Green Onion Flavored Chex – A wrong, righted.

OK, this is worthy of The Old Wolf’s Banquet from Hell.

“In 2004, [Kellog’s Korea] advertised a public vote for a new product: chocolate-flavored Cheki or green onion-flavored Chaka.” (AP)

Cheki won, but per the article there was a vote-stuffing scandal. Now, the injustice has been corrected.

Kellogg's Green Onion Chex Cereal Release Info Buy Price Where Milk Review

And as odd as it might sound to people who don’t know me, I think I would eat these. It’s a darn shame that unique things like Pepsi-flavored Cheetos™ only surface in the Far East (a big-hearted colleague of mine sent me a couple of bags from Japan, I thought they were awesome); if I were richer than God I think I’d hop a plane to Japan every month just to gather up new bits of strangeness to try. (But not until there’s an effective vaccine for Covid19.)

Now, my Korean is about as good as my Silbo Gomero, but this commercial is funny.

Pepsi-flavored Cheetos are selling in Japan, but will they hit the ...

Sadly, by the time I can afford a trip to Korea and the health crisis has passed, these will probably be gone – limited time offering and all that. But if I ever get over there, I’m sure there will be a host of other bizarre foods that I can sample.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The ongoing scourge of Chain Mail

It was the ’60s. I recall my mother sitting at the kitchen table typing out a letter with carbon paper, making multiple copies of something. I remember the words “chain letter,” I never read it, and I don’t know if any money exchanged hands – typical of the so-called “gifting scams – but the point is that these things have been around for a long time.

Back then it was all done by the US Post Office. Then came the advent of the fax machine, and along with the ubiquitous “Nigerian Prince” con, chain letters continued to enjoy popularity.

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson invented and developed electronic mail by creating ARPANET’s networked email system, and by 1976 a full 75% of ARPANET’s traffic was electronic mail. This invention, so useful and so fraught with complications (think Spam), allowed chain mail to come into its full glory.

Now, there are many kinds of chain letters, but the idea of all of them is self-propagation. They are, in a sense, viruses that replicate by the good graces of the receiver and are usually propagated based on the inculcation of guilt. They serve no purpose other than to stroke the ego of some twit who wants attention, and waste internet bandwidth and storage space.

Fully 21 years ago, a valued colleague (thanks, Stephanie) sent me this great send-up of chain letters (by email, of course) and I’ve had it in my files ever since. And it is not lost on me that the fact that I’m sharing it here makes it a chain letter of sorts.


Chain Letter Type 1: The Scroll Down

Make a wish!!!

Really, go on and make one!!!

Oh please… that person will never go out with YOU!!!

Wish something else!!!

Not that, you moron!!!

Something else! Quick!!!

Is your finger getting tired yet?

STOP!!!!

Wasn’t that fun? Hope you made a great wish.

Now, to make you feel guilty, here’s what I’ll do. First of all, if you
don’t send this to 5,096 people in the next 5 seconds, you will be attacked by a mad goat and then thrown off a high building into a pile of manure. it’s true! Because, you know, THIS letter isn’t like all of those fake ones, THIS one is TRUE!!

Really!!! Here’s how it goes:

• Send this to 1 person: One person will be mad at you for sending them a stupid chain letter.

• Send this to 2- 5 people: 2-5 people will be mad at you for sending them a stupid chain letter.

• 5-10 people: 5-10 people will be mad at you for sending them a stupid chain letter.

• 10-20 people: 10-20 people will be mad at you for sending them a stupid chain letter.

• 20 to 674,951 people: 20 to 674,951 people will be mad at you for sending them a stupid chain letter.

Thanks!!!! Good Luck!!!

Chain Letter Type 2: Starving Little Boy

Hello, and thank you for reading this letter. You see, there is a starving little boy in Baklaliviatatlaglooshen who has no arms, no legs, no parents, and no goats. This little boy’s life could be saved, because for every time you pass this on, a dollar will be donated to the Little Starving Legless Armless Goatless Boy from Baklaliviatatlaglooshen Fund. Remember, we have no way of counting letters sent and this is all bull. So go on, reach out, Send this to 5 people in the next 47 seconds. Oh, and a reminder if you accidentally send this to 4 or 6 people, you will die instantly.

Thanks again!!

Chain Letter Type 3: The Horror Story

Hi there!! This chain letter has been in existence since 1897. This is absolutely incredible because there was no email then and probably not as many little 8 year olds writing chain letters.

