1. Goodbye 2011!

    EACH December 31st finds me, in the late afternoon, slathered head to toe with Veet, ritually denuding myself of all body hair.

    The reason is two-fold:  First, it wouldn’t be Charlie and Anne Bishop’s New Year’s Eve party – an annual tradition here in our little cul-de-sac – if I didn’t show up dressed as a smooth, pink Baby New Year, complete with top hat, diaper, and sash. (And speaking of dual purposes, that diaper comes in handy when the wait for the bathroom becomes a little too long, given the amount of alcohol I’ll be consuming – so don’t worry, Anne, your precious indoor dwarf Meyer Lemon tree in the corner of the sun porch is safe this year, I promise!).

    Oh, and second, like you, I like to give myself a fresh, hairless start each year, and what’s fresher and more hairless than a completely smooth man-baby?

    And as I let the thioglycolic acid work its depilatory magic on my person (Tingly!) it gives me a chance to reflect back upon the past twelve months, as we close the books on yet another year, this particular year being 2011, and as we peer ahead forward towards the oncoming year, in this case 2012, and consider the possibilities, the hopes we have for it, and the things we hope to do and accomplish, and anticipation, with a sense of hopefulness, so that a year from now, we can look back on a year rife with accomplishment and promise…and maybe even dreams.

    Now, many of you have called, sent postcards and in some cases emailed me, wondering, perhaps aloud as you wrote the cards and emails, and definitely aloud if we spoke, “Ted, what have you planned for 2012?  Have you any resolutions, Ted?”

    Well, as I tell Latreece, my probation officer (she’s cool), each Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., “You can’t improve on perfection!”

    But to be fair, I think there are things we can all do to improve ourselves.  And so my gift to you, this New Year’s Eve, is a list of ten things – call them resolutions if that makes it easier – that we should all strive to do, to make the world a better place in 2012.  I’m going to do them, and I encourage you to, as well:

    1.  I will no longer go to Souplantation barefoot.  (Note: If you live in a beach community, you can of course disregard this one.  It’s more for us “inlanders.”)

    2.  I will increase the weights I work with at the gym to whatever the next size up from the pink vinyl-covered ones is.

    3.  I will intend to make a reasonable effort to try not to back out of volunteering for Meals-on-Wheels at the last minute just because “something better came up” unless it’s something really cool. (Or, even better: I will no longer volunteer for delivering Meals on Wheels at all – that’s probably a more realistic one, and when you think about it, it’s actually a more positive change we can make for all the hungry shut-ins.)

    4. I will try those new Hot Pockets Side Shots.

    5. I will not curse  in public: Not at the library, not picking up Kaylee at daycare when she “dawdles” despite me laying on the horn for twenty seconds at a stretch, and definitely not on this blog.

    6.  I will keep my clothes on when–

    …Actually, that’s going to have to be it because I was only supposed to leave this crap on for six minutes but I lost track of time writing this shit for you and it’s been about three-quarters of an hour now and suddenly it feels like my entire body is on fire so even if I manage to get in the shower right now and scrape it off (and it’s dried now, caked on, so I’ll have to scrape it off!), it looks I’m going to be a red, tender mess again this year for the party.

    Jesus H. Christ!  Perfect fucking ending to 2011!  Good fucking riddance to this piece of shit year!

    Posted by on December 31, 2011, 6:36 PM.

  2. At Long Last, It’s Here!

    FINALLY!  The long-awaited day when Crisp Kringles – crunchy rice in delicious Palmer chocolate with that unique soap flavor – are marked half off, and in some cases, reduced up to 60%!

    It’s off to Walgreens for me, and, oh man, I need to go!  Look at the time!
    I hope I can still get a good spot in line.

    I wonder if they’re handing out wristbands this year.

    Posted by on December 26, 2011, 3:07 AM.

  3. Merry Christmas!

    EVERY family has its own Christmas traditions, some time-honored and serious, others light-hearted and goofy. We Parsnips are no different.

    However, this is the third year in a row where one of us has ended up on a [never-private-enough] emergency room bed while the rest of us, bedecked in our goofiest Christmas sweaters, is left trying to explain to the attending physician how a popcorn ball still wrapped in green cellophane got where it did.

