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Happy birthday, bucket o’ suck

The first episode of The Flintstones aired fifty years ago on this day. Also, that’s Stony Curtis! Who is dead! Plus, I saw a guy walking down the street today wearing a Quick Draw McGraw t-shirt, no lie.

That’s enough synchronicity to make your eyes bleed.

And speaking of things that make your eyes bleed — Hanna-Barbera Cartoons!

I once worked for a man who loved H-B cartoons for the same reason I hate them — they were forever finding new and innovative ways to be cheap-ass. Like, when Barney’s talking the camera’s on Fred and when Fred is talking the camera’s on Barney so they don’t have to pay for so much of that gosh-darned moving mouth animation.

The downside? Making your viewers stare at a big ugly drawing of a head that doesn’t do anything but blink occasionally.

These guys had hundreds of titles. I mentally divide Hanna-Barbera cartoons into the following categories:

The Early Suck: the three or so decades from Huckleberry Hound through to Josie and the Pussycats, inclusive of the whole Scooby Doo oeuvre.

The Doesn’t Actually Suck: which includes most of their adventure cartoons of the same era. Jonny Quest, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, The Herculoids, the Fantastic Four. Character design by the excellent comic artist Alex Toth and non-comedy storylines make the difference.

The Later Suck: the Eighties were full of cartoons (from many studios) that had slick production values but still somehow managed to suck even harder than Magilla Gorilla. The Smurfs, Pac Man, Scrappy Doo, Snorks. There was a plague of “familiar cartoon characters as babies” shows, too. The Flintstone Kids, A Pup Named Scooby Doo. There’s something peculiarly horrible and soulless about this era.

The Aren’t Really H-B Cartoons cartoons: Turner bought the Hanna-Barbera studio and library in the early Nineties and launched the Cartoon Network to showcase them. H-B studios then encouraged in-house staff to pitch cartoon ideas, which were shown as World Premiere Toons. This gave rise to several excellent cartoons: Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel, The Powerpuff Girls. You might think of them as HBINOs.

I must say, I’m awfully tempted to buy the Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Sound Efx collection, but I just can’t work out how to sync up life events with the appropriate sound effect.

September 30, 2010 — 10:33 pm
Comments: 55

Want that jacket!

Behold, Boy in a Bitching Distressed Jean Jacket Eating a Fruit Pie by the Master of Blue Jeans.

Not kidding. Okay, maybe I made up the name of the pitcher.

The Canesso Gallery thinks they have identified a previously unknown Seventeenth Century painter they’re calling the Master of Blue Jeans. It’s not that these paintings have just turned up after 400 years, of course. It’s just that somebody stared into the huge reservoir of anonymous paintings of the era noticed a similarity in style and subject matter in these few.

Namely, they’re pictures of poor people wearing denim.

The word “denim” comes from “serge de Nîmes” — which I assume you knew — and “blue jeans” comes from “Bleu de Genes” (aka Genoa) — which you may have known, Meester Smarty Britches, but I didn’t. Both cities claim to have made denim clothes for hundreds of years, but there hasn’t been much evidence of the early years. Until these pictures.

I was a bit dubious at first, but I had a squint at the catalogue and…yeah, the way the fabric is dark blue but the worn bits are white, that’s pretty much denim behavior right there. (That online catalogue is neat, by the way. I mean, you can turn pages and shit, just like a real exhibition catalogue).

The show is sponsored by fashion house Marithe + Francois Girbaud, who pioneered stonewashed jeans 40 years ago and are marketing their new thang, Wattwash jeans. Those are jeans aged with lasers rather than bleaching and washing. The hippies are raving and drooling about it because the process only takes 5 liters of water, as opposed to the 170 liters used by the acid process. Thereby saving the planet or some shit.

HEY HIPPIES! If you care that much, why not do what we used to do: buy them blue and wear them until they look like that.

Via Kottke by way of the History Blog.

September 29, 2010 — 10:11 pm
Comments: 33


I understand those hand-held bug-zapper thingies don’t work worth a damn. I watched a woman at the outdoor market the other day waving one around and — I dunno — hoping to slay flies with vicious air currents or something.

This one? This one fucking works.

I bought it for Uncle B as a bit of a joke; the Amazon reviews led me to think this one might not be so lame. He came zooming upstairs clutching The Executioner with his eyes all shiny and hissed, “this thing is eeeeevil!”

You wave it at a bug, there’s a CRACK and a burst of lightning, and the skeeter just…disintegrates. Hugely satisfying. Mucho recommendo.