So this is how it works. Pass this on to 15,067 people in the next 7 minutes or something horrible will happen to you like:

Stupid Horror Story #1:
Miranda Pinsley was walking home from school on Saturday. She had recently received this letter and ignored it. She then tripped on a crack in the sidewalk, fell into the sewer, was gushed down a drainpipe in a flood of poopie, and went flying out over a waterfall. Not only did she smell nasty, she died. This Could Happen To You!!!

Stupid Horror Story #2:
Dexter Bip, a 13 year old boy, got a chain letter in his mail and ignored it. Later that day, he was hit by a car and so was his girlfriend. They both died. Their families were so upset that everyone related to them (even by marriage) went crazy and spent the rest of their miserable lives in an institution. This Could Happen To You!!!

Remember, you could end up like Pinsley and Bip did. Just send this letter to all of your loser friends, and everything will be OK.

Chain Letter Type 4: Meaningless Poem

As if you care, here is a poem that I wrote. Send it to every one of your friends.

Friends
A friend is someone who is always at your side,
A friend is someone who likes you even though you smell like poop,
A friend is someone who likes you even though you’re disgustingly ugly,
A friend is someone who cleans up for you after you’ve thrown up on yourself,
A friend is someone who stays with you all night while you cry about your loser life,
A friend is someone who pretends they like you when they really think you should be attacked by a mad goat and then thrown in a pile of manure,
A friend is someone who scrubs your toilet and vacuums and then gets the check and leaves and doesn’t speak much English… no, sorry that’s the cleaning lady, A friend is not someone who sends you chain letters because he wants his wish of being rich to come true. Now pass this on! If you don’t, you’ll be eaten by wild goats.

Chain Letter Type 5: Microsoft or Disney

This e mail is wicked cool! It was started by Microsoft to test it’s e mail tracking system because, you know, a big high tech company like Microsoft always sends important new software out over the internet to be available to any moron who can operate a computer, right? Plus, they have formed a secret merger with Disney Corp., who has agreed to give up millions of dollars in revenue by giving everyone who reads this e mail, passes it on, looks at it, knows someone that looked at it, or is related to someone who is a friend of someone who looks at it A FREE, ALL EXPENSES PAID TRIP to Disneyland, Disney World, or Euro Disney! So pass this on to everyone you know that is gullible enough to believe this (or not)!

Even if it’s not true, hey insulting all of your friends by implying that
they are gullible by sending this to them is worth the improbable chance that you could go to Disneyland! Even if you lose all of your friends because they are tired of receiving this kind of junk from you, it’s worth the chance, right?

And just for good measure, if you don’t send this on, Microsoft will send its specially trained attack goats to pilfer your house and eat all of your family, SO SEND IT ON!!!!!

Chain Letter Type 6: Virus Warning

VIRUS WARNING!!! If you receive an email entitled “Badtimes” delete it immediately.

Do not open it. Apparently this one is pretty nasty. It will not only erase everything on your hard drive, but it will also delete anything on disks within 20 feet of your computer.

It demagnetizes the stripes on ALL of your credit cards.

It reprograms your ATM access code, screws up the tracking on your VCR and uses subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD’s you attempt to play.

It will re-calibrate your refrigerator’s coolness settings so all your ice
cream melts and your milk curdles.

It will program your phone AutoDial to call only your mother-in-law’s
number.

So be careful! Forward this to all of your friends, relatives, neighbors, family, enemies, plumbers, garbage men, stock brokers, doctors, and any other acquaintances! It’s for their own good! Thank you.

Chain Letter Type 7: Meaningless Picture

Here is a cute picture I drew.

It is a decapitated angel. Send it on to all of your friends so it will
brighten their day like it did yours! If you don’t, demon possessed goats will move into your house and eat all of your socks, leading you to believe that something is wrong with your washing machine because all of your socks keep disappearing.

Have a nice day!!!


Remember, the moral of the story is, if you get a chain letter, ignore the stupid thing. [Edit for 2020: Especially if it involves sending money or sensitive information to someone you don’t know!]

If it’s a joke or something, send it, sure, but if it’s gonna make people feel guilty (i.e. the goatless boy from Baklaliviatatlaglooshen) or nervous (i.e. Miranda Pinsley who ended up in a waterfall of turds) just delete it.

Do yourself a favor, and everyone else in the world, and say, “DEATH TO CHAIN LETTERS!”

