Friday, October 27, 2006

Flight of the Flamingos

Union Products of Leominster went ahead with production of the 50th anniversary gold-version lawn flamingo. But the factory won't be open much longer.

In 1957, when things "tropical," and "Polynesian," were popular, when even kitchen appliances were available In Living Color, Fitchburger Don Featherstone shaped the phoeniclpteris ruber plasticus (in collectors' circles, called p.r.p) into the lawn bird we know today.

Union Products has fallen into hard times, and will close its plant Nov 1.

Production of the birds (and other unnecessary yard crap) shut down in June. Though Union used to produce a 1/4 million birds per year, and required wholsalers to buy in minimum orders of 500 units, production costs just got to be much, says Chief Exec Dennis Plante.

Sources say that 2 companies have expressed interest in purchasing the molds (standing up bird... head down bird...) complete with Featherstone's signature (the mark of the real deal), but those bids are still open.

No doubt, Union Products' poorly designed website is getting a multitude of hits, from links in articles, not to mention my own dozen visits to it while writing this post. Here, click it a whole bunch of times.

Leominster, MA -- The Pioneer Plastics City -- remains solid despite this loss of kitsch kred. After all, this is the city that survived the departure of Foster Grant and Dupont and the autism cluster they [allegedly] left behind.

The National Plastics Museum will no doubt score a few of those gold flamingos. Perhaps even the Smithsonian will want a few. They could stage a special Central Mass cultural contribution exhibit, including Harvey Ball's smiley face, Tupperware, and Agnes Moorhead.

Next time... Table Talk Pies, which you wouldn't think would need a website. stay tuned.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

"I’m a Christian for a variety of reasons. Maybe because it’s easy."
~~ John Ashcroft

May I suggest, sir, that if it is easy, you might not be doing it correctly.

For a certain generation, of a certain background, Christianity was tangled in their formative years into an amalgam with patriotism, citizenship, and good grooming -- what "decent" people are. And what is easier than being decent?

Certainly it is easy to have your religious holidays federalized, especially the easier of the two, all mangers and drummer boys and Judaen snow.
Easy to have it secularized, so you don't need permission to wear its symbols or vestments, even on Halloween.
Easy to find a church on every corner, even if you don't really go.
Easy to defend a nation that does not designate a state religion and still holds Mass for the Supreme Court.
Easy not to worry about being thrown out of your country for following it.
Easy to believe in a granted Grace, just because you're you, ya little scamp.

Perhaps what he meant in that statement is "it's easy to say I'm a Christian."
Living a Christian life takes a lot more effort.

It is not easy to believe
Nearly every Christian I know has struggled (or does) with the Creed itself --
sometimes unable to actually say parts of it. It's no oversight that there is no handle on that door Jesus knocks on so politely. You have to invite him in to dine.
Look at this one, with the apprehensive knuckle scratch. Meanwhile Elijah strolls right in to a warm plate waiting.

It is not easy to understand
Christian theology can be academic to a crippling degree, (perhaps because so much of it is in Latin), and lingers on topics that have few practical applications: baptism controversy, dialogical personalism, the doctrine of salvation. Revelations.

It is not easy to practice
In many ways it goes right against human nature (forgiveness? sacrifice?) and certainly American nature (humility? poverty? whatever...). Even the Peace that Passeth Understand can not keep me from saying, about 10 times a day, "I could punch that guy right in the head." But I don't punch him, so I've got that working for me.
Our well-groomed crusading lawmakers must have noticed The United States is the only self-described "christian nation" that practices executions.

It is not easy to defend
I won't. The agreement is, I don't ask you to change your life; don't ask me to change mine. But understand that our expectations of the World are profoundly different.
Rev Phelps, pedophile priests, the Inquisition, the guy with the pamphlets at Park Street station... I can't explain them. They don't define my reationship with God any more than the Federlines should define your marriage.

"He’s so simple. His simplicity and just he’s like a boy. He just, you know, and he cares. He cares so much and his—his heart is awesome. He has a really big heart and I love that."
~~ Britney Spears

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Return of the Yellow Jackets

Perhaps I have written about the yellow jackets here before. They moved onto the deck over the summer. On a work-at-home 80 degree day I noticed outside the deck window. This is how I know they were entering and exiting through a seam on the door framing, to go who knows how far deep into the walls of my house. Yadda Yadda traps and spray.. they were dead and the crack was sealed and the trap full of dead bodies -- their little heads on little pikes I made especially for this purpose to deter others.

Yesterday one appeared inside.
By mid-October in NE, certain creatures are expected to have gone back to their winter lairs until the sun comes back: the buskers, the Red Sox, and the yellow jackets.

This is how I know you should not use wasp spray indoors, because it comes out like a firehose, and blew back the sheers before it even dripped on the one yellow jacket I was trying to kill. But I hadn't used it before. I had had a vision of being on my deck with no means of escape except the sliding door they lived under, which would have to be kept closed to keep them from escaping inside.

I'd been meaning to wash the sheers anyway.
This is how I know you should dry-clean your sheers instead of washing them.

