Back to index of "this and that in my life" pages by Donald Sauter.
Whatever I want to say whenever I want to say it, that's all. You can figure I must really be letting my hair down if I've jettisoned the stiffly formal "ald" on this page . . .
I hadn't planned to provide a Table of Contents for such a ragtag collection of thoughts, but I figure it's a nice gesture since nobody could be interested in everything here.
October 3, 2008
I made a funny discovery the other day. I took a momentary break while cleaning up around the tennis court in my neighborhood (Persimmon Park Place, Dover, Delaware). I found myself looking through the green, plastic-coated chainlink fence, standing about a foot and a half from it. The repeating pattern of diamonds brought to mind the Magic Eye images and I naturally went into the Magic Eye mode, looking at a distance through the fence, but bringing the fence itself into focus. The effect was weird and kind of hypnotic. The fence seemed to float maybe five or six feet in from of me, with apparently larger interstices. You also see all the landscape beyond the fence simultaneously, which is a little weirder yet. That doesn't happen when you view 3-D pictures on the page of a book. Anyhow, the point isn't to try and make sense of this feeble attempt at describing the effect, but rather to give it a try yourself when you find yourself facing a big, chainlink fence.
November 1 2006
I'm fed up with living in a country that's never even gotten a name.
"United States?" you say? What kind of name is that? Look close. It's an adjective and common noun that somewhere along the line - who knows when? - insinuated itself as a name when no others were forthcoming. Yeah, yeah, it's capitalized in the Constitution, but everything else is, too - like Welfare, Year, Money, etc. etc. Not to mention, back then, "state" meant "nation".
If united states is a name, then my name is bag o' guts.
"America"? you say? America is a continent; it's two continents - it's a hemisphere! I ask you, what did Columbus discover in 1492? America, right? Our country? No way. He didn't even set foot on what would eventually become us, whoever or whatever we are.
Slap it all together? The United States of America - the good, ol' U.S. of A? Well, there's a howdy-do. Why doesn't Brazil call itself "The United States of South America" (and shorten itself to "The Other America")? Why doesn't Germany call itself "The United States of Eurasia"? Why doesn't Malaysia call itself "The United States of That Watery Place Below South-East Asia"? - never minding the inappropriate preposition "of" in every case.
If we have to cling to this monstrosity, at least let's get it right: "A United States within America," yes, the good ol' AUSwA (pronunciation TBD).
But I never rant without offering a helpful suggestion. When we do get around to naming our country, here are my three proposals:
1. Outer Manhattan
3. Hubcap Heaven
The last one might require buying out somebody's trademark, but it would be worth it. You can drive coast to coast without seeing another set of hubcaps like yours. This is important.
October 29, 2006
Here's a recent discovery of mine you're sure to cringe at. Your loss. I bought a bag of potato chips of some sort of flavor, probably sour cream and onion. The flavor was way too powerful for me to enjoy. I come from a long line of people who have never wasted so much as a crumb in their life, and I guess it's in my DNA, too. So a put a serving of chips in a Cool Whip bowl (see below), poured on a little tap water, put the lid on, swirled them around for a few seconds, and drained the water off. The result? The best potato chips I've eaten in my life!
I know you're cringing right now, and sorry about the cliche, but don't knock it if you haven't tried it! In response to your immediate objection, no, it does not make the chips soggy, although it does take the sharp edge off. Rinsing the chips restores a great potato flavor, while leaving just the right amount of the added flavor. The rinsing seems to goes a long way in restoring the potato chip from a snack food back into a real vegetable. It could almost serve as a side dish, like scalloped potatoes. (I'm not weird enough to suggest you do that.) I also imagine it should be a bit more healthy, washing away most of the artificial flavor and a lot of the oil. (I mention this even though I myself don't give much thought to nutrition beyond these three rules: eat a wide variety of foods; don't overdo any one thing; and stay reasonably natural.)
For me, this operation has improved every kind of potato chip I've tried it on, flavored or just plain salted.
October 25, 2006
What's the funniest thing on earth? I don't mean ha-ha funny, but crazy ridiculous sort of funny. For me that would be people who drive cars with manual transmissions, but power steering and brakes. That's like a mountaineer who scales Everest solo in a day - but has to have his butler at the top to pour him a cup of tea.
October 24, 2006
What has happened to the flavor in butter??? I know I'm not crazy because I've heard others remark on the same thing. When's the last time you've indulged in a piece of bread covered in butter slabs - what used to be the greatest taste sensation known to man? When's the last time you heard anyone exclaim about the "buttery" flavor of this or that? Do they now extract it for some other use, or do we now get butter from artificial cows raised on artificial soy beans?
