1. Dear God in Heaven, That’s Dick Van Dyke!

    HERE’S something disturbing.

    As regular readers to this blog know, my beloved Nana Parsnips is something of a hoarder. It’s my secret shame. Well, it’s not really much of a secret now is it? Especially since I’ve told you.  And we all know how well you can keep a secret. Remember the time you bumped into me at Smart & Final and I couldn’t think fast on my feet so I just told you why I was buying all that cranberry juice? I guess I just didn’t expect you to post it on Facebook forty minutes later. But that’s all water under the bridge.

    Anyway, no, the fact that she’s a hoarder isn’t disturbing – on the contrary! We’ve all seen hoarders on TV and I know I speak for you all when I say, “Well, wouldn’t it be great if someone in my family was saddled with some chronic emotional problem or mental illness that outwardly manifested itself in classic hoarding behavior to the point that I could save $89 a month by getting rid of that stupid storage unit and just move all my excess crap into her living room, on account of, what the hell, it’s not like she’s going to notice the difference?”

    Indeed, I speak for all of you when I say that. But in my case, I’m living the dream.

    So I’m there last week, and was looking for a little something to read for later that morning when I had to sit in the car waiting for another never-ending appointment with her damn nephrologist, sure, and decided on an issue of “Good Housekeeping.” And yes, I made sure to point out the irony there, which of course made her cry. But what the hell, who among you could resist zinging her with that one? That’s right – none of you! Awright then.

    But I wanted a clean issue, so I had to dig down to the 1978 stratum to get one not covered with cat fæces or mummified cats, for that matter. Or mummified cat fæces, for that matter.

    Man, that æ dealie sure makes fæces look real elegant, huh? That’s some high-class fæces there. Dignified. In a word, yes!, dignified. Nothing makes plain, run-of-the-mill, garden variety feces look sophisticated like the ol’ æ!

    Where was I?

    Anyway, yes, so there I am digging through the mummified cat fæces and I uncover a nice clean thirty-three year old copy of “Good Housekeeping.” A delightful and fresh-faced Debbie Boone graced the cover.

    So I’m flipping through, and I see this:

    And it doesn’t register at first, but then, with mounting horror I realize,

    Dear God in Heaven, that’s Dick Van Dyke!

    I’m serious! No, that’s not a woman! Look closer, man! That’s Dick Van Dyke!

    Look!   Look!

    He looks like your aunt! He looks like my aunt! I mean, not any specific aunt of mine, God forbid; he just looks like someone’s aunt! He looks like someone’s aunt in the 1970s!

    This is the sophicated, urbane Rob Petrie we’re talking about here! What happened to the poor man in the twelve years since “The Dick Van Dyke Show” went off the air (not to mention the four years since “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” went off the air) that turned him into this? He’s got a lady’s hairdo! He’s wearing a blouse! That’s no Hawaiian shirt, it’s a g_dd_mn blouse, and you know it!   It’s a blouse!

    And that’s not the worst of it.

    This is:

    What the hell is that?

    Why is Dick Van Dyke in drag for Kodak instant cameras? I mean, he’s not merely camping it up in that photo, he’s become a woman! He’s wearing tangerine slacks! And the blouse! And  don’t forget the hairdo – the lady’s hairdo!

    Dick kind of redeems himself in the last picture in the ad; he looks more like himself in that one, the Dick Van Dyke we all know and love, but I’m not bothering with a closeup of that image here. (Scroll up if you must.) It might take away from the fact that in the other pictures, he looks just like a woman!

    And yet, here he is in a toy commercial which incidentally seems strangely aimed at parents rather than their children (“Chutes Away is so much fun your kids may never stop playing it.”), where he’s basically the same likably goofy Oh, Rob!-type with more gray in his hair. Oddly, both the commercial and the  print ad are from 1978. At least I think they are. You people don’t pay me enough to hire someone to actually research all this stuff. But according to some vintage game website, the toy’s from 1978, so it follows that the commercial’s from the same year. Probably.

