Dispatches from (deep beneath)
|June 23, 2015|
|Another Legend Bites
(Pecks At ?) The Dust
creator of the iconic pink lawn flamingo, has died, darn it.
I had the pleasure of meeting Don and his wife Nancy during a taping of the revived game show "I've got A Secret" years ago in Hollywood. Don and Nancy's secret (which can now be revealed) was not of his most famous creation, but the fact that, for decades, Don and Nancy wore matching outfits, most of them made by Nancy. When asked if she worked, Nancy said that when she got out of college she eschewed a career, having "earned her MRS."
Don was an unassuming guy, ready with a handshake, a smile and another good story about the world of lawn ornaments. Don actually created hundreds of different animal sculptures, eventually becoming president of the company that manufactured them, Union Products.
Don liked to tell about how he would sometimes put many penguin sculptures out in their yard out of season, just for fun.
Don also warned people to beware of imitations of his flamingoes, noting that the genuine article has his signature molded into it 'just beneath the tail.' >ahem!< (Be sure to check yours, folks!)
|June 10, 2015|
Bathroom Contents, Boston Harbor Hotel
|June 7, 2015|
To Self / Shopping With Ralph
Do you ever find
notes that you have left for yourself? Aaand, maybe, just maybe
you're not quite sure when you left it for yourself....?
A few months back, in the midst of the 50 Shades of Gray movie/social phenomenon/commercial frenzy, I was a bit taken aback to find that even Target stores had jumped on the bandwagon, and was touting their special "50 Shades of Gray" collection. This included a panoply of merchandise as neckties, cologne and, well all sorts of stuff that one might not expect to find in your typical mass-merchandiser. (see also shopping With Ralph).
This brings up another question: how would various other retailers approach this ticklish issue? I can just picture Costco's approach: sure, we handle all this stuff, but you have to buy an entire orgy....
My terror: What happens when Walmart gets a hold of this concept.....?
|April 7, 2015|
It! Yet Another Legend Gone.....
The world lost another giant today: Stan Freberg, dead at 88.
One of the true media geniuses, Freberg was known for his voice over and cartoon voice work, audio comedy (his radio show replaced The Jack Benny Show, and was awash with music parodies) and brilliant advertising.
Chri$tma$," a timeless take on the crass commercialism that
the holiday has become, "St.
George and the Dragonet" his spot-on sendup of the "Dragnet"
radio show (which is where the phrase "just the facts, m'am"
came from - Joe Friday never uttered it) and "Stan
Freberg Presents The United States of America," where our Founding
Fathers have a wee bit of trouble with the penmanship of The Declarationof
Independence ("the purfuit of happineff....?")
Another favorite target of his skewering were popular songs. Freberg didn't just take on the material, but delivered great broadsides to their styles. He took on calypso and beatniks("Banana Boat Song" aka "Day-O"), folk music ("Rock Island Line") waaaay before Christopher Guest's "A Mighty Wind," Johnny Ray's tear-drenched "Cry," sing Along With Mitch ("Yellow Rose of Texas") and Eartha Kitt ("C'est Si Bon"). Oh, and don't forget Lawrence Welk, and Stephen Foster (and rock and roll), even.
He anticipated Political Correctness decades ahead of the rest of the world with "Elderly Man River," (with Daws Butler) which still stands out as a terrific antidote to the overly-sensitive among us.
A series of promotional bits for the radio industry ("Who Listens To Radio?" employed the talents of Sarah Vaughan and Quincy Jones) are still amazing productions, particularly this one (you'd better like hot chocolate....)
Yeah, I really miss the guy already.......
|April 6, 2015|
"You Can Tell It Goodbye!", dangit.......
|Longtime - and we
do mean loooooong time - sports broadcaster Lon Simmons died
yesterday at the age of 91.
Simmons, for many years the voice of the San Francisco Giants (and a few other local sports teams) joined up with the team when they came out from New York, and was more or less 'the kid', paired with veteran announcer Russ Hodges. (<---- click on that link to hear 'em both describing a terrific 1962 old fashioned rhubarb.)