I claim butter has become so un-buttery nowadays that it's actually ruined recipes that call for it. I have a recipe for Raisin Oatmeal Crispies that claims to be "the yummiest raisin oatmeal cookie ever" - and, believe me, that used to be an understatement. The last batch I made tasted like slightly burnt popcorn. Guess I'll start using margarine.
October 21, 2006
In case any sealable container manufacturer is tuned in, like Rubbermaid, Ziploc, Glad, and Tupperware, I beg upon bended knees for you to produce and market something like the old Cool Whip bowl (without the Cool Whip). I'm talking about the ones that were solid white with a translucent top, a nice, smooth, "spoonable" curvature between the sides and bottom, and no ridges around the bottom. It beat any storage bowl that's ever appeared on the market, before or since. The Cool Whip bowl was the right size and shape for just about anything - storing leftovers, carrying sandwiches, chips, fruit, etc. Even eating out of. With its vertical and high sides and light weight, it made the perfect cereal or ice cream bowl, for instance. (Bowl makers take note.) The lid fit plenty snug enough for any known purpose, as opposed to the fingernail-busting, child-proof lids that the plastic container people have some crazy idea are oh-so-necessary.
In case you're not up on how current Cool Whip bowls differ from the classic, pre-'80s models, the new ones have garish printing on the sides; the lids are opaque; and there is a ridge molded around the bottom for strength. This ridge is not spoon-, spatula-, sponge-, or dishrag-friendly. Also, the modern bowls are not all exactly the same size, so you can't just grab a bowl and a lid from your cupboard and expect a perfect fit.
October 18, 2006
Note to Baltimorean Donald "Singin'" Bush: I don't see any mention of you on the web, but you are not forgotten. Your "untrained tenor" performances of songs like "Danny Boy" on the Baltimore tv program "People Are Talking" back in the 1960s made you a celebrity in our household. Thanks for showing us the worth of a real person decades before Forrest Gump and I Am Sam tried to using actors.
(Web search keywords: Donald Bush; Donald "Singing" Bush.)
October 14, 2006
A couple of weeks ago at Spence's auction in Dover I won 32 colorful oil paintings on canvas. The whole tub went for $22. (I would have got 'em for about $8 except, in a bizarre coincidence, I was bid up by a friend in absentia who, if we had spotted them together, would have happily conceded, "They're all yours!" She just wanted the canvases!) I now have the jivest walls in any office in, well, anywhere. The paintings are by the young artist, Candace Battaglia, which is why I mention this at all. Remember her name. You almost certainly heard it here first, as before now even Google returned no hits on "candace battaglia".
Here is a great painting by Candace Battaglia.
October 5, 2006
Here's another discovery (I believe) of a literary borrowing. (See Damon Runyon vs. O. Henry below.)
In Mark Twain's "Library of Humor" is a hilarious story called "John Phoenix Renders The Editor Of The San Diego Herald An Account Of His Stewardship". It's by George H. Derby, a.k.a. John Phoenix, himself. I laughed my head off, not even having any idea of the background for what was going on. A quick web search turned up this page of San Diego journalism history and the story became even funnier after learning the background.
In a nutshell, the regular editor of the San Diego Herald, Judge Ames, entrusted the editorship of the paper to John Phoenix for a few weeks during Ames' absence. And Phoenix immediately and completely flipflopped the political stance of the paper! Phoenix's story is really his final editorial for the paper, and in it he describes the "interview between the editor and Phoenix" - which is the most hilarious brawl ever set down in print!
I'm willing to bet Mark Twain's own "How I Edited An Agricultural Paper" was inspired by John Phoenix's story. Twain's story is hilarious, too.
If you're still with me, let me put in a general plug for 19th C. American wit and humor.
August 25, 2006
I reread Damon Runyon's hilarious "Piece Of Pie" recently, and, on this go-round, noticed that it borrowed an important idea from O. Henry's "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen". I can't say precisely what the idea is, because that would totally ruin "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen" for you. And it's a wonderful story.
If you search the stories out - and you will thank me in both cases if you do - you can't miss the common idea. In "Piece Of Pie" it pops up in the passage starting, "Then Nicely-Nicely gives the first cheer in person, but the effort overtaxes his strength, and he falls off the chair in a faint just as Joel Duffle collapses under the table . . ."
Read "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen" first. And don't stop there; let me put in a plug for the complete works of O. Henry.
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