Category Archives: Delights

As a Matter of Fact

The Elements of Personal StyleA twitterer proposes an exercise in disclosure, or autobiography, or self-awareness or self-obsession or… well, let’s just call it “sharing.” She urges everyone within the sound of her tweets to post “100 random facts about yourself.”

Count me in. Posting one hundred random facts about oneself is a good idea, I think, because Transparency is my middle name, or would be if you didn’t see right through it down to my real one which is secret. I take the word “random” to mean “unorganized” and I take the word “facts” to mean “made-up stuff.” Unorganized made-up stuff — it’s the opposite, I suppose, of the Periodic Table of Self promised in the colorful graphic glaring above. But it is also my meat and drink, dessert and antacid. So herewith are 100 or fewer data set down haphazardly.

  1. I believe mountains are flat on the bottom like Hershey’s kisses.
  2. Everyone knows the points of a pie slice are the best part, so why not just core the pie and eat the center?
  3. Red licorice should get its own name. It’s like calling banana cream “yellow chocolate.”
  4. If a child is christened with a nickname, will the poor kid ever have a real nickname?
  5. These aren’t really facts, are they?
  6. I was born one morning when the sun didn’t shine.
  7. I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine.
  8. I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal.
  9. I punched Houdini in the stomach and killed him. Not on purpose, you understand.
  10. My fourteenth favorite color is orange.
  11. Interestingly, my fourteenth favorite flavor is also orange.
  12. Walking in the rain drinking a piña colada is my idea of Hell.
  13. I’m a people person, but with only a very few people and for only a few minutes at a time.
  14. I can tell by looking at you whether you have a transplanted organ obtained from an unwilling donor.
  15. My sixth favorite color is chartreuse, but I can’t remember what it looks like.
  16. No, wait. Sixth favorite color is fuschia. Can’t picture that one either.
  17. Once, in Chicago, I was the only person on the sidewalk when the President of the United States greeted me on a loudspeaker from his motorcade.
  18. Man, I jumped six feet!
  19. I can sense when my body is low on molybdenum. My isles of langerhans vibrate.
  20. Patti Platypus remains my favorite Beanie Baby to this very day

That, I think, though not quite one hundred facts, is about as much transparency either of us can stand in one day. Or one lifetime, for that matter. I’ll spare you further facts about myself if you promise to spare me any at all about your self.

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Wiener Whistles March Forward

The new one is more of a choking hazard than the old.Today an adventure-filled trip to Van Nuys ended happily with an up-close encounter with one of the fleet of world-famous Wienermobiles. This one, with the license plate “RELSHME” sat festooned with pennants in the parking lot of a Lucky (née Alberton’s) grocery market. It’s drivers, the Wiener Women, handed out Oscar Mayer wiener whistles and took photographs of civilians in front of the sleek, sausage-shaped vehicle.

When I was child — as the Pink Floyds sing so mournfully — I had one of the original Oscar Mayer wiener whistles. It was the shape of a hot dog — no wheels, no bun, no anything; just the dog. The temptation to swallow it was too great for many unfortunate youngsters, and so the toy was withdrawn for safety’s sake. My own minimalist whistle was swept away with the years that took my innocence, and I was left with only the later version, a whistle with a wide, less ingestible base, to console my old age.

The child-safe wiener whistle has never fully satisfied. It looks funny, wrong, not wienery at all. To make matters worse, it’s music is harsh and unpleasant. Those faults have been set right in the latest version handed to me by a Wiener Woman in Van Nuys. In the photo above, you can compare the wide-based, child-proofed whistle on the left, with the 2010 model on the right. Note the improved coloration of the new one, as well as the more realistic rendering of the automobile body. The whistle’s tone, as everyone around me these past few hours can attest, is sweet and loud.

Come in! Come in! And bring your mother!

Book Review: I Won’t Tell You

I read a book last night, but I’m not going to tell you about it. My pleasure in the book, which was great, must remain undiluted. It will ever be mine and mine alone. At the very least, I won’t have to share it with you.

There’s the pretty little book now, on the shelf, gleaming, unsullied by your squinting eyes or prying fingers. I would sooner burn it than let you know so much as its title.

Go find a book of your own. Stop pretending to be helpless. Buy a book and a chair. Sit in the chair and read the book, or read as much as you have patience for. Then you can write a “review” of it and the world will thank you.

L.A. Noirboretum

Today we ventured into Arcadia — a town east of Pasadena, founded by that madcap peafowl breeder Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin — to pay our respects to the trees of the Los Angeles Arboretum.