    If you take anything away from all of this, let it be how to use the æ symbol and make your fæces shine. And I forget how I did it, which mystical combination of pressed keys makes it appear as though by magic; I’ve just been pasting it in there since the first one I used. You might want to make a few copies for yourself and take them with you.

    Fæces. Free from me to you.  Chutes away!

    Posted by on April 7, 2011, 1:00 AM.

  2. Book Club Wednesday: The Large Ant, Indeed!

    TODAY’S book club selection is “The Edge of Tomorrow” by Howard Fast. This is available in paperback from Bantam Books for 45¢ at, I think it was that thrift store on Sherman Way in Reseda across from CVS. Ignore the “Book Castle” price tag on it, that’s old. I’m pretty sure it’s only 45¢. Well, it was, anyway. I bought the only copy they had.

    The thing is, folks, if you’re going to be part of this book club, it’s going to eventually become evident if it hasn’t already that you’re going to have to get to the thrift store before me.

    Anyway, a little background on Howard Fast: Howard Fast was—  You know what? You know how to use Wikipedia. I’m not cluttering up this post up with a biography; besides, I think the hosting company I use charges me by the word. That’s how they do it, right?

    Okay, let’s get this show on the road:  “The Edge of Tomorrow.” Okay.  Okay.

    Awright, here we go.

    It’s got this enormous freaking ant on the cover!

    If that doesn’t entice you to pick up this book and spend 45¢ on it, I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you, but get off my website.

    I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Come back here. You’re the only one who’s been here all week.

    Okay, all month.

    Anyway, look at that ant! Look at that big ol’ hairy ant! And I’m not talking about the Italian woman your uncle married, hey-o!

    I’m kidding! Get back here! Get back here, sit down, have some coffee. Let’s talk ants.

    Now look carefully and you’ll see three people cowering in terror beneath the giant ant. Well, wouldn’t you cower? The thing’s as big as a house!

    So I did some figuring and I’ve decided that an average man is about, what, 5’9”…? (You and me, though, we’re taller.  I did say “average.”) Regardless, I’m estimating those three poor bastards at about five-nine in height. Got it? Then I took a piece of paper and marked off the height of the tallest guy, and then counted how many of him it would take to reach the top of the ant. Look, this was all very scientific and mathematical and I can’t get into it here. It’s much too complex to explain. Long story short, I estimate that monster ant on the cover to be about thirty-one feet, nine inches tall. Got it? 31’9”.

    Inside the book there are seven short stories. The second one is titled “The Large Ant.”

    Large?!

    Again, can we have another shot of the cover, please?

    No?

    Okay, fine, scroll up if you need to. The thing isn’t large; it’s enormous! It’s behemothic! It’s gargantuan, cyclopean, and any of another two dozen synonyms for ‘gigantic’ which I won’t list here because I can’t afford another huge word bill at the end of the month from JoyHost LLC.

    So you can imagine, having plunked down 45¢ for this this, my stomach’s already feeling a little unsettled reading the title “The Large Ant.” And then I get to page 37!

    Am I allowed to transcribe stuff here?  Is that legal…? You’re sure…?  Okay.

    And then I get to page 37!

    “…It’s the first time I saw an ant fourteen, fifteen inches long.  I hope it’s the last.”

    Well, for God’s sake, I don’t! I hope they just keep getting bigger! Because “fourteen, fifteen inches long” does not equal “thirty-one feet, nine inches tall.” And this isn’t ruining anything; you wouldn’t be here in the book club if you hadn’t read it, too – so as you know, that’s it! One lousy “large” ant that isn’t even a foot and a half long!

    What are these paperback publishers trying to do to us with artwork on the cover that bears no resemblance to the story inside? Isn’t there some law against this? Well, this is exactly what internet petitions are for, so I need you to get started on that, but for the love of Christ, let’s not do double work and have multiple petitions going around there because it’s just going to be more work for me and I’ll have to spend hours checking for duplicate names and then even more time and effort to consolidate them all into one cohesive document before my attorney will even look at it.