Since my childhood, I can't recall ever hearing (seeing? * ) a Giants broadcast without Simmons. Hearing recordings of his voice make the warm summer air on the front porch of my parent's house almost palpable again.
If Simmons had anything besides a wonderful set of pipes, it was his always-at-the-ready sense of humor, something that I feel is essential to sports in general.** I once - quite by wonderful accident, sometime in the late '70s - heard his evening sports commentary show on KSFO when the infamous Don Sherwood dropped by the studio unheralded to banter with Simmons on the air. Any serious topics went out the window immediately, and some near life-threatening hilarity ensued, all of it unanticipated.
Simmons voice still rings in my ears when, after every Giants home run, he would proclaim that "You can tell it goodbye!" (a logical successor to Hodges' "Bye bye baby!")
Sad to have to tell him "Goodbye," too.
good friend, whose father was, coincidentally, a former major league
relief pitcher, always insisted that baseball was better on the radio.
While I do marvel at some of the high tech effects used in modern televison
sports broadcasts, I gotta agree with him.
|March 26, 2015|
They don't make 'em like they used to....
... at least as
far as gate crashers go. Benedict Cumberbatch has recently garnered
much attention for his humorous 'photo-bombing' at scenes such as the
Oscars. As fun as it is, it's not much compared to some of the invasions
and intrusions of late; not sitting on The Queen's bed or scaling a
White House fence, f'r'instance.
This is from the United Kingdom's Independent (please do visit their site) :
"...And the king of them all was Stanley Berman, a New York taxi driver who styled himself, with no mean justification, as "The World Champion Gatecrasher". In a 20-year career cut short by his death at age 41, Berman wore out three tuxedos with his illicit attendance at more than 1,000 parties and 1,200 official receptions. He often styled himself Charles du Pont III, in spite of a strong Brooklyn accent.
Berman began in the mid-1940s, when he talked his way into meeting President Roosevelt (one of seven White House incumbents he was to meet socially). He then moved to Hollywood, where he would shin over studio walls and try to appear in crowd scenes. By the time he returned east, he was a practised gatecrasher, and in 1962 made one of his cheekiest forays, at the wedding of TV star Lucille Ball. As her limo drew up outside the church, the tuxed-up Berman leapt out, opened her door, and said: "I'm your bodyguard, come this way." She did, and whispered to him as they left the church after the service: "Check the guest list for the reception. Make sure no crashers get in."
His crowning achievement was to insinuate himself into President Kennedy's Inaugural Ball. There the tuxedoed Berman was, according to a subsequent article in Life, "standing in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel, when he spotted a ticket to one of the inaugural balls lying on the floor." He used that to attend first one, and then another, where he met a woman member of the ball committee, who "assuming he was a bewildered dignitary, motioned him to follow her. The next thing he knew, he was standing next to the presidential box, and the band was playing 'Hail To The Chief'. Naturally, when the presidential party sailed in, Stanley piled right along with them, settling himself next to the president's father in the chair reserved for brother Bobby."
|March 8, 2015|
Legend Bites The Dust....
Some of us called
it "Rassling On Wheels." Some called it "a morality play."
Some just called it "Fake." (They were infidels.)
|* probably not, tho, as silence was never, ever a part of Roller Derby|
it's not actually Spring yet....
... altho ya wouldn't
know it by the early blooming things (daffodils, crocus and this blooming
idiot, pictured at Daffodil Hill, Amador County).
|* we are back to producing copious amounts of beads, glass objects and methane - I guess that ya can't win 'em all.....|
|August 2, 2014|
San Diego's Bead Bazaar
|We hope that you'll jon us at the San Diego Bead Society Bazaar (which promises to be rather bizarre, too) this weekend.|
|We will be back to
the Grotteaux to gleefully process your orders on 5 aug 14. Thank you
for your patience.