But it's a gentle cycle, and a front-loader. Minimal stress to the fabric, and I've seen what goes on at the dry cleaner. And I'm thinking, this is one of those Great Moments in Homeownership, where not only do I have sheers, but I am actually going to clean them. I wouldn't have taken them to a laundromat any more than I would send them to the cleaners.

This is how I know that there is not enough fabric in a load of eight sheer panels, or enough water in a front loading gentle cycle to justify the amount of Woolite I used. This is also how I know that even though yours is a privately owned washer, and not really locked when it is running, and you can stop it whenever you want... you really shouldn't open that door.

So one spin cycle later and the water is drained and the floor is mopped (as my own husband, I chose to use the bath towel that was in the laundry anyway), but the machine is full of suds, and so are the curtains. I unsheathed them from layers of puffy bubbles into the bathtub while running the wash cycle again without anything in it. I recalled that as a apartment dweller, I belonged to a gym that had a swimsuit spinner that would take care of this easily, and imagined myself sneaking down there with a dripping gym bag. How many panels would I get through before someone came out of the locker room? And this is how I know you can't tumble dry anything that wet. And that wicker laundry hampers don't hold water. But that the Kenmore is still a very efficient machine.

Another wash for the curtains, again without soap, and they were not actually this dirty.
Now they are drying on racks. Stupid yellow jackets.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Speaking of Netflix

Speaking of Netflix, I came onto something interesting recently while not being able to access my Friends list (for DAYS, and whatever feature upgrade is going on better blow me away). As you recall, the DVD rental company settled a class action suit after it was proven by the most voracious users that there was in fact a limit being enforced behind the scenes that deliberately slowed down users’ delivery dates once a certain monthly limit was set. This became popularly termed “throttling,” and Netflix admitted that it was true.

They can still use the term “unlimited,” and they explain it like this: “In our unlimited plans, we do not establish a monthly limit on the number of DVDs you can rent, however, the actual number of DVDs you rent in any month will vary based on a number of factors.” These factors are explained in great detail deeper in the Terms & Conditions, where in sum they say “unlimited…except for… when you are being greedy.”

But Netflix Friends, the joke’s on us. Because while they settled for a paltry “free 1 month upgrade” (costs them nothing because they intend to throttle you – enjoy the upgrade), they get the last laugh.

The throttle is patented.

No. 7,024,381. US PAT OFF calls it “Max Turns”: “In this situation, up to a specified number of total items are simultaneously rented to customer 102 and up to a specified number of item exchanges may be made during a specified period of time.”

You’ve got to admire that.

You might be surprised to hear what I think about the throttle, as a customer who gets throttled hard around the 20th of every month, and has adjusted my consumption to compensate for it (Max Flix, if you will). When the “scandal” began to break that Netflix were not unlimited, I thought, “well of course they didn’t really mean unlimited.”

One pictures those canvas-bag toting cinemaniacs – so devoted to the movies that they can’t hold down jobs. (put that movie in your queue. Pray you are not one.)

Instead I thought, “that’s fair.” Then I found out it is actually formulaically designed, and even plans in a hedge against “rollover.” That is, they allow 3 flips per film, or nine films in a calendar month for the basic subscription, but the system doesn’t bank your flips if you don’t use them. So even if you have been their patsy for 6 months, sitting on the same films you started with, once you get wise and start flipping…. You don’t get any bonus points.

You have stopped reading, haven’t you? Everyone has politely coughed and slipped out of the auditorium except for the product designers and system engineers, the movie geeks, and my mother. Well, as long as we are alone….

I can’t say I have beaten the throttle, but I have learned to alternate feature films (say 2 hours in length) with series and mini-series (sometimes 4 hours) which maximizes the viewing time without over flipping.

I have a chart here somewhere. Hand me that canvas bag.

Monday, October 9, 2006


Here's what's happening in our corner of Blogland. Suburbia's network began to challenge each other to post yearbook photos. I was so moved by her bravery, I couldn't say No. And where her network intersects our network... well here you go.

Let me provide you with some responses, as I can see your mouth is hanging open:

1. If those glasses were any bigger, they would be a space helmet.

2. If Vermeer had painted this, it would be called Brawny Girl with Drape.

3. Drapes: a staple of Southern portraiture, and only 1/3 of the Senior portrait trilogy -- the others being "cap and gown" and "formal." What is more formal than a drape, you are thinking? Or perhaps you have just politely averted your eyes.

4. The necklace is my Newspaper Editor pendant. When you are not quite cool enough for Lettering.

5. The Dorothy Hamill took more work than I could commit to.

The better portrait is this one, since this is really more what I looked like, then and now, only now with less cheek-chub and much smaller glasses. This is Miss Bender's expression in dull meetings right before she decides to say what everyone is thinking.

That is Dr. M behind me, she of the Christmas pickle mythology. Notice how she looks bored in Trigonometry class, while I look about to vomit. She, of course, became a SuperGenius and is about to retire at 42. I wrote a clever poem parody about Trigonometry instead and got out of there with a C. Thanks to the miracle of "electives," I still managed to graduate 5th in the class. Dr. M was 2nd, but it's a very touchy subject.