Except this one of course. This one must be sent on to 4,170 people in the next 15 seconds or you’ll be eaten by wild goats.


People have hated chain mail since its inception:

Takk til Nemi.no

On the other hand, there is an entire subreddit dedicated to the kind of mindless trash that fills your inbox or WhatsApp or Messenger, r/forwardsfromgrandma. To this day there are people in my circles who send me the most idiotic things – political screeds, conspiracy theories, pseudoscientific garbage, or random bits of inane humor – despite my begging them to stop. There’s no getting through to these people. So many of these things could be easily put to bed with a 10-second Google search, but they can’t be bothered.

I can’t count the number of times I have been warned about a program that will “open an olympic torch that will burn the entire hard disc C” of my computer.

Oh no! There it is! My computer is ruined!

For some reason, many people seem resistant to education, so there’s probably no way to stop the flood of self-replicating messages on Facebook and other platforms. But over time I’ve learned a couple of discernable red flags that something you’re being sent is bogus:

  1. If the message exhorts you to “send this to everyone you know” … just don’t.
  2. If the message says “Snopes confirms this is true!” the odds are that it is completely bogus. Don’t forward it, trash it. A quick Google search is usually sufficient to confirm that the message is a self-replicating hoax.
  3. If the information you’re being sent and asked to share outrages you, check it. Many people forward things that make them angry, thinking that they are doing something to mitigate a problem. In most cases, the information being spread is completely false, taken out of context, or badly misrepresented.

If you want to be metal AF, you could respond with something like this, but in today’s environment you had better be able to read your audience or your next visit might be from the FBI.

Knowing humanity, this kind of thing will probably never disappear entirely, but continuing education will serve to reduce the flood to a manageable level.

Share this blog post with everyone you know. ¹

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ That’s a joke, people. Of course I like increased engagement, but you’re not obliged to share anything you read here with anyone, unless you really think it has value.

Another day, another shooting.

This was an odd one. It happened at a Naval Air Station, where people essentially carry weapons for a living. So that muddies the water a bit. And, it turns out that the perp was a Saudi national, and an aviation student to boot, which raises a *whole* lot of questions in my mind, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Before anything else, my heart is broken for those impacted; the victims, their families, and their loved ones. People die every day from all sorts of reasons – illness, unavoidable accidents, natural causes, even violence – but death by terrorism is especially hard on those left behind. And I make no apologies for calling it that. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

But now comes the summum bonum of this post: According to CBS News, ” The number of mass shootings across the U.S. thus far in 2019 has outpaced the number of days this year, according to a gun violence research group. Before this year has even ended, 2019 has already had more mass shootings than any year since the research group started keeping track.”

This doesn’t even take into account the little ones. Individual shootings by unbalanced or patently evil people. As of today, the total is 36,518. Now, in terms of national statistics, that’s only roughly 3/4 the number of deaths by suicide from any cause, according to the CDC, and almost the same number as automobile fatalities in 2018. So some might argue that in terms of overall numbers, it’s not a big deal.

But it is. It’s a big deal. It’s too many, and too horrible, and too traumatizing, and gun violence takes adults, and children, and breaks hearts and shatters families and reduces our safety (the NRA would argue the opposite) and the quality of our life.

Image result for 2nd amendment

So here’s the question, directed at those of my friends and associates who fall on the “cold, dead hands” side of the equation:

What are you going to do to stop this carnage. What are you doing right now to make sure that guns don’t get into the wrong hands, the hands of people who will use them to destroy the innocent?

I exhort you: don’t get me wrong. I support the 2nd Amendment as long as it remains part of the Constitution.

These are patches and such that I earned as a youth. I remain proud of them to this day. I learned gun safety and responsibility and enjoyed target shooting immensely. (Thanks, Hutch.) We own a 30-30. I’m not a “gun grabber,” as the NRA loves to pigeonhole people who advocate for gun control. But the situation today has far exceeded what I consider madness.

The courts have repeatedly ruled that you have the right to assemble an arsenal that would be the envy of a small nation. I think that if the Founders, in their wisdom, could see what that those 27 words had wrought in our day and age, they would weep in outrage and promptly need to go home and change their pants. But that’s my interpretation, and the wisdom of the 2nd is not what I’m discussing. It’s a fact, and we need to deal with things as they are.