    In the meantime, I need any of you who knows Bennett Cerf to get in touch with him. He lives in Mt. Kisco, New York, I think. Do we have anyone here from Mt. Kisco?

    Posted by on April 6, 2011, 1:02 AM.

  3. Little Stacks of Rocks!

    WHAT IS  IT with these little stacks of rocks?

    Here, this is what I mean:

    That’s exactly what I mean.

    I don’t know where I found it.  I pulled it off some website.

    I can do that, right?  I probably should talk to my attorney about that, but for the time being, let’s just say that if it’s your image, and you want me to pull it down, you just let me know.  It’s up to you.  I would, personally, think it’s something of an honor to have your picture featured here, but that’s just me.  But you just let me know.

    Anyway, what’s up with the little stacks of rocks?  I’ve been seeing these things for about ten years now.  Is this some stupid zen thing?  Or some sappy one-with-nature Indian thi– Oh, oh, pardon me, some Native American thing?  What is it? Help me out here.  Because I’m seeing these things everywhere, and frankly, they’re starting to piss me off.

    I just got this in the mail:

    There it is again.  And, no, no, no, it’s not my birthday – thank you, but it’s not my birthday.  It’s a reminder from a chiropractor, sent to whoever lived here previously.  Must be his birthday.

    The point is, there it is again.  The little stack of rocks.

    Okay, let’s try something here.  Google images.  Ooh, let’s say…”stacked stones.”

    Holy crap.

    Clearly we’ve gone from mildly annoying trend to hackneyed cliché.  What is it with all the stacked stones?

    Is it supposed to be arty or something?  You’re stacking little rocks on top of each other.  How is that art?  This is suddenly something beautiful?  No.

    You know, it occurs to me the first time I saw this was when I was mountain biking a few years ago, and came up to the top of this ridge out in the middle of nowhere, and there was a little stack of rocks, maybe six, eight inches tall, just like in any of those pictures.  It didn’t annoy me then, but it annoys me now, and if it’s still there next time I’m out there, I’m kicking it down.

    Now, understand: I won’t make a special trip out there to kick it down, but by God, if it’s still there next time I’m out there anyway, it has a date with my foot.

    Same thing goes for any of these things I see at the beach, because now that I think of it, I always see them there, too.  So let’s just all calm down and stop stacking little rocks and then taking pictures of them.

    Posted by on March 31, 2011, 3:46 AM.

  4. Book Club Wednesday: The Vampire of Mons!

    OKAY, let’s quietly move our chairs into a semi-circle formation, on account of it’s time for Ted Parsnips’ Book Club. I said quietly!

    Today we’ll be discussing “The Vampire of Mons” by Desmond Stuart and I hope you all read it. It was on your reading list, and as you know it was available at the Elephant’s Trunk Thrift Store in Venice, Florida, for 25¢, at least until I bought it about a year and a half ago. After that, you were on your own. I don’t know what to tell you. Look for it on Amazon or something. Or take a zero for this assignment.

    Anyway, I finally got around to reading it. And the thing is, I’m trying not to be a total jackass here. I don’t want to cruelly mock other creative endeavors, or the creative types that endeavor to…create…them just because I can, from the relative safety of my ivory keyboard. Because we all have feelings. There’s no reason for me to rip apart someone else’s work just because I can, right…?

    Having said that, Desmond Stewart died thirty years ago, he’s not reading this, and this “novel” of his was a steaming pile of crap.

    Look, for my 25¢ I want a good story, not just a good cover. And the cover was good. The cover is what sold me. I spent my two bits based on this cover. You’ve got the menacing guy front and center – presumably the vampire – and then two boys behind him, and then some kid standing in a field or something by himself below.

    And you know I was drawn in by the cover, because the damn book is falling apart and I still invested a quarter on it.