BURGLARS PLEASE NOTE: Just because we're not at the studio we think that you should be warned that the premises are being fiercely protected by a ferocious house-sitter and her dog. (ok, it's our dog, actually, but they both have big, rapier-like teeth and aren't afraid to use them. On you. * )
|* we're not kidding about this...|
|August 1, 2014|
|I used to laugh
at the corny (ahem!) ads in publications such as Boy's Life that
touted "Sell Grit! Earn valuable prizes!"
My grandmother even had a copy or two of it swimming around in her pile of Capper's Weekly * back issues(which she really liked for the jokes - they were better than the ones in PG&E Progress **, even!)
But I recently took a gander at their online version and was at once dazzled and amused, but not altogether surprised, either.
The Maker Movement has revived a lot of long-dormant feelings in people, bringing back such things as urban farming, mini-farming, beekeeping and tiny houses.
Well, danged if I didn't find links to articles about such things right there on their home page! ("How To Build a Root Cellar and Storm Shelter" was there, too, and it was made out of dirt and old tires.)
My biggest chuckle (of surprise and wonder, not derision) was seeing an ad for and iPhone app that could help you to determine which was the right breed of chicken for you. No mention of horoscopes (yours or the chickens'), tho.
The other pages were the sort of things that you might have expected: shopping sections devoted to books (left, maybe) and supplies that cater to bunker-hunkering survivalists (do be sure to read the copy down toward the bottom of that page....)
The recipes run the gamut, from the new-agey-popular stuff (Homemade Hummus, Shrimp Curry and"Continuous Brew Kombucha" should you ever want to torture yourself with such swill) to what is likely one of their longest-running recipes (Lemon Meringue Pie or Chocolate Icebox Cake ***, but I'm not sure which is the winner).
|You can bet that I'll be checking in with them from time to time; I must keep abreast of such riveting topics as "How To Build A Workbench With An Engine Block Base" (coming from - yep, you guessed it - deep in the Ozarks) and the"Positive Role Algae Plays with Livestock Manure." That last one might get me ready for the next Downtown California City Council meeting.|
is evidently now under the Capper's umbrella
|July 25, 2014|
The Deborah, channeling Mitch Hedburg: "As a color, I like brown; it's sorta like black, but without all the committment."
Hope to see y'all at the San Diego Bead Society Bazaar coming up August 2 - 3.
|July 24, 2014|
of Defense Announces New Field Rations
(and, unfortunately, this is real....)
NPR's site "The Salt," I followed a link thru to a story about
how the U.S. Army has (at long last) managed to find a way to keep a
fresh for two years. Tears of joy will undoubtedly flow from the
eyes of our brave warriors at this news (instead of the usual tears
caused by being issued sandwiches which are probably old enough to vote.)
A few questions are prompted by the document
(and do click on it and read as much of it as you can stomach), to wit:
But, the big question remains: why don't the airlines offer anything even this appetizing? (because it would be at Defense Contractor Prices....?)
I particularly liked the photos (page 1's guy looking into the food pouch after the first bite and wondering "WTF is this?" (it's probably a "Hog's Ass and Grits Energy Bar") and at the bottom of page 2, the pile that doesn't really indicate if it's a "Before" or "After" shot....)
Next war, BYOB!
|May 28, 2014|
|A Trip Down (An Ever-Fading)
Ya never know what you'll find when you clean out a long-closed closet, or open up a dusty cigar box that was at large under a chaise lounge for many years, do ya? Well, the same thing applies to plowing through some long-ignored directory on your computer's hard drive. I found this screed in such a place today, evidently written about 8 years ago (I think it was a pitch for casting for some reality show that I'm now thankful we weren't selected for) :
The Evolution of Romance
Romance in Society
Romance on the Home Front
All still true, these many years later,
but I am happy to report that - even tossing some grandkids and a new
dog into the mix, too - we are able to find those elusive opportunities
every so often. Yay!