I think our nation would be far safer if there were no guns in private hands, but if the right to bear arms is never going away, it needs to be tempered with a responsibility to bear arms safely, and I support treating guns in the same way we treat cars, none of which contravenes the wording of the 2nd Amendment:

  • Gun owners should be trained, licensed, and insured for each type of weapon owned.
  • All weapons should be annually registered, inspected, and taxed.

So what are your solutions? How will you preserve your rights and still stop the daily carnage? Change my mind.

Go.¹


¹ Note: I’m inviting comments for this post, despite the fact that it’s a divisive and often inflammatory issue. I have attempted to be as impartial and even-handed as possible in laying out my feelings. Comments that are ad-hominem attacks (i.e. “You gun-grabbing pussy!”) or not based on reason (“I disagree!”) will simply be deleted without ever being seen. I want to know how you would fix things, and preserving the status quo is not an option. So choose your words wisely.

♫ You can’t get there, the road is under construction ♬

Mad Magazine™ was wonderful back in the ’50s and ’60s. I seem to recall that as I grew older, either my sense of humor changed – I started appreciating Harvard Lampoon’s work in the late ’60s – or the quality of the writing diminished.

At any rate, some of the early stuff was priceless, and still relevant to today’s challenges. One example that keeps surfacing in my mind every time I hit a detour is this gem, written by Tom Koch and illustrated by Bob Clarke.

Peeved at Obstructions
(Sung to the tune of “Eve of Destruction” Barry McGuire)

You save up all year long to take a nice vacation.
You make a lot of plans to drive across the nation.
You dream of all you’ll see with great anticipation.
You’ve only got a week to reach your destination,
But that seems like enough, you feel no consternation.
Then they tell you over and over and over again, my friend,
That you can’t get through; the road is under construction.

You’ve never been to Maine or Utah’s scenic section.
You call the auto club to help make your selection.
You pay to get your car a thorough trip inspection.
So you can drive afar and feel you’ve got protection.
Then, when you’re almost there, you seek a cop’s direction.
And he tells you over and over and over again, my friend,
That you must turn back; the road is under construction.

Vacation here at home, our president keeps sayin’.
Don’t spend your dough abroad, he fervently is praying.
So you head for New York do do your summer playing;
Or maybe to the west a travel plan you’re laying,
To see those snowy peaks and geysers wildly sprayin’.
But the signs warn over and over and over again, my friend,
That you can’t get there; the road is under construction.

The challenge is real. In preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, UDOT undertook the I-15 corridor reconstruction project.

“The project involved the reconstruction of 16.2 miles of interstate mainline and the addition of new general purpose and high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes through the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. The project also included the construction or reconstruction of more than 130 bridges, the reconstruction of seven urban interchanges, and the reconstruction of three major junctions with other interstate routes, including I-80 and I-215.”

While the project was sorely needed and the end result was beneficial, for four years, the commute from outlying areas to Salt Lake City was a major pain in the patoot, with commuters searching out and jealously guarding favorable and secret bypass routes.

But wait, there’s more!

In 2009, UDOT undertook the I-15 Core reconstruction project, rebuilding 24 miles of I-15 from Point of the Mountain to Payson in just 35 months. The design-build strategy meant that the entire stretch was torn up at once, instead of doing a few miles at a time. The inconvenience was so significant that I was moved to memorialize the experience in video:

In retrospect, I really shoudn’t complain at all; nowadays our nation’s crumbling infrastructure could use a bit of help, and I think subsequent generations would appreciate our putting up with some inconvenience if it means that their bridges won’t collapse underneath them. But when you’re behind the wheel and trying to get to work (or to a vacation destination), the aggravation can certainly raise one’s blood pressure.

Bonus Section

Since I happened to be on the subject of MAD Magazine, another extract from the same article is precisely the reason our family threw out all our TVs over 20 years ago (the kids were absolutely devastated, but somehow they survived):

The TV Victim’s Lament
(Sung to the Tune of “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan)

How many times must a guy spray with Ban
Before he doesn’t offend?
And how many times must he gargle each day
Before he can talk to a friend?
How many tubes of shampoo must he buy
Before his dandruff will end?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

How many times must a man use Gillette
Before shaving won’t make him bleed?
And how many cartons of Kents must he smoke
Before the girls all pay him heed?
How many products must one person buy
Before he has all that he’ll need?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

How many times must a gal clean her sink
Before Ajax scours that stain,
And how many times must she rub in Ben-Gay
Before she can rub out the pain?
How many ads on TV must we watch
Before we are driven insane?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

Full disclosure: My mother single-handedly raised me on the income from commercial advertising, so I feel a bit sheepish about this, but the onslaught of advertising, much of which has now moved from the airwaves to the internet, still rubs me the wrong way.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Always Ask the Locals

This exchange was shared with me on Facebook as a screen capture. I went digging and found the original post at the Tumblr of Iowa Rambler (systlin), followed up by a repost with a couple of comments at the Tumblr of assasue.