    Turns out this book was nothing but a gay “A Separate Piece.” Oh – oh, excuse me – a gayer “Separate Peace.” A gayer “Separate Peace” but instead of just that vague Gene-and-Finny thing going on, there’s four characters involved, and one of them is the teacher. And despite the title…? There was no vampire! They just thought there was a vampire!

    What a gyp!

    And just like John Knowles’ creepy paean to subtle teenage homoeroticism and obsession, this thing takes place in a boarding school during the Second World War.

    But in England. Though you’d never know that from the cover because none of the people in the cover artwork look British.  Awful, awful, book – terrible, meandering, pointless, absurd story and misleading cover art all of which may add up to a lawsuit against The Elephant Trunk; I’m still discussing my options with my attorney.

    What’s fascinating, though, is the back cover features a quote raving about the book:

    “Many thanks for THE VAMPIRE OF MONS which I swallowed in one sitting.  I thought it was the most interesting Gothic novel I have read for some time, and I particularly admired the accurate horrors of the kind of wartime boarding-school and all the underlying symbolism of the situation.”

    And that quote, ladies and gentlemen, that quote is attributed to John Fowles. I’m serious! It’s like John Knowles, but with an F instead of an Kn. What does this all mean?

    Who cares! It’s going into the trash now. Any of you who liked it, you’re wrong and you will be graded accordingly.

    Posted by on March 30, 2011, 1:31 AM.

  5. 20% More Helper Free!

    HERE’S something that’ll have you scratching your head whether or not you’ve had that lice infestation taken care of.

    It’s a standard box of your Hamburger Helper.  Cheeseburger Macaroni is the variety, and much like a 1971 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron Two-Door Hardtop, it is indeed a classic. Says so right on the box!

    Note: I have placed, by the box, a small plastic spaceman that seems to be dancing like the kids in that old Colgate Pump commercial, for scale.

    I’ve purchased the above, and just as the commercials say, or said, twenty years ago, probably, “Hamburger Helper makes a great meal!” Or “Helps your hamburger make a great meal.” Or “Helps you make a great meal.” Whatever! Look, that’s not important right now.

    I’ve also purchased the below.

    Yes, it’s the same species of Helper, except this box includes “20% MORE FREE.” Says so right on the box!

    Also, yep! There’s that spaceman again. (For scale.)

    Now here’s where things get confusing: While they’re including 20% more pasta and cheesy sauce mix, they don’t tell you to add any more meat!

    Instructions for both boxes – the regular size and the 20% MORE FREE size – tell you to use 1 lb lean ground beef.  (Me, I used ground turkey – healthier for you and the cow, and tastes just as good!) Oh, sure, they have you increase the amount of water and milk for the 20% MORE FREE size, so the pasta and sauce consistency remains…uh…consistent. But no more meat!

    So now you’ve got one lousy pound of meat completely lost amidst a superfluity of 20% MORE pasta and cheese sauce (FREE).

    Calls to the Betty Crocker division of General Mills were not returned, mostly on account of I never made any. In fact, I lost almost all interest in this one by the time I was uploading the damn photos.

    Still, if anyone from General Mills would like to contact me, I’d be happy to receive a big wad of coupons, or a big crate of free product. Or some sort of Helping Hand collectible.

    Posted by on March 28, 2011, 3:08 PM.

  6. Rug of Faith!

    HEY, look what I got in the mail!

    I was obviously pretty surprised and excited to receive this. Ordinarily, I would have thought, “Oh, just another piece of junk mail!”  But it was the writing on the front that caught my eye – as you might well imagine.  A very old church loans something to me, something that will bless me! Key words have been underlined, as though by a red felt-tip pen. Indeed, the most important words and phrases among them have been underlined twice. And by the way…?

    It was not me who underlined this!

    It arrived this way!

    The bald eagle by the postmark, too, seemed to underscore this missive’s importance. How very unpatriotic, how un-American it would be for me to just toss into the trash something bearing our national symbol! Besides, by now, this envelope was shaping up to be more mysterious and intriguing than a Dan Brown thriller. Frankly, I was hooked.