    So perhaps this is one annual (not a typo!) tradition that we’ll be retiring this year. Maybe the ol’ air cannon is best used outdoors to launch corn dogs and individual spare ribs at the family reunion each August.

    This does not necessarily preclude us from using Pop-Pop’s x-ray of the mishap for next year’s holiday card.

    Merry Christmas!

    Posted by on December 25, 2011, 11:17 AM.

  4. Perfect Last Minute Gift Idea!

    YES, yes, I know in this joyous religion-neutral holiday season, the last thing I should be doing is cramming something non-secular down your throats. But if I know you, and I do, you’re still rushing around trying to pick up not only that last-minute gift but also that perfect gift as, say, either a simple remembrance for the postman (oh, oh, pardon me – postperson), or perhaps to mark your first romantic holiday with your fiancée – and you’ll take any help you can get.

    It’s rare indeed when these two categories – “last minute” and “perfect” – overlap into one gift but in this case, you’ll agree that they do:

    It’s a marvelous jigsaw puzzle featuring Jesus and all the kids!

    From Matthew 12:8-12:  The little children didst gather around Him as He spake unto them a parable; the one about the barren fig tree and the unjust servant, and something about a foolish merchant or someone. And lo, He began to loseth their interest somewhere around the part about the prodigal mustard seed, so then He pulled out His ventriloquist dummy, Buddy Sheckels, and verily, the children grew slightly less restless, and not a one wouldst betray that they could see His lips moveth quite plainly.

    Anyway, the beauty part here, pal, is they’re thinking you paid $8.95 for this thing. The fact that you picked it up at the 99¢ Only store…? Our little secret.

    Speaking of Christ: Christ Almighty, that store should be paying me for all the free advertising they get on this blog. Or they could maybe give me a gift card once in a while. Or at least look the other way and not be so quick to call the cops if a tiny bottle of vanilla extract (that turned out to not even have alcohol in it!) should somehow accidentally fall into my pocket. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Adelina, assistant manager at Store #214, corner of DeSoto and Chatsworth.

    Posted by on December 24, 2011, 3:54 AM.

  5. Chick-Fil-Whaaah?!

    I THINK I WAS as disappointed as you were when I heard the other day that our favorite fast food chain, Chick-fil-A – with their whimsical cow mascots begging for their very lives and that amazingly extensive self-serve bar of little sauce packets – was under fire for mocking two Asian customers by printing offensive names on their order receipts.

    The company insisted this was “simply a case of immaturity, failed judgment and human error” on the part of an individual employee who was quickly fired.

    Seems fair.  Especially considering that Kevin Lee, the fellow who posted the receipt photo on Tumblr wrote “… I don’t think the horrible mistake on the part of one individual is reason enough to launch a witch hunt…There’s no way the person who hired this woman would have been able to know she’d do something so stupid.”

    But was it an isolated incident? As you know, I’m an inveterate receipt saver, and decided – just for fun! – I’ll take a look at one of my old receipts.

    I was stunned at what I found – stunned! – and I don’t know how I missed it at the time. I can only presume that my mind was preoccupied with those delicious waffle potato fries of theirs to care about anything else.  (I crossed out the team member’s name because I think it’s best to just put this all behind us and move on.)

    It sucks when ignorant people make snap judgments about one’s presumed ethnicity based on looks and the way the fabric of one’s Sansabelt gabardine twill flat-front trousers drape across the loins.

    I’m Slovak, not Romanian.

    Posted by on December 16, 2011, 4:54 AM.

  6. What’s Bueno At The 99¢ Only Store: Vintage Toys Slide Whistle!

    TODAY we’ve got a special Christmas edition of What’s Bueno At The 99¢ Only Store: Christmas Edition!

    It’s special because it’s a Christmas edition of my popular blog feature…and also because I didn’t buy this at the 99¢ Only Store but rather at Dollar Tree, but c’mon, they’re both dollar stores. The only difference, really, is Dollar Trees are carpeted so that absorbs some of the noise from the ill-behaved children you’ll find in both chains, running around unsupervised, screaming, knocking things over and throwing things while their unfit parents are nowhere in sight.