I present it here in slightly bowdlerized form for a family-friendly audience (my apologies to the original writers); if you don’t mind language you can follow the links above for the original text. Other than one small spelling correction for clarity, nothing has been changed.

systlin

Something I find incredibly cool is that they’ve found neandertal bone tools made from polished rib bones, and they couldn’t figure out what they were for for the life of them. 

Until, of course, they showed it to a traditional leatherworker and she took one look at it and said “Oh yeah sure that’s a leather burnisher, you use it to close the pores of leather and work oil into the hide to make it waterproof. Mine looks just the same.” 

“Wait you’re still using the exact same thing 50,000 years later???”

Well, yeah. We’ve tried other things. Metal scratches up and damages the hide. Wood splinters and wears out. Bone lasts forever and gives the best polish. There are new, cheaper plastic ones, but they crack and break after a couple years. A bone polisher is nearly indestructible, and only gets better with age. The more you use a bone polisher the better it works.”

It’s just. 

50,000 years. 50,000. And over that huge arc of time, we’ve been quietly using the exact same thing, unchanged, because we simply haven’t found anything better to do the job. 


saxifraga-x-urbium

i also like that this is a “ask craftspeople” thing, it reminds me of when art historians were all “what?” about someone’s ear “deformity” in a portrait and couldn’t work out what the symbolism was until someone who’d also worked as a piercer was like “uhm, he’s messed up a piercing there”. interdisciplinary stuff also needs to include non-academic approaches because crafts & trades people know things ok

assasue

One of my professors often tells us about a time he, as and Egyptian Archaeologist, came down upon a ring of bricks one brick high. In the middle of a house. He and his fellow researchers could not for the life of them figure out what it could possibly have been for. Until he decided to ask a laborer, who doesnt even speak English, what it was. The guy gestures for my prof to follow him, and shows him the same ring of bricks in a nearby modern house. Said ring is filled with baby chicks, while momma hen is out in the yard having a snack. The chicks can’t get over the single brick, but mom can step right over. Over 2000 years and their still corraling chicks with brick circles. If it aint broke, dont fix it and always ask the locals.

A Taxonomy of Trump Tweets – from On the Media.”

On the Media is “WNYC’s weekly investigation into how the media shapes our world view. Veteran journalists Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield give you the tools to survive the media maelstrom.”

A recent segment intriguingly addresses the PEOTUS’ twitter-storm, and how the media should appropriately respond.

As we all know, Donald Trump’s tweets have become a potent force in our new era. On the one hand, a single tweet can cripple opponents, activate supporters, move markets, and subsume the news cycle. On the other, they’re a window into Trump’s wee-hours, unfiltered id. But when his tweets are full of half-truths, distortions, and often bold-faced lies, should journalists treat them as normal presidential utterances, or something else? Cognitive linguist George Lakoff believes that the press must understand how Trump uses language if we’re to responsibly report on his tweets, not just magnify their misinformation. He talks with Brooke about the categories he’s come up with for thinking about Trump tweets.

A summary of the categories:

  1. Preemptive Re-framing – Trump’s tweet stated, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” This was rated “Pants on Fire” by Politifact, but it effectively re-frames the popular vote in the minds of those who see the tweet, thus distorting the facts in the public arena.
  2. The Diversion Tweet – This kind of tweet is akin to the magician’s misdirectional “nothing up my sleeve.” While you’re busy looking at his or her sleeve to be sure, jiggery-pokery is happening elsewhere. A good example is focusing on Hamilton, as Trump did when he tweeted “The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” In this way, people focus on Hamilton rather than the $25 million settlement in the case of  fraud allegations against Trump University.
  3. The Trial Balloon – Send up something and see how the public reacts, so you’ll know what to do in the future. When Trump tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” he watched to see how the public responded to this idea; in this case there was a brief discussion about nuclear policy which quickly faded from the public consciousness.
  4. Deflection – In which you attack the messenger. After being pointedly called out by Meryl Streep for mocking a disabled reporter, Trump attacked the messenger: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him “groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!The video is out there; no matter how much he denies it, Trump’s actions can not be interpreted as anything other than cruel mockery of a man’s afflictions – but attacking Ms. Streep, one of the most accomplished and versatile actresses of this generation, deflect’s the public’s view from the issue at hand. This was also evident as Trump attacked Buzzfeed, CNN, and the BBC around reports on the supposed Russian dossier.