|May 12, 2014|
Private Bar Menu
Found this list recently in our Denver hotel room; some of the items (all for real):
"(Airline Size Bottles)
Francis Ford Coppola Chardonnay 375ml $19.00
Coors Light $5.00
Coca Cola $3.50
Chocolate Chip Cookies $5.50
Rawhide Chew $5.00
|April 29, 2014|
Here's Wishing You A Happy Birthday, Willie Nelson....
|...even if ya don't remember.......|
|March 31, 2014|
More Shopping With Ralph
|OK, so I didn't major in math, but can someone explain to me how my home phone service is going to be free, if I have to pay $189.99 for it.......? (do I have to pay it in Bitcoin, or something.....?)|
|March 15, 2014|
More More Shopping With Ralph
|Has pornography (as
some claim) become so absorbed into our culture that we don't even really
notice it any more?
Television shows titillate us, movies have become steamier and it turns out that there are more than 49 Shades of Grey in literature.....
The proliferation of tantalizing cel phone photos of restaurant dishes has even been dubbed "Food Porn."
So it appears that things have moved a step earlier in the process: Cooking Porn. Those wonderful and oh-so-creative folks in the kitchen appear to have, at long last, lost all sense of proportion. The latest? Meatballs In Bondage (pictured above). It's more than just a great title for a Frank Zappa tune.
|March 1, 2014|
More Shopping With Ralph
|Given our (We, The
People's) penchant for holiday gewgaws and things to stuff into our faces,
what better way to observe The Holidays by making something that is both
decorative and chock full o' calories?
Edible Christmas Tree Ornaments!
If that freshly-cut-tree scent isn't enough to get you into the holiday spending mood, think what the tempting aromas of prawns, marinated lamb and onions will do!
(Just make sure that your furry "Santa's Helper" can't reach 'em.....)
|February 12, 2014|
A New Feature
|When the going gets tough (and,
let's face it: with all of the celebrity deaths lately, it's been tough)
the Tough Go Shopping! After all, this is America, right?
Some stuff out there is, well, pretty Out There, and it always seems to find me when I'm not looking for it.
Our opening salvo comes to us in the form of two products, both of which are ready to curl your hair. Only one of them, however, is actually designed as a hair styling product.
Can you tell which is which?
(btw: one of the sites has a "Live Chat" button......)
|January 31, 2014|
Another pair of greats gone.....
I can still hear the slightly
scratchy phonograph record in Mrs. Nicholson's third grade class, with
some finger-pickin' banjo (even though we didn't know to call it that)
and an enthusiastic guy's voice leading us through a couple of choruses
of "This Land Is Your Land." No doubt that Woody Guthrie was
a bit too radical (and any recordings of his version were probably even
scratchier-sounding) for our tender and unsophisticated ears (and politically
innocent, as well; like the rest of Our Land, as it wasn't November
22, 1963 for a few more days.....)
And, Speaking of Spreading The Word About People's Rights.....
Morrie Turner, an Oakland
(and later Sacramento) cartoonist, drew the comic strip "Wee
Pals" from 1965 until just days before his death this week
at the age of 90. Turner's "Pals" strip was always upbeat,
and the cast of characters was at least as varied as a Benneton ad.
Sometimes appearing as though drawn with a Sharpie, the strip nevertheless
had a razor sharp message: We Can All Get Along. Even "Ralphie,"
(no relation) the often cranky kid who would always get his comeuppance,
was likable. "Pals'" 'Soul Corner' was a biographical feature
that could enlighten and inform. It must have been a good formula, as
he had over 25,000,000 readers!
We'll miss ya, Morrie!
|* his first attempt to dismount a moving train cost him his banjo when he tumbled over it, shattering it|
|January 16, 2014|
|Another Name For
I was once told, by a reliable source on such matters *, that formaldehyde makes your tongue swell up (if you're still around to appreciate it.)
