called ourselves phone phreaks, and that little community, with its mimeographed newsletters passed around schools or head shops on the sly, is where I first heard of Jobs and Gates, years before Apple or Microsoft were even dreamed of.

Here’s a grainy picture of future Apple computer founders Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak playing with their phone-hacking toys.

Jobs and Wozniak

In the early 1970s, we all had trick homemade electronic blue- or black-boxes that could get us into a Bell long-distance trunk line for free; they were made of pilfered organ keys that could replicate the duotone sounds that controlled a telephone switchboard. We scoured the local Radio Shacks for little goodies that might be put to creative use.

We were astonished when we discovered that a freebie plastic whistle that came in boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal could get you into the free long-distance circuits, too, and those whistles were much sought after and in the pockets of many a phone phreak in those days. We loved getting something free from Ma Bell! Just blow your Cap’n Crunch whistle– mine was a baby-blue one– into a telephone handset microphone and you can call anywhere in the world for free! Take that, Ma Bell! Want to talk for hours to a girl who goes to school several area codes away for free? NO PROBLEM!!! Just use my handy blue Cap’n Crunch whistle, my friend!!!

Capn Crunch whistle

Enough true confessions; here are some Bell Telephone comics from the very early 1960s, drawn by Neal Adams, that show the phones of the future! WOW!!!

Chip Martin 1962-10 pt1

Chip Martin 1962-10 pt2

Chip Martin 1962-11

Chip Martin 1962-11 pt2

Of course, all that Up Ma Bell! stuff was very illegal, but we felt as though a monopoly like the phone company was fair game. And it was a game: Bell Labs employed short-haired smart guys in suits and ties and we were long-haired smart guys in jeans and tie-dyed T-shirts matching wits with them. Many phone phreaks later worked for the many phone companies that came into being after the government shattered the Bell Telephone monopoly. Those ex-phreaks knew phones and how they worked.

Other ex-phreaks, like Jobs, Wozniak and Gates, used the skills they learned by soldering electronic phone-phreaking gizmos to create the first personal computers. This ex-phreak used those computers to change how folks made maps or colored comic books. At some point, even the weird turn pro.

No Words; Lots of Laughs!

2 Comments

Patty is up in Hanover babysitting Sophie while Neenie, Greg and Maddie are in Philadelphia. Instead of playing guitar tonight with the Usual Suspects, I’m sitting at home with Murphy (high winds make him nervous and I don’t want to leave him by himself). As Murph and I try to ignore the winds, I’m laughing my head off at videos of an unusual pantomime comedian. His name is George Carl and there are several great videos of him on YouTube:

I recommend that you go full screen on the video. This particular one is from a 1986 Tonight Show.

Thanks to Mark Evanier, TV-show and comic-book writer (everything from Scooby-Doo and Welcome Back, Kotter to the Blackhawk comic books), historian and all-around genius at large, for pointing us in Mr. Carl’s direction! I owe you a stack of Gold Key Dick Van Dyke Show comics for that, Mark!

Jim’s Nature Corner: Know Your Moths, Part 2

Leave a comment

My son, Aaron, creates skillful digital imagery, as a previous post spotlighted. Below is the first photography I’ve seen from him. It’s a photo he took of the outside of our basement door with a Luna moth (actias luna) perched on the window:

AA's Moth

It’s a pleasing photo; I like the soft colors and the different textures. The weathered doorknob and the bare wood where the knob has rubbed the old door over the years add interest and contrast. It also provides a sense of scale; everyone knows how large a doorknob is.

As in my earlier post about moths, I have to provide a little bit of background info: Lunas are silkworm moths, and one of the largest moths of North America; some can have a wingspan of four inches. They only live for a week. Seems a pity. The round markings on their wings are said to resemble eyes for scaring off predators.

Nice photo, Aaron!

Older Entries