Curmudgeonry, My New Religion

This is an excerpt from the book The Portable Curmudgeon, by Jon Winokur. I’m making it my new religion.

1. archaic: a crusty, ill-tempered, churlish old man
2. modern: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

The Portable Curmudgeon

The Portable Curmudgeon

“A curmudgeon’s reputation for malevolence is undeserved. They’re neither warped nor evil at heart. They don’t hate mankind, just mankind’s excesses. They’re just as sensitive and soft-hearted as the next guy, but they hide their vulnerability beneath a crust of misanthropy. They ease the pain by turning hurt into humor. They snarl at pretense and bite at hypocrisy out of a healthy sense of outrage. They attack maudlinism because it devalues genuine sentiment. They hurl polemical thunderbolts at middle-class values and pop culture in order to preserve their sanity. Nature, having failed to equip them with a serviceable denial mechanism, has endowed them with Continue reading

Heaven Hill Distilleries – Heavenly!

My Twitter followers already know about my conversation with Heaven Hill Distilleries, makers of, among other things, Evan Williams Kentucky Bourbon and PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur. A couple of weeks ago I was expecting company, a nice young couple from Orangevale, California. I asked them what they would like for party drinks, and they requested Tequila Sunrises. I don’t drink mixed drinks that often, so I had to look it up: Tequila, orange juice, and Grenadine.

Good enough. Tequila was easy. Lon picked up some Centenario 1800 100% Agavae Azul. Orange juice was easy, too. Penney bought some oranges and an orange squeezer. Grenadine was harder. As you know, Lon, Penney, and I live in a tiny little coastal town where our shopping choices are limited. I found Rose’s Grenadine right away, of course. Sadly, I found it was made of “High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Red 40, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Blue 1” according to their web site. It seemed a shame to mix that with fresh orange juice and high-quality tequila. So Continue reading

Harlan Ellison Goes to Work for Disney Studios. Seriously.

Yesterday I was trying to make some sense out of the title of Harlan Ellison’s 1975 science fiction story Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38 54′ N Longitude 77 00’ 13″ W. Fascinating title, even though it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the story. The Islets of Langerhans are a part of the pancreas. The geographical coordinates refer to a location near Union Station in Washington, D.C. Well, ok. Then, in my research I came across this question:

Was Ellison really fired on his first day as a writer at Disney for suggesting that the studio make a porn movie?

Funny! Oh, but wait – the real answer is YES. According to the web site Continue reading

Why Didn’t I Think of That?

Does this ever happen to you? You see something in the grocery store, or the hardware store, and it just jumps up and smacks you in the face. Something so obvious that you marvel that no one thought of it sooner. Worse, you didn’t think of it sooner. And you just feel kind of sick, knowing that someone, somewhere, is raking in a fortune, and it could have been you, if only you’d thought of it first.

The first time that happened to me was Continue reading

Contains Milk

Lon, Penney, and I were down in Monterey last week for a tiny amount of business, and a lot of vacation. After a long day at the Steinbeck museum in Salinas (fantastic!), we stopped for pie and coffee at a local diner. Along with our coffee we got a little bowl of those tiny coffee-creamers. I drink my coffee black, so I don’t usually pay any attention to the creamer, but this one caught my eye. It was called “Wholesome Farms Coffee Creamer.”

It had a cute little picture on it. The sun is rising on a pastoral scene with rolling hills, plowed fields, with a little barn on the right. Even the typeface was old-timey-looking, giving you that good, old-fashioned, down-on-the-farm feeling.

But next, in tiny little letters, almost too blurred to read, came the Ingredients: Water, Corn Syrup, Contains one or more of the following (Palm Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernal Oil, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil), Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Artificial Flavors. Contains: Milk.

Good thing they warned me — I almost ate something…wholesome. Oh, corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oil, is there anything you can’t do?”

I wonder what the UN-wholesome creamer has in it?

Taking, Having, Leaving?

Why do Americans say “take a pee” and “take a dump”? We’re not taking anything. The Brits are only slightly better, with “having a dump.” I suppose it’s like “having” a baby, except when we have a baby, we keep it around, usually, so we actually have it, as opposed to promptly flushing it and having nothing.

Maybe we should switch to “leaving” or “dropping”, but “leaving a pee” just doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it? And “leaving a dump” sounds like you just dropped your garbage at the landfill.

And don’t even get me started on how we drive on a parkway, but park on a driveway.

Alan Alda, Naked Ladies, and a Stuffed Dog

Last week I was trying to explain to my friend, Penney Knightly, the difference between modern strippers and old-time Burlesque. Unlike today’s strip joints, Burlesque was an entire variety show. The acts included singing, dancing, comedy, juggling, animal acts, and more. Also, strippers. More accurately, they were strip teasers. A striptease often started with the performer fully clothed. She’d dance to live music, removing one article of clothing at a time, smiling and flirting with the audience. It was an exuberant performance with a joyful spirit.

To illustrate this to Penney, Continue reading

Bobtail Squid Glows in the Dark

I’ll bet you didn’t even know that squid have tails. Neither did I, and for a very good reason–they don’t! This little guy, according to Wiki, is also called the Dumpling Squid because of his shape, which makes a lot more sense.

But here’s the best part: Bobtail Squid glow in the dark, courtesy of a special light organ in the mantle, complete with wavelength filters, a lens, and a reflector! The point of all this bio-cleverness? It helps him hide from predators by changing his color to match his environment.

Also, he’s cute. And exceptionally pretty. I wonder how he’d do in a home aquarium?


Live to Work, or Work to Live?

I just read this article about the difference between work, leisure, and creative, leisurely work. Seems that we’re doing it wrong.

I think he’s onto something. I’ll add a few more variants. Some make their living from their hobbies, such as fishing guides and ski instructors. Some earn a living playing chess or golf. There are even professional video gamers. The semi-lost art of cottage industry provides a family environment in which children and parents work, play, and learn together. Many of our