Eh. Anyway. I’ve spent the evening swapping in my ‘new’ motherboard — surely the most pain-in-the-assical of all geek chores — only to find it might be the power supply, after all. Money to waste, I have none.

Why do I like computers again?

September 28, 2010 — 10:39 pm
Comments: 26

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh…

I know, I know…going to hell. I’ll leave the light on for you.

Actually, it sounds like Jimi Heselden was a damn decent guy who gave millions to military charities.


Drove his Segway off’n a cliff into the crick.

Okay, I’m still sore about the way they introduced this thing in 2001. Remember? For days (weeks?) leading up to the announcement, there was all this bullshit marketing blag about how the new whatever-it-is was going to change human civilization FOR-EV-ER.

Then they rolled out this expensive goofy-ass two-wheelie mong-scooter.

I admit it — I experienced a little rage bubble. You know, that brief, sudden snap that makes you hoot like a monkey and fling out-of-date food items at the teevee.

September 27, 2010 — 7:07 pm
Comments: 41

Okay, I’m in

I was really starting to sweat this; I wrote away for my absentee ballot weeks and weeks ago. I wanna be a part of the revolution, dammit!

Rhode Island politics — for once! — look interesting this year. I could almost wish I’d kept my registration there for one more cycle.

But no. I own property in Tennessee. I pay taxes in Tennessee. My family is in Tennessee. And, most importantly, Tennessee politics is nuttier’n a squirrel’s rectum in a circus tent.

Two words: Basil Marceaux. Treat yourself to a trip to his campaign website.

I must say, he makes a tempting offer: VOTE FOR ME AND IF I WIN I WILL IMMUNE YOU FROM ALL STATE CRIMES FOR THE REST OF YOU LIFE! Never know; could come in handy. It takes a serious man to make his campaign promises in all caps.

Then there’s Zach Wamp, who totally deserves to be governor for having the awesomest name since Buff Orpington.

Too bad I skipped the primary. George T. Erdel of District 6 assured me he was my “Tea Party Democrat.” I don’t know if his campaign website used to be a campaign website, but it’s now all about Islam = Sharia. Right nutty fringe, wrong party.

Man I’m going to need some help making a choice. Anybody know any good Tennessee political blogs?

At least I know how to vote on the proposed amendment to the state constitution:

The citizens of this state shall have the personal right to hunt and fish, subject to reasonable regulations and restrictions prescribed by law. The recognition of this right does not abrogate any private or public property rights, nor does it limit the state’s power to regulate commercial activity. Traditional manners and means may be used to take non-threatened species.

My choices are No, Yes or Yeeeeee-haaaaa!

Good weekend, everyone.

September 24, 2010 — 9:36 pm
Comments: 52

My hops. Let me show you them.

September is the time to harvest the hops. Next door in Kent is big hop-growing country, and has been since the 16th Century. Before then, lots of different herbs had been added to beer to make it bitter (to counteract the sweetness of the malt), but hops have a preservative, plus a slight antibiotic effect which makes conditions more favorable for brewer’s yeast.

Of course, they didn’t know shit about antibiotic effects in fifteen-hunnert-something. They just knew beer made with hops turned out better and lasted longer.

It took a quarter of a million workers to bring in the crop, about a third of whom were vacationing London families from the East End. A hell of a vacation that must have been, sleeping in crappy little hopper huts and working in the fields all day. But the money was good, it was out in the country, and it seems to have been pretty sociable work.

Fresh hops were then taken to oast houses, which are giant drying kilns. In the 19th C, oast houses took on a distinctive shape: round towers with conical roofs — usually in two or three in a cluster. The roofs have a little flange that catches the breeze and moves a vent to face the wind.

Or did. All the harvesting and drying is done industrially now, of course, and the oasts have been converted to housing. Tons of them around here.

I’ve been trying to get my hands on some hops for several years. In old houses and pubs with low beams, it’s traditional to hang strings (or “bines”) of hops along the beams like curb feelers, to warn people off smacking their noggins. They look and smell great. But you have to get them fresh, before they go brittle and dry, and they disappear into the beer trade very fast.

We stopped at a fruit stand for some plums and another customer pulled in, the back of his car full of freshly-picked hops. I mugged him. He’d picked them for some other middle-class pretend-farmer’s-wife country wannabe, but weasel got there first.

Somewhere in England tonight, a woman named Tallulah or Cassandra or Jemima is thinking of lost hops and crying bitter tears.