    Well, that and Dollar Tree had this thing and the 99¢ Only store didn’t.  And this thing is…

    this thing!

    Look, it’s a slide whistle!  I’ve photographed it on the Parsnips Family Christmas tree because what a fun and wonderful gift the gift of a slide whistle would be as a gift for that someone special! Who wouldn’t enjoy finding this under the tree, or in their stocking?  That’s right, no one!

    It’s smartly packaged with “vintage”-looking typeface and card design, and even the name of the toy line, “Vintage Toys,” somehow evokes the feel of vintage toys.

    You’d probably pay $9.95, like an idiot, for this thing from Archie McPhee, and God knows we all love Archie McPhee, sure, but at Dollar Tree you can score one of these for just a buck. Better still if there’s just one left in the toy section and one of those aforementioned obnoxious brats is reaching for it and you grab it just before him – or better yet, pull it out of his grubby little hand.  Hell, give the little bastard a smack with the blister-card – teach him some goddamn manners!  His neglectful parents are too busy way over in Aisle 5 choosing which ungodly scent of Ensueño fabric softener will stink up that week’s laundry to do anything about it anyway.

    By the way, my attorney would like to mention that you probably shouldn’t smack a stranger’s child, especially given the profusion of security cameras in stores patronized by poor people. Still, it’s fun to imagine!

    Vintage Toys Slide Whistle made the cut as this week’s What’s Bueno at the 99¢ Only Store: Christmas at Dollar Tree Edition Item of the Week item really for the impact it would make as a gift, not so much, sadly, as a slide whistle for your own sliding-whistle, or slide-whistling, needs.

    Much like your genitals in a pair of girl-jeans, the package looks impressive but once you take it out, everyone at the office Christmas party is going to be disappointed. I’ll end that analogy now before noting that the only way to get this thing to really work is to blow it hard.  Unlike your traditional slide whistles, this one features a little bird that vibrates up and down and in doing so adds a trilling, though not necessarily thrilling effect to the sound.  (I’ve found it sounds more like a traditional slide whistle if you turn it upside down so the bird baffle doesn’t impede the flow of air.)

    Still, it’s kind of fun as a gift, especially if you have any friends with a young, hyper child: You’ll be ahead of the game, too, because next November you’ll get an email from them saying, “Hey, let’s just do Christmas cards this year.”

    Saving you, the reader, money: That’s exactly why Vintage Toys Slide Whistle is this week’s What’s Bueno At The 99¢ Only Store: A Very Dollar Tree Christmas Edition item.

    I think we’re done here.

    Posted by on December 15, 2011, 2:07 AM.

  7. Rudolph!

    QUICK, what’s your favorite Christmas special?

    If you answered “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” you’re right! (If you said “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” you’re a filthy liar because though no one wants to publicly admit it, that first Peanuts special is dull, poorly animated and depressing; and then there’s all that Fundamental Christian proselytizing by Linus at the end – completely out of place in a Christmas special; an offensive affront to the modern holiday aesthetic which frankly I’m surprised hasn’t been edited out for recent airings.)

    Anyway, with regards to Rudolph, despite it being your favorite special, there was a time – decades, actually – when each Christmas season we weren’t inundated with endless Rudolph merchandise. Indeed, there was, like, nothing other than maybe a record album from when it first aired in 1964 until the late 1990s.

    Then in 1999, CVS offered these Beanie Baby-like beanbags during the height of Beanie Baby stupidity. (Forget the housing bubble; it was the people who invested in worthless Beanie Babies that put this economy in the toilet.) The Rudolph beanies were a huge hit and after that, in the true spirit of Christmas, countless licensees climbed aboard the Rudolph gravy sleigh.

    More and more and more Rudolph crap was manufactured: both figures and figurines, ornaments and tree decorations, plush and stuffed dolls, each new item more redundant than the last and nearly identical to previous offerings until we got to where we all are today: hating the very sight of Rudolph and sick of that stupid special, and tuning in only because the tall elf with the horn-rimmed glasses reminds us fondly of character actor Herbert Anderson for whom we’ve always had a soft spot in our heart.

