Drooling on the Pillow

Friday, March 17, 2006

Eating Our Old 

"Orphan brands" are famous or one-time famous brands that were gobbled up by conglomerates and then when their conglomerate was gobbled up by a bigger conglomerate, spit out as tired, worn-out, obsolete, old fashioned and not fit for the demographic du jour.

So sad.

But in this wonderful capitalistic snake pit of ours, there are conglomerates that specialize in snapping up expectorated old-fashioned brands and keeping them alive.

Colby Cosh links to a Telegraph story about British orphan brands. He calls them "objectively horrid and useless British groceries", but I prefer orphan brands. Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pie isn't going to moisten many eyes on this side of the pond, but apparently it was once a big part the nutrition pyramid over there. Camp Coffee is mostly sugar and chicory, but in the post-war era it was all many people could afford. Now its sales are soaring and it costs more than most major brands.

And that's what this is all about: nostalgia eating. Nostalgiac unguents and potions are big, too, but, of course, the things we once put in our mouths are the things we're most attached to.

Anone who's ever gotten the Vermont Country Store catalog in the mail knows this. There's an on-line version, but I can't imagine surfing around looking for the kind of things they sell. But if you see Bit-O-Honeys sitting right there on the page you're much more likely to have to have one. What about Boston Fruit Slices? Those were pretty good. Quite tart, but coated in sugar chunks the size of your fingernail. And Necco Wafers. Now I think I've actually seen them in the movies recently, but not in this size.

There's two other candies on their list that have a kind of post-modern appeal. You may or may not remember eating them. I don't. I think they were before my time, or, possibly, like Malomars they were regional items. But Walnettos are more likely to be remembered as the basis of TV catch phrase from thirty years ago than as an actual treat and Squirrel Nut Zippers were actual candies, not just an idiosyncratic band.

They've also got some toys you haven't seen in awhile, antiquated underthings, little mechanical devises with which your grandmother manipulated various personal areas to remove unwanted items like hair and bunions and things humans don't even have anymore, like wens.

The Goddess uses the catalog to get her Bag Balm. It's an item farmers use on dairy cow's udders to prevent cracking. The Goddess uses it on her feet. At least that's what she tells me.

What happens usually with nostalgia is that the trip it takes you on quickly becomes labored and the delight becomes a joke and fondness veers off toward contempt. Now the Vermont Country Store catalog has been around for many years, but the signs were there, right on the front page of the internet version with this featured item: I don't think Grandma ever used Tired Old Ass Soak.

Could be wrong, but I think this is a faux Orphan Brand.

I had to add this one. It's Tetterine Ointment. "Tried-and-True Tetterine Relieves Men's Personal Discomforts" by which they mean athlete's foot, jock itch, and ring worm. Okay, but why make it green?

Finally, This stuff is great, So buy a case, It takes the hair, Right off your face. Burma-Shave.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

It's For You 

So you had a bad day?

Around one thirty this afternoon the phone system at the main office downtown went down. Way down. And it stayed down.

International law firm, with more than 300 lawyers in the New York office, clients all over the world, and no phones. Safe to say heads were exploding.

So some soul-less horror throws a switch downtown and all their telecommunications get routed through my phone in midtown.

To review: 300 lawyers, thousands of clients, my phone.

Had an interesting hour before the Message department sent up a couple of people to handle the 'overflow'. Which is a really asinine way to put it, because when you're trying to answer 70 calls a minute, it's all overflow.

The phones were down around four hours, so if you're around Liberty Plaza tomorrow, try to avoid the rolling heads.

Me, I wasn't planning on getting hammered tonight, but it's moved up on my punch list.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Monumental Jersey 

Peter Applebome, who writes the Our Town column for the Times and stirred things up around here last year with his profile of New Jersey Bloggers has a good one on page two of the Metro section today.

I'm not linking to it because, probably as a result of his NJ Blogger piece, he's been elevated to the rarefied air behind the TimesSelect wall.

Get him.

Today he takes us on a tour of an exhibition called "Monumental: Imaginary Monuments to New Jersey", which whimsically asked for submissions for a monument to Da Garden State. It will be at the Jersey City Museum on Montgomery Street and Victory Hall a couple of blocks away, running from March 25 through April 23. It sounds like fun, though inevitably self-flagellating.

Here's Mr. Applebome's summary.
So what does this tell us about the lure of the
Jersey myth? What's the secret of Da Jersey
Code? Here's my take. New Jersey is America
at its most vulnerable, most human, least heroic,
least easily definable. It's the rest of us -- old
gangsters, old cities, old rockers, old suburbs, new
suburbs, too much traffic, too much pollution, too
many crooks. It's Abbott and Costello and Philip
Roth, Frank Sinatra and Ice-T, Allen Ginsberg
and Aaron Burr. Sometimes it seems like a rocky
romance that's seen better days, but at its best,
and in its dreams, it's still the Garden State.
Fair enough.