September 23, 2010 — 11:02 pm
Comments: 33

It’s better than bad, it’s good!

Bought this at a smallholding fair. It’s a grow-your-own ‘shroom kit.

Dude sells wooden furniture pegs — you know, like the ones you bang together Ikea furniture with — covered in different varieties of mushroom spores. Sells ’em in little burlap bags, along with instructions and a correctly-sized drill bit.

What you do is, you take a freshly-cut hardwood log (needs to be fresh because the mushrooms live on the moisture and sugars), about four inches by two and a half feet, and drill a series of holes in a diamond pattern. The holes are a little deeper than the pegs. Bang the pegs in, plant the log in a cool, damp spot and…wait a year, eighteen months.

I bought hericium Erinaceus, which is supposed to taste like delicious lobsters.

But where in the Sam Hill do you get freshly cut hardwood logs? Anyone who sells wood will swear on his granny’s silver noggin that everything he’s got is two years old or more and seasoned all to hell.

We had begun eyeballing out neighbor’s orchard and planning a midnight raid when we remembered a local smallholder who sells apples. He had a perfect pile of wood…only it was six months old. Two months or less is optimum.

Oh, well. It’ll have to do.

Then the drill bit snapped off in the log before I got all the holes drilled.

Well, hell. This shit grows wild. In the woods. How hard can it be?

September 22, 2010 — 10:34 pm
Comments: 31


Do delicious, wholesome snacks come out of your best friend’s bottom in the morning? No? Too bad, so sad.

First egg: Friday the 10th. We’ve had six more since. They were supposed to start laying between 20 and 24 weeks old, and it was within a few days of week 22 exactly.

Here’s the thing, though: we think it’s just one of them at it.

I was told chickens change personality when they start laying — they weren’t kidding. Lucia (formerly the shy, dependant one) has become a whole ‘nother chicken. She’s restless and goes off on her own, without her little friend. She follows me around the garden like a puppy. Her comb and wattles have gone bright red and poofy. When you reach toward her, instead of beGAKking and flapping away, she hunkers down, throws her elbows out and waits — presumably a sexual readiness posture (ummm…ewww, Lucia).

The other one is still the same flighty peckerhead she’s always been.

The eggs are so small and perfect…they’re like the Barbie Dream House version. I feel like I should cook them in a tiny frying pan with a tiny spatula. They reckon it’s two bantam eggs to a large fowl egg, but the bantam ones have a higher proportion of yolk to white.


So far, I have eaten two. Fried. On a tiny piece of toast.

September 21, 2010 — 7:50 pm
Comments: 53


Some time in the last couple of weeks, this blog finally hit half a million visitors. I was going to make a big deal when that happened, but somehow I missed it. I was probably high.

Some blogs break half a million before breakfast, but they by-god don’t do it peddling a steady fare of chicken blogging, spotted dick and hastily constructed obscene political Photoshops.

It’s hard work flogging this crap.

SRSLY? If there’s a reason to follow this blog, it’s you guys. I have the smartest, funniest and most interesting commenters on the internet. Y’all blow me away sometimes. (Where the hell did you come from? I know I poached some readers from Ace, but you didn’t have to hang around and entertain me).

A favor? I know the blogosphere is a restless place, but when you guys wander off, would you occasionally check back in? There are a few names I haven’t seen in a while, and I worry.

You know how it is.

p.s. Wait until midnight. Go outside. Look up. It will be over a decade before Jupiter is this close to earth again.

September 20, 2010 — 9:18 pm
Comments: 86

The Panties of Liberty

I am so not into identity politics. No, scratch that — I really hate identity politics. I have consistently refused to participate in women’s art shows (I can compete in the regular kind just fine, thank you). A lifetime of observing the increasing role of women in politics and the workplace has convinced me the female influence in those places has been mostly bad. Really bad.

A mother is someone who has stuck her finger down the back of somebody’s else’s pants to see if he’s shat himself. That sort of person no longer recognizes boundaries like the rest of us. “None of your business” just doesn’t compute any more.

So it isn’t some reflexively feminist impulse that the number of women candidates on our ticket this year makes me think of this lady. Liberty, up there. That particular seated Liberty was all over our money in the 19th Century (by law, Liberty has to appear somewhere on US coins).

I love this one, because it looks like she’s waving her panties around on a stick. Which totally says “Liberty” to me.


(Okay, it’s a Phrygian cap on a liberty pole, but it’ll always be panties on a stick to me).

Good weekend, all!

September 17, 2010 — 9:17 pm
Comments: 29