Lastly, Lakoff presents an example of a Trump tweet that uses all four strategies at once:

“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

  • Pre-emptive framing: “This is fake news.”
  • Diversion – Getting the public to discuss whether or not this is fake news rather than addressing the issue itself.
  • Deflection – Attacking the messengers
  • Trial balloon – Will the intelligence agencies be stopped, and are they working like Nazi Germany?

And, of course, tucked away in the tweet is the invocation of a corollary to Godwin’s Law: In any online discussion, whoever first brings up a reference to Hitler has lost the argument, and the discussion is ended.

Lakoff’s suggestions for the press on how to handle the onslaught of 3 AM tweets, as well as the entire podcast (it’s only about 8 minutes long) are well worth the listen.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Carpenter’s Sandwiches, 1932

West Sunset Boulevard & Vine Street, Los Angeles, California.

(Click image for full-size version. Just look at those prices…)
Carpenter's Drive In

A wonderful memory of early Los Angeles – before my time, certainly, but along the same lines as some other unusual LA restaurants that I do remember.

Hoot-Hoot-Ice-Cream

I’ve mentioned Hoot Hoot I Scream before; another great collection of ephemera from Los Angeles can be found at Shelter From the Storm, including the coffee pot restaurant seen below.

Coffee Pot Restaurant

Most of these unusual eateries are gone, replaced by restaurants whose gimmick is found inside rather than outside. As for me, I miss places like this. I still grin when I drive along the freeway on a road trip and see a huge Sapp Bros. water tank decked out to look like a coffee pot.

Sapp

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Coin collecting – nobody makes money but the dealers.

I learned this lesson the hard way as a kid, as I sank endless amounts of allowance and paychecks and tips into a coin collection and various and sundry offerings from the Franklin Mint, touted as “brilliant investments” and “guaranteed to be coveted”. Yes, some of the things I gathered were very pretty, but 50 years later when it came time to divest myself of the items for this reason and that, I found out that most of the stuff was worth: melt value. That’s just the sad reality of the collecting world.

The same holds true for stamps: the mint sheets of things like the Mercury mission

301748

Face value: $4.00. Dealer price today: $18.40. Hardly a brilliant investment over time, and that’s for a mint sheet. Certainly not what my father envisioned as he gathered sheets like this which I ended up inheriting. Individual cancelled stamps collected from envelopes will fetch you… well, kindling, really. With the exception of a few very rare beauties, stamp collecting is a hobby for amateurs (in the original sense, meaning “those who love”) rather than investors.

Not that dealers out there are not still trying to flummox the unwise and the uninformed. Look at this beautiful collection of Liberty Seated coins from PCS stamps and coins, offered for only two payments of $295.00:

5cd6ba31-248f-4733-ad48-84a5cd678138_400_0

Yes, it’s very attractive. Here’s the potential breakdown of value, taken from the PCGS website – you can be sure that the coins you get will be the commonest (hence cheapest) varieties out there, and all in “Very Good” condition, or between grade 8 and 10.

1877 CC Liberty Seated Half Dollar – grade 8 – $59.00
1876 CC Liberty Seated Quarter – Grade 8 – $60.00
1876 CC Liberty Seated Dime – Grade 8 – $29.00

Total $148.00

That pretty little case probably costs about 30.00 or less from a dealer in China – so for a premium of $400.00 you can have someone put together a set of coins that you could own for 1/3 the price. Even 50 years down the road, don’t expect your investment to appreciate anywhere near that much.

Old US coinage can be beautiful, and top specimens command insane prices from the wealthy bidders who buy them at auction – but if you want to make money from collecting coins… become a dealer.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Try Moxie, they said.

12993457_10154069984323851_5847876238616611056_n

My first introduction to Moxie came as I read Stuart Little in the 1950s. Stuart, on his journey to find his lost love Margalo, stopped at a gas station and asked about something to drink.