If you are on my Blogroll, you are Double Freeze Tagged/No Take Backs. Cough up your photos.

The floor is now yours. Comments are un-moderated.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Inexplicable Clip Art

I was writing something more meaningful this morning -- perhaps too meaningful for 7am, but I had to take this turn instead.

Does the dog need AOL? Is that the distress on its face? Or just that it's sitting dangerously close to Sterno? Or is it his companion (who, judging by her hand is too old for that outfit) who is home alone eating cheese fondue with her dog because she just can't reach out to her friends who have connected via e-mail to eat at a trendier restaurant?

AOL has been rotating this "for god's sake, get AOL" ad for some time now. The art has never made me think, "Yes! That is me! I feel just like that, and it's because I don't have AOL Mail!" The one before this was a guy blowing bubbles under water: ("I don't know why I can't get the Internet down here!") Another was a happy couple joining hands and jumping for joy in a wilderness meadow. Perhaps they had just thrown their Treos over a cliff.

The strangest part is that one is "served" this ad (you know who I work for) on the AOL email log in page. "Huh. Wonder if I have an email account." [click] "Man! I don't. Awww, look at the dog. " [chuckle] "That's cute. I should get AOL. Honey? Why don't we ever have fondue?"

I invite the advertising/PR wing of the Readership to explain.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Christmas Pickle Debunked

In response to the Native-ity scene, Dr. M requests clarification of the Christmas Pickle, which her catalog claims is "an old German tradition," and she suspects is... not.

Miss Bender gleefully rubs her hands together (you know perfectly well Miss Bender's alter ego could never perform such an act, but she will let Miss Bender do so for poetic license), cracks her knuckles (oh yes, she does indeed do that) and grabs the threads.

Terry's Village writes, "European tradition dictates that the pickle is to be hidden in your decorated Christmas tree, and the first child to find the pickle is rewarded with an extra gift from Santa."

1. You would think Europe's track record on dictating would be a turnoff
2. You are perhaps thinking of the Afikoman.
If you hadn't been so zealously dictating things, Europe, you might know that.

Anyway. contains an article called "German Misnomers, Myths and Mistakes." Myth #11 is Die Weihnachtsgurke. You almost want it to be true, don't you?

Unfortunately, this tale can not be validated by actual Germans. Glass pickle ornaments can be traced to FW Woolworth, who sold them as early as 1880, and they were imported from Germany, where the fashion in glass-blowing also included fruit and bread-shaped ornaments. This being a peak period for Victoriana in the US, when most of our Christmas traditions were defined (thanks for the trees, Prince Albert), it is highly likely that the "German tradition" just made them more marketable.

The Terry's Village pickle is under $5. So start a tradition.
Please also enjoy the Torah Tots webpage of Chanukah games.
Enjoy everything about Torah Tots. Enjoy saying Torah Tots.

Also on the myth list
#10 - Hilter and Jesse Owens - Hitler wasn't there that day.
And FDR didn't invite Owens to the White House either.

Now to unravel that Peppermint pig... (note: "also available - replacement pig" excellent)

Sunday, October 1, 2006

I can save your Netflix marriage

As a self-appointed ambassador of the Netflix experience, I must implore you: Flip your lists. You are not getting your money's worth.

My informal polling shows much of the problem stems from single-spouse domination of the queue. This is not a male/female issue; you know who you are.

She uses up precious queue space with "Get Fit Fast," which somehow never sees the inside of the machine. He discovers the entire Dr Who series and loads every one.

He can not comprehend flipping an unwatched (perhaps unOPENED [ I gasp ] ) disc despite having paid for it 3 months over. She discovers the entire Land Before Time series and loads every one for the kids. (Really, after #1, Land Before Time becomes a merchandising vehicle. Don't ask how I know).

He likes bitchy cable network comedies; he likes soft-core porn.

She likes 70s foreign films featuring fields of wheat; she likes 70s sit-coms.

So here's the secret, in 2 steps.
Step 1: Up your membership to the 4 level.
It is only a few dollars more than 3-per-month, and you are already losing money on that. Four per month gives each of you 2 films and sets you up for...

Step 2: Get your own Queue
This is quite simple to do, and costs no extra scratch. In fact, if you have kids, get them one too.
While logged into your account, go to the Queue tab, then click "Add Queue."
Take it from there.

You can even get the discs addressed to yourself, in case there is any confusion about whose are whose. Not to worry, though -- Netflix remembers, and replaces returned discs with the next in that queue.

Single queue owners: you can use this too.
Keep a 2nd queue for things you don't want your Friends list to know about. I don't suggest to know what that means for you. Maybe it IS The Land Before Time series. None o' my worry. Mine is the workout discs. And I'll tell you that "Get Fit Fast" only works if you exercise.

General tip about clogging your queue with complete series. Unnecessary. You can replace the returned Disc 1 with Desc 2 etc. But the queue does hold 500 titles, so maybe I am just talking about myself again.

By the way.. this man and I have run off together. Separate queues, of course.