Ethanol sounds like a far better choice.
|* an experienced imbiber, who learned, first-hand,
that Prohibition was a lousy idea.
Another, similarly-experienced veteran of ethanol famines, was somehow convinced by a similarly impoverished buddy that the reformulated Sterno could be made safe through a combination of sugar, 7Up and the efforts of a Zippo lighter. Three days later, as their Liberty was expiring, they regained consciousness and concluded that, altho it wasn't lethal, it also wasn't quite worth it.
|October 10, 2013|
|Yeah, even heroes
have to go sometime, too..... *
|Scott Carpenter, one of the original
Mercury astronauts (and among my personal heroes) died today. I guess
that space flight (provided you actually get off the ground) isn't as
hazardous as one might think. He was 88 years old. The fourth American
to go into space, he went but once, and entered the record books forever.
He later found that undersea exploration was his cup of tea, and he spent
a lot of time involved in projects like SeaLab. (Outer space, Inner Space,
Underspace - it's all good.)
I'm going to watch The Right Stuff again, dangit. (He was portryed by actor Charles Frank - go ahead, see if you can visualize that.)
|* and I don't mean Alan Shepard's pre-liftoff, monitoring sensor-nullifying relief, either.....|
|September 13, 2013|
What would you
get if you crossed Russell Crowe with Moe Howard.......?
Bruno Kirby, maybe......?
I happened across an over-the-air broadcast
(yes, they still do that) of This
Is Spinal Tap one recent verrrry early morning (we're called
"Nightide Studios," remember?) and was reminded of Kirby's
versatility as a character actor. You have probably seen him a lot more
often than you think.
|20 June, 2013|
A Few Facts That
I Have Learned Since That Last Blog Post...
The average economy class
airline seat is approximately 3 inches narrower that the average coffin.
There don't seem to be any non-knockout
botanical gardens on the Big Island.
Kalua pork, steamed taro leaves and lomi
lomi salmon are still great.
Honolulu's Goodwill Store, near the Crack
Seed Store, yields many fresh (to us, anyway) designs of Aloha shirts.
Denver University offers a "Masters
In Taxation" degree.
... and, finally, time really flies when you're being had by fun!
|* seriously, in the
morning, somebody dressed as a giant banana goes whizzing by on a skateboard,
and it's a major event; by 1400 hours, a giant-wheeled, steam powered
quadricycle chugs past, with scantily-clad passengers hanging off of it
handing out opossum-flavored lozenges wouldn't trigger a second glance...
also, the first 30 or so 3-D printers were kinda fun; after that, the remaining 150 or so sort of lost their novelty. One cool thing that I saw was a guy with (what I thought was a large parrot cage) a 3 D printer strapped to his back, fabbing something whilst he wandered about enjoying the Faire. It made me think of itinerant tinkers of yore....."Oy! Printing today! Bring out yer plans! Printing right 'ere & now, Guv'nor!")
|4 April, 2013|
|A Worthy Cause To
| (direct from
The Crucible) The Crucible
has the chance to win a $25,000 grant from State Farm for our Bike Program,
and you can help. All you have to do is vote on Facebook every day between
today and April 22. And if you’re really excited you could vote
up to 10 times a day!
Click here to vote on State Farm’s Facebook App. (You’ll have to give the application permissions, but only the first time.) After that, all you have to do is click “vote” to lend your support for Bikes for West Oakland, and it's super easy to click 10 times in a row.
The Crucible’s Bike Program serves our West Oakland community with Bike Fix-a-Thons, Earn-a-Bike, Art Bike, and a drop-in repair times. This year six Bike Fix-a-Thons will enable at least 300 of our neighbors to access free repairs. 20 students in Earn-a-Bike will learn how to weld and explore other industrial arts in order to fabricate two bicycles and keep one – bikes are donated to community organizations and toy drives or sold to support the program. And Art Bike participants conceive and create unique artworks from frame to finished project.