“Have you any sarsaparilla in your store?” asked Stuart. “I’ve got a ruinous thirst.”
“Certainly,” said the storekeeper. “Gallons of it. Sarsaparilla, root beer, birch beer, ginger ale, Moxie, lemon soda, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Dipsi Cola, Pipsi Cola, Popsi Cola, and raspberry cream tonic. Anything you want.”

At the time I had no idea what Moxie was, but was delighted to find out later that it was a real thing, unlike the Dipsi, Pipsi, and Popsi colas mentioned. And yes, it’s definitely an acquired taste. It’s reminiscent of root beer or sarsparilla, but the dominant flavoring is gentian root, which brings a bitterness to the drink not found in other soft drinks (unless you’re fond of Campari soda, not usually found outside of Italy.) God forbid anyone should make a soda version of Fernet-Branca!

But Moxie is different, and refreshing. The bitterness doesn’t bother me, in fact it makes the concoction more satisfying on a hot day than something that’s just overly sugary. I may like it for the same reason I like chestnut honey, which I discovered on a trip to Slovenia – wonderfully full-bodied, with that same distinctive bitterness which offsets the sweetness nicely.

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Originating around 1876 as a patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food,” Moxie is closely associated with the state of Maine and was designated the official soft drink of Maine on May 10, 2005. Its creator, Dr. Augustin Thompson, was born in Union, Maine. (Extracted from Wikipedia)

For the longest time, Frank Anicetti ran the Moxie Museum in Lisbon, Maine; this year saw the closure of the store, which was at the heart of Maine’s annual Moxie Festival since 1913.

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Frank Anicetti serves up Moxie ice cream

But even though the Kennebec Fruit Company store is gone, Moxie will stay close to the hearts and stomachs of Mainahs; there’s still the Matthews Museum in Union, which has an entire wing devoted to Moxie.

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The Moxie Wing at the Matthews Museum in Union, Maine

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Now in the interest of full disclosure, I’m still a Pepper, and always have been. In my years sojourning in Europe, I discovered that Europeans – while they find Coke and Pepsi palatable – generally look upon Root Beer and Dr Pepper as tasting like medicine. With that in mind, I suspect Moxie wouldn’t find much of a market in Vienna or Ljubljana… in fact, it might be just enough to turn even our best European friends into a torch-and-pitchfork waving mob.

But such is life. The poor souls probably wouldn’t appreciate nattō either. They have my sympathy. For the moment, I’m happy to be in Maine, where Moxie is readily available.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Klaatu Barada Nikto

When I purchased the relatively recent remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, it included a nice remastered copy of the 1950 original so my money wasn’t a total waste.

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If you’ve never seen it (Ai! What rock have you been living under?) it is based on the timeless story by Harry Bates, “Farewell to the Master,” which is worth a read all by itself.

Long seared having been seared into my mind since the first time I saw it as a child, I’m gratified that this film ranks 7th on Arthur C. Clarke’s top-10 science fiction film list, because even 65 years later – coincidentally my age – it’s just as relevant now as it was then. It’s a tight film, without a second wasted, and made with the intention that it would:

a) be as realistic as the technology allowed, and
b) transmit the message that mankind needs to get rid of its violent nature if it cares to survive.

Having spent a career as a linguist, I some time ago watched the film again with the intent of listening to Klaatu’s language, and transcribing what he said as accurately as possible. There is so little dialog that it can’t really be considered a conlang, but it was interesting to me nonetheless.

Klaatu barada nikto!” is one of the most famous lines ever uttered in a science-fiction film, but was not the only thing that Klaatu said. The remainder of the dialog is:

Gort! Deglet ovrosco! (Said after Klaatu is shot the first time)

Imray Klaatu naruwak.
Makro [pluvau|pluval], baratu lokdeniso impeklis.
Yavo tari [axo|axel] bugletio barengi degas.
(Klaatu’s instructions – ostensibly to his Federation – for his “demonstration of power”; this linguist’s best transcription. Two words are nearly impossible to pinpoint without a script or screenplay. You can listen to the dialog here.)

Klaatu barada nikto! (Probably something like “Klaatu needs help!”)

Gort, berengo. Probably much like “Mirab, his sails unfurled,” i.e. Gort, let’s blow this bait shack.

I never tire of watching this film – its value to the human condition, and as an early example of outstanding science fiction cinematography, will never diminish.

Here is the text of Klaatu’s speech, for your consideration:

“I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. Free to pursue more… profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.