    Now, studying that photo above as you are wont to do, you’re probably thinking “This is very unusual. It arrived at Ted’s house sans any address at all; just the simple and perhaps apropos designation ‘TO A FRIEND.'” I need to be honest with you:  I digitally removed my address from that photo. What’s fair is fair, folks: If I’m no longer legally allowed to stalk others, I see no reason why anyone – and I love you all, you know this – why anyone should be allowed to stalk me. So, no, this arrived at the Parsnips home with my street address below that.

    Anyway, I eagerly opened it up and discovered a wealth of papers inside!

    Shuffling through them, I found a letter.

    A most interesting letter, indeed!

    “Dear…Someone Connected with This Address,” it begins – quite accurately, I might add. After all, there I was, reading the letter, and I am in fact someone connected with this address. Anyway, since it was written to me, and I am at my core a private person, I won’t share the details with you – you understand. But I will say that it sheds some light on that mystery of the “very old church.” It turns out that it is the benign St. Matthew’s Church, and indeed is very old! Sixty years old this year! Can you imagine a church any older than that?

    As to the other items inside: There was a double-page of testimonials from those who St. Matthew’s have helped. There was a postage-paid business reply mail envelope (More on that later!). “God Is Watching OUR VERY THOUGHTS” was the somewhat conflicting message at the top of a provocative Jesus pin-up, also enclosed.

    But most exciting was the prayer rug. Yes! A prayer rug! Now, you’re thinking “How did they enclose an actual prayer rug in a standard business-size envelope?” Well, I don’t need to tell you this, but as it says in Matthew 19:26, “With God, all things are possible.”

    But in this case, the prayer rug measures 11″ x 17″ and is printed on thin paper. Which was folded up.

    To fit in the envelope.

    The thing about the prayer rug is that it’s not mine to keep. At first I was a bit put off by this, but I came to understand: According to the directions, I need only kneel on it – no reason to bother with praying, curiously! – then, like so many five-for-a-dollar Archie comic books on an order form in a 1970s “Pals ‘n’ Gals,” merely check off my needs on that letter I mentioned and send the letter and the prayer rug back to the church. (This is where that return envelope comes in.) There, the folks at the church, they’ll pray on my behalf, and then they’ll send the prayer rug on to another home that needs a blessing. (I can only image all the hundreds or even thousands of houses this prayer rug has been to already.)

    Oh, also I think they’d like it if I sent them money as well.

    And the most astounding thing about the prayer rug is that you’ll notice – at first, anyway – you’ll notice that Jesus’ eyes are closed. Here, take a look – He won’t bite.

    Along the bottom, it reads, “Look into Jesus’ Eyes you will see they are closed. But as you continue to look you will see His eyes opening and looking back into your eyes.”

    My faith is not as strong as it once was, and I’ll admit – I was a bit skeptical to put it mildly. But I figured I’d give it a try. What did I have to lose? And so, yes, I looked into Jesus’ eyes and I continued to look…

    Holy crap, it works!

    And I’ll let you know if both your and my prayers are answered for some sort of editor to reign me in from pounding out these never-ending shaggy dog story-type posts.

    Posted by on , 2:53 AM.

  7. A Dollar For a Sample? Get Out of Here!

    HERE’S something you don’t see every day.

    It’s a sample box of Cheez-Its. I put a Toolie Bird by it for scale.

    There are 3 pouches inside. Each pouch features a different flavor of Cheez-It baked snack crackers. Asiago, Colby, and Romano.

    I had to buy this thing at the grocery store. They charged me a dollar for it. A dollar!

    Folks, I remember a time when samples were given out for free. Free! Or they came in the mail. And if you lived in a mid-sized apartment complex and you got to the mailboxes before anyone else, you earned yourself 22 little travel-size tubes of Aqua-Fresh.