Alive As You And Me 

I grew up, or at least older, in the '60s and did my share of strumming "Joe Hill" on the guitar. I lived until the age of 10 in coal mining territory and actually wrote my first play (a verse play - gad, I wish I still had a copy of that) about a miner strike. I've been a member of two different carpenter's unions, the UFCW (grocery workers), the Sheet Metal Workers International Association as well as Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA. I was a Teamster, briefly, before I was kicked out for working non-union during summer vacation. I'm probably forgetting one or two.

I understand well how vital the labor movement has been in building the economic powerhouse we live in today by disciplining the labor market to account for fairness. It would be a very different and far worse world if those tough son-of-bitches hadn't fought for generations for a fair shake for the working man.

Why, then, has the labor movement dwindled in recent decades to a fraction of it's post-war membership and influence? Of course there has been push-back and management will always fight just as hard as the unions for a bigger wedge. But why, after a hundred years of concession, has management been successful?

The answer, I think, is that management has changed, while labor hasn't. Management has adapted to each change in the environment with entirely new paradigms while labor, having achieved a living wage, workplace safety regs, seniority rules, pensions and job protection, having taken the desperate, vulnerable working stiff and plunked him down in the middle class, still has a basically nineteenth century view of their role in the economy.

I'm not saying that there are no longer any issues where the labor voice needs to be heard, just that, generally, labor has achieved what it was invented for and where it does not reinvent itself for the changing world and enter into a symbiotic role with management, it generally assumes what Brandon Berg at Catallarchy calls a parasitic role. He notes the campaign by the Engineers, a New Zealand labor union to increase productivity and wonders if the labor movement is developing a labor market of its own and, if the Engineers are successful, if they will out-compete other, more traditional unions.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Love Songs 

Restraining Order Love

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More Than I Can Do, Steve Earle

Junky Love

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Essence, Lucinda Williams

Train Wreck Love

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The Streets of Baltimore, Nanci Griffith and John Prine

A Night At The Roxbury 

Garth Trevethan, is a very smart guy living in America's Outback and one of the very first denizens of my blogroll.

He claims he was given this card by a man in a Portland airport bar.


Garth reports that the "man's" name was not really Sonny Disco and looked nothing like the picture.

Good Times 

The Goddess is in the 'mom' category and often auditions for commercials with eerily self-possessed kids from the Upper West Side and upscale suburbs. We've been collecting some of the striving names of these kids and among the best are Carter Abromovitz and Hunter Schoenweiss. They are amusing (to me, at least), but it has occurred to me that what this country really needs is a few more Brandon Al Khalifas and Forrest Bazayads. Bring on the Britneys and Tiffanys.

Which is why I don't want to be too rough on Melissa Yousif of West Bloomfield, Michigan, who wrote a letter to the New York Times today. She was, moreover, writing in support of a profile of Dr. Wafa Sultan from the front page of last Saturday's Times; "For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats". Dr. Wafa was the Syrian woman who made a sensation last month with an electrifying interview on Al Jazeera. In it, she said, memorably:
The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced
the world to respect them, with their knowledge,
not with their terror; with their work, not with
their crying and yelling. [...] We have not seen a
single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant.
We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church.
We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing
If Melissa is of Arab or Muslim background, it takes real courage for her to support Dr. Wafa in such a public forum.

I would like to take issue with one point she makes, though.
Dr. Sultan made an excellent point: both Jews
and Muslims have faced extreme hardships and
racism, for the Jews in the Holocaust and for
Muslims especially after Sept. 11, but what sets
them apart is how they have each reacted.
I think I did read of a Muslim getting beaten by some thugs somewhere in the midwest in a nakedly racist incident. On the whole, though, Americans can be proud of the restraint, understanding and tolerance they've shown the Muslim community. There are hard feelings, and, interestingly, more today than there were immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

But despite the slaughter of thousands of Americans, despite numerous other attacks and a constant barrage of racist, inflammatory, hateful rhetoric from the Muslim world, we're able to live side by side with them and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, judge them as individuals and give them the benefit of the doubt.

And it drives them nuts.

I embrace Melissa and any member of the Arab or Muslim community who is genuinely interested in stopping the violence and the hate, the scape-goating of the Jews and the subjugation of woman. However, to compare your situation after 9/11 to the murder of the Jews shows a shocking lack of historical perspective and it's also an insult to Americans.

Moving on, I am pleased to recommend unreservedly the entire Times Op-Ed page.

Jeffrey Goldberg tells the story of Purim and it's disturbing resonance in today's Iran.

In Africa's Brutal Lebensraum, Nicholas Kristof reports from Darfur. As is universal in Times' coverage he treats it as a racial war and stays far away from the religious aspect. It's a good column, though, and implicit in it is a challenge to the Administration to show the stindeens(tm) Clinton showed in taking on the Serbs.

Most gratifying of all, John Tierny writes in support of the New Hampshire activists attempting to seize Justice Souter's home in protest of the Kelo eminent-domain case and turn it into a park with a monument to the Constitution. Supreme Home Makeover is old fashioned liberalism right down to his hope that it doesn't actually happen, but merely sends a message.

Not a nit-wit on the page.
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