The Crucible’s Bike Program was one of 200 causes (from over 3,000 entries) selected, which is a huge honor, and we only get funded if we reach the top 40. So please take a second to vote (or 10 seconds to vote 10 times), share with your friends, and check out The Crucible’s Bike Program in person soon. There’s something here for everybody.
|1 April, 2013|
|Whew! What a job.....!|
Small wonder that we've been
out of touch (in so many ways) for so long. We've been in the throes
of a cleanup job like never before! It seems that a rather large (and
potentially dangerous) chemical spill has had us in a state of near-total
concentration for most of the season, attempting, sometimes vainly,
to minimize its ill effects.
Next one: The Crucible's Open House, saturday 6 April 2013. Hope to see ya there, and we can explain what we're dealing with here......!
|8 January, 2013|
what’s on ‘California’s Gold’ tonight?”....
| ... is a clarion call that has
echoed through Downtown California every night around 7:30 when nothing
else is going on (packing for a show or a trip, going to a meeting, whatever)
- for at least 15 years.
We discovered “CG” when the Ralph’s friend, a former California State Parks ranger, mentioned it, and soon became charmed by its improbably genial, folksy host, Huell Howser.
Huell - it just seems too stiff to call him “Mr. Howser,” New York Times-style - quickly became a part of our lives, appearing so regularly in our Downtown California living room that we soon memorized the opening credits where he announced that the show was endorsed by “the California Teachers Association, the California School Boards Association and the California Library Association.” It’s a Downtown California tradition to recite this right along with Huell, doing our best to mimic his Tennessee accent.
But our love of Huell never was ironic. Much as we liked him as a presenter, we loved the way he stood back and let the people and places visited take center stage. Everything was “aMAYzing.” There were always remarkable “juxtapositions.” And frequently things “just get better and better”...unless “it doesn’t get any better than this.”
We even indulged in the California’s Gold Drinking Game - the triggers being all of the above, as well as any time Huell repeated back to a person whatever they had just said. (Local person: “So this is where the goatherders would come for dinner on Saturday nights.” Huell: “So you mean this place was filled with goatherders on Saturday night?” OK, that’s not a real example, but it gives you the idea.)
We liked to find out about places to visit from “California’s Gold” -- one memorable trek took us to the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah -- and also enjoyed watching Huell do shows on places we had already seen, such as Daffodil Hill.
Part of his charm did indeed come from the, er - juxtaposition - of his gentle, enthusiastic approach and his bodybuilder, Marine Corps physicality. And even more, we think other fans, like ourselves, could sense that all of his enthusiasm or positivity was completely genuine.
Should any of us have doubted this, on Twitter the day after Huell’s death, @jacobsoboroff wrote, “RIP Huell Howser, CA legend. He launched my career with this unplanned moment: Always wanted to be Huell 2.0.”
In Soboroff’s video, Howser -- mid-interview -- is taken completely by surprise by the young cameraman’s sudden appearance and not only does not blow his top - he incorporates Soboroff into his show. They became friends after that. Soboroff also noted in another tweet that there were already more than 300 comments @HuffpostLA.
Just a day after Huell’s death was announced, the rather unfortunately-handled “toodeadfordreaming” posted this lovely tribute video -- which caught the man’s spirit as well as anything could. There were already 129 comments and 224 “likes” on the post as of Jan. 7, the day after Huell died.
The outpouring of sadness, humor and warm memories captured in multiple forms of media served to remind us that thousands of other Californians must’ve felt much as we did - that Huell was our own special find and friend. And yet, rather than feeling jealous that others loved him too, we find it heartening that this gentle man was appreciated by so many.
We hope he knew how beloved he was. The shock that greeted the news of his death suggests that he was a private man who wanted his legacy to be the work that he did, bringing to light the many aMAYzing facets of the adopted state he loved so well.
A consummate TV professional and businessman, Huell had planned for
the future, donating all episodes of his life’s work to Chapman
University, as well as three houses. The university has digitized
all the episodes, and has placed them online for free public viewing.