Here is what we saw at the Arboretum. We saw English Oaks:

Also known as the 'Okied' Oak.

We saw exotic Cigar Box Trees:

Actually, cigar boxes are made from many different kinds of wood, not just mahogany. Cedar, redwood, oak, teak, walnut and even balsa are all used in the manufacture of cigar boxes.

We saw the Spotted Fig Tree:

Did we care a flying fig? Yes, in fact we did.

We even saw a Naked Coral Tree:

You won't find US boycotting Arizonan trees!

But the most impressive sight by far, the one which we took in last and which will long haunt our memories, we beheld in the Arboretum’s Rose Garden. There we saw a young couple lying dead under a bower of perfumed roses.

They had eaten of the deadly nightshade.

Or was it henbane?

Readin’ the Classics: The Vicar of Wakefield

Oliver, O Oliver!Oliver Goldsmith wrote The Vicar of Wakefield, his only novel, way back when English was just starting to make some kind of sense. And so the book which Goldsmith hands across the centuries to us Men of the Future is an easy read, with familiar vocabulary and straight-forward syntax, unlike, say, the plays of Shakespeare who puzzles his descendants with stuff like this:

You had not four such swinge-bucklers in all the inns o’ court again: and I may say to you, we knew where the bona-robas were and had the best of them all at commandment.

No, Goldsmith resides on the near side of some kind of language line. He gives us more manageable utterances like:

I can’t say whether we had more wit amongst us now than usual; but I am certain we had more laughing, which answered the end as well.

The Vicar of Wakefield describes, in his well-modulated preacher’s voice, the woes of an 18th century English vicar, Dr. Primrose, a kind, uxorious country clergyman who weathers a Job’s blitz of catastrophes with grace and humor. Despite all Dr. Primrose’s vexations — and they are many — it’s a happy book that will make you happy, especially when you reach the happy ending in which the happy resolutions come stumbling over each other all at once.

There’s a happy story about the publication of this novel. It involves Goldsmith’s good friend Doctor Samuel Johnson. I don’t remember it, but if I did I wouldn’t tell you anyhow because I don’t want to and you can’t make me.

Saturday Review

John Scalzi’s science fiction adventure book Old Man’s War or Old Men’s War was reviewed here not too long ago. This book, from a couple of years back, is the sequel to it. It’s called The Ghost Brigades.

Some people will like it, some won’t. Most won’t even know it exists, much less read it.

Me, I’m going to the grocery store to buy some steak and maybe some garlic bread. And by some crazy coincidence, what I’m having for dinner tonight is exactly as important to you as what I thought of this book.

El Mejor Pintor de Calabazas

¡Es una quesa!Poor Luis Meléndez! Back in the 18th century he poured out his entire frustrated life on canvas after painstaking canvas depicting exactly the texture of Spanish produce, and then what happens? He dies in poverty. The old, old story. For artists at least. Art historians have frequent recourse to their QuicKeys macro that plonks out “he died in poverty.”

It ended on a downbeat, but his life was not wasted: During his productive decades he helped keep the canvas trade alive at least, and now, posthumously, he provides employment to so many worthy souls attached to the business of art: See that guard in the photo above, for instance, who tried to duck behind the pillar bearing the Meléndez poster at LACMA, but whom I captured anyhow. He owes his meal ticket, in part, to the pauper’s labor.

Meléndez, even from his aethereal cloud, helped pay the cable TV bills of the Angeleno plasterers who cunningly made two galleries on the 3rd floor of LACMA’s Ahmanson Building resemble a chamber in an ancient Spanish castillo. Note the pock marks.

Plaster work by Adobe Gillis Co.

Sr Meléndez perhaps does not mind — not now anyways — that he broke his back and went permanently cross-eyed getting the play of light on beaten copper just so, when he considers, up there in the better place he has resided these past two and a half centuries, the gainful employment he has provided the producers of the tie-in publications on sale in the museum shop, and to the manufacturers of the refrigerator magnets bearing images of his exacting arrangements of grapes and gourds, chocolate mixers, pigeons, pears big and little, jellied fruit, boxed nougat, eggplants, glazed honey pots, what appear to be heirloom tomatoes, and whatever else the merry teamsters hauled in from the plots of grateful peasants to leave in heaps in the painter’s unremunerative studio.

Meléndez will pour down blessings upon your head if you visit this rare gathering of his life’s futile work — including one figure: a fine self portrait — which will continue at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until January 3, 2010. More information HERE.