    So what has happened to our society that we now think it’s okay to pay for samples?

    When did this happen? Where did we go wrong? And what has happened to the people at Sunshine that they now expect us to pay for samples? And can we get a close up of the net weight of the entire box…?

    No…?

    …Okay, well, if you look close, the net weight of the entire box – of the contents of all three pouches – is 2.31 ounces! That’s less than one lousy ounce per pouch!

    And on top of that, to add insult to injury, after you’ve spent your hard-earned money…they want you to go onto something called Facebook and vote for your favorite flavor! Which by the way is Asiago. Also…? There’s a little card in the box telling you to do this – but no coupon. Traditionally, your samples would come with a coupon to further entice you to buy this new product. I mean, they’re already putting that card in there. Would it have killed them to make one side of it a coupon? I sure like italics, don’t I?

    So basically we’re – you and me, pal – we’re doing all their research and development for them! We’re paying for the sample! We’re eating the sample – which I might add we paid for! We’re voting for Asiago! We’re doing it all for them!

    I can remember a time, too, not so very long ago, when these sorts of decisions were made by a focus group! An efficient, unfailingly accurate focus group! A focus group where they paid you to participate! A focus group that when the research company called you and once you found out how much it was for, you lied and said, “Yes, I drink bottled water on a regular basis.” A focus group in some office building down by the airport that you hoped they overbooked so when you got there, they took you out into the hall and just gave you fifty bucks to beat it. But even if they didn’t, you still made seventy-five bucks for spending ninety minutes discussing the upcoming regional test market launch of Dannon Water and turned red when you were admonished by the jackass in charge in front of eleven other strangers that if you didn’t start talking more, they weren’t going to pay you at all, and then when you did start talking more and said you didn’t think Dannon Water would sell because people associate Dannon with yogurt, not water, you got a dirty look.

    Where was I going with this…? Oh yes, a bit of trivia for you, there – Dannon once tried to launch bottled water, believe it or not. I managed to put the kibosh on that little endeavor, though with my astute yogurt remark.  Also, vote Asiago.

    Posted by on March 24, 2011, 2:51 AM.

  8. Quax! The Yummy Ducky!

    NOW here’s something I want you to take a look at.  All of you.  Come on over here.

    Look at this.  It’s “Quax – the Yummy Ducky.”

    He’s from the good people at Palmer – the Easter candy people.

    Quax is a delight.  He looks just like a rubber ducky.  Really.  This thing would be right at home in your tub.  A little something to eat while you wash, sure.

    And the package illustration…?  As though he’s just this instant splashed down in a pond among the cattails…?  A duck – in a pond?  Brilliant.

    Here’s our problem though, and you, you’re smart like me – so you already know what it is.

    Quax is a “Hollow Milk Flavored Candy Duck.”

    What in the name of all things holy, and also Easter, is “hollow milk”?  Do you mind telling me what that is?

    And it doesn’t just appear on the front, oh no!  The folks at Palmer, at least they’re consistent with their questionable typography decisions!  They’ve got it on the side panels…

    …and on the back:

    Now, here’s how you and me, how we’d have done it:

    Hollow

    MILK FLAVORED

    Candy Duck

    Or!

    MILK FLAVORED

    Hollow Candy Duck

    Right?  Right…?!

    Now then.  …What is “milk flavored?”  And shouldn’t there be a hyphen in there?

    Posted by on , 2:01 AM.

  9. Salsa, Mexican Style!

    HERE’S something that you will enjoy.

    I had breakfast at McDonald’s a few weeks ago and I saved a little something from my meal, thinking of you.  I just knew you’d get a kick out of it.

    Look at that!  “Mexican Style Salsa”!  Ha!

    Like there’s any other kind!  I mean, isn’t that a little redundant?  “Mexican Style Salsa”…?

    Anyway, I kind of had a feeling you’d enjoy that one.  Keep coming back.

    I have a feeling you will.

    Posted by on , 1:49 AM.

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