    The point is, if you’re really into Rudolph memorabilia, or Rudolphibilia as its known in collector circles, you have your inflatable Rudolph yard decoration (mint in box), your Clarice lip gloss (unopened), you have your Abominable Snow Monster bobblehead (in original packaging), your Yukon Cornelius mustache grooming kit (unused), your Hermey the Elf home dentistry molar pliers (still in blister-pack)…and of course, dozens and dozens of resin figures by Enesco of all the other characters, every last one in just slightly different poses and each released a year apart (and you collectors have to have them all!), but brother, you ain’t got everything.  You ain’t got everything.

    Because here, then, is the rarest, most obscure piece of Rudolphibilia:

    The official  Mr. Coffee Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Iced Tea Maker.

    See, it’s, eh, it’s got “Iced Tea Maker” in that famous Rudolph font.  That’s the same lettering they use in the opening credits of the special, right?   You see it, don’t you?!    …Why am I such a misfit?

    Posted by on December 14, 2011, 4:27 AM.

  8. Overpriced Goodwill Item of the Week: Madeline!

    IN SPITE OF – or due to – having lost an arm when the Luftwaffe destroyed her school during an air raid, little Madeline is seen welcoming German troops into Paris in a hasty show of allegiance to their Führer. Immortalized here as a wooden push-puppet, this whimsical toy – of interest to both collectors of classic children’s book characters and World War II historians – was discovered at my local Goodwill for $1.99.

    We’re doomed to repeat history unless we learn from it.  And what we’ve learned here is that Goodwill really has no qualms about putting broken crap out on the sales floor. Who the hell do they think is going to buy this thing?  Someone with another broken Madeline push-puppet who would cannibalize this one for spare parts?!

    On that note, any readers looking to unload a Babar from the same line, please contact me. I need to rebuild the trunk on mine. (Yes, again!)

    Posted by on December 13, 2011, 2:38 AM.

  9. A Startling Discovery!

    Recently, I had to replace a broken headlight on my car.

    I know, I know – you’re wondering just where in hell I’m going with all of this. Oh, I’ll tie it all together soon. But first allow me to add yet another element to this most curious puzzle:

    The other day CNN ran a great story about some guy named “Al Jaffee,” who is an artist and writer for some magazine called “Mad.”

    What’s even more fascinating than the article itself is that I scrolled through about the first fifty comments below the piece and no one wrote “Mad hasn’t been funny in years” – a comment you always see below any article about Mad. Could it be that people have finally begun to respect the American institution that is Mad magazine, or in this case, at least the focus of the piece – one of Mad’s elder geniuses?

    Naaah!

    Soon I realized, of course!, the lack of negative comments is simply due to the fact that you’ve got to be invested enough in your disdain of Mad to take the time to register if you want to leave a comment, and who the hell’s got time for that?

    But what’s even more fascinating than that is the article itself.

    And while the article gives a very interesting and detailed overview of Mr. Jaffee’s life and career it’s not complete.

    Indeed, nowhere in the entire article does it mention the wonderful work that I recently discovered, completely by accident, that Mr. Jaffee did in the mid-1990s…for Toyota.

    You see, as luck would have it, it was the driver’s side headlight that went out – oh, no – not the passenger’s side headlight where you just pop a new bulb in and you’re done. Oh God forbid my life should be easy!  God forbid!

    No, for the driver’s side you’ve got a whole afternoon ordeal ahead of you that involves scraping your knuckles raw trying to blindly wedge your hand into a tiny, dark recess full of sharp metal corners and pointy metal bolt ends before finally accepting that you’re going to have to disconnect and remove the damn battery to get to the bulb, and in doing so splash battery acid in all those scrapes since you refuse to let those crooks at Pep Boys install it for you, because the last time they did it, they also fast-talked you into getting four new tires, new shocks, a new motor for the sun roof and a new transfer case despite the fact that your car has neither a sun roof nor four-wheel drive! At least that’s been my experience with them.

    So not only do you have to pull out the battery, you’ve also got to remove the air cleaner duct (Christ!) and to do so, you’ve got to turn to page 171 of your owner’s manual.

    Wake up!  This is where it all comes together, folks.

    Look at the illustration from said owner’s manual for removing the air cleaning duct clip:

    Now tell me Al Jaffee didn’t draw that!  Tell me he didn’t draw that!

    Okay, my attorney is telling me he didn’t draw that. Or that I shouldn’t imply that he did just because I think it looks like an Al Jaffee drawing. But it does look like a Jaffee drawing, right? It totally does! Right?! And the weird thing is, it’s one of only two drawings in the entire owner’s manual drawn in that style. The rest are drawn differently – more owner’s manual-like and less Jaffeesque. But this little diagram…? It looks exactly like something out of one of Al’s ’inventions’ pieces for Mad, doesn’t it?  Of course it does!  Yes, yes, yes, I know I’m basing this only on a hand, but it looks like an Al Jaffee hand!

    Okay, I guess it’s unlikely Al Jaffee drew that, but it’s fun to pretend, right?

    On a possibly related note, Antonio “Spy Vs. Spy” Prohias totally designed the logo for this marvelous little café in Monrovia – I just know it!

    It’s clearly his work, somehow commissioned and drawn by him after his death, for a café that opened just a few years ago.

    Pardon, there’s the phone. My attorney! Now what the devil could he want?

    Posted by on December 9, 2011, 6:32 PM.

  10. Allens Inc. Quality Vegetables: The Undisputed Masters of Delightfully Anachronistic Package Design!

    AS YOU’RE WELL AWARE by now, I’m always on the lookout for anachronistic package design. Some have suggested that my fascination with packages that look old but aren’t may indicate a mild form of OCD, perhaps itself a symptom of autism brought on when I was inoculated as an infant for rinderpest. (Growing up in the isolated rural farming community of Greenwich, Connecticut, my pediatrician was also our livestock veterinarian, and I suspect he got his syringes mixed up. In further support of this theory is the fact that none of our cattle ever contracted rubella.)

    Yet others, myself among them, have noted that this may just be an easy way to come up with content that, according to my preoccupation with checking Google Analytics every night at 12:01 a.m., less than six people on average worldwide will be reading anyway.

    Anyway, here’s a can of spinach that looks like it’s from the late 1940s.  But it’s not!

    It totally looks exactly like it’s more than half a century old, right? And before you challenge me with “Well, how do you know it’s not?” I’ll tell you that I know it’s not because its label feature a UPC code, a recycle symbol, a website URL, a banner reading “Low Sodium” and microwave directions! Did they have any of those things back then? Did anyone care about salt in the late 1940s?  No, of course not. I win.

    This can of cut leaf spinach, destined eventually for some sort of glorious spinach/mayonnaise/artichoke dip that I’ll no doubt end up eating like soup once I run out of pita chips, is from the good men and women at Allens. They’ve been packing vegetables that we’ve all been enjoying since 1926.

    What’s neat is they’ve got a very modern, up-to-date website, yet most (sadly, not all) of their brands (and I counted seventeen different names they sell their wares under!) feature labels that look like they were designed fifty or sixty years ago.

    Isn’t that awesome?!

    Look at their delightfully anachronistic East Texas Fair brand of canned blackeyed peas, field peas (I have no idea either) and lima beans:

    How amazing is that? The logo for this brand looks like the title card for a 1947 Walter Lantz Cartune. I don’t know which one, but it just has that look.  You know what I mean.

    And now look at this collection I’ve amassed of some of their other labels. Even their licensed Popeye brand looks like it came right off the shelf of a 1950s corner market. Again, folks: These are all canned goods currently available on grocery shelves across this great country of ours for you to buy! Not decades ago! Today!  These exist today!

    And don’t even get me started on the stunning label on that can of Alma cut green beans. Good lord, I want that as my wall paper in every single room of this house.

    And now a personal message to the wonderful people of Allens Inc. – don’t you dare change a thing.  Your canned vegetables with delightfully anachronistic package design are, well, a delight. The six or so people worldwide who visit this blog on any given day will back me up on this.

    Posted by on December 2, 2011, 6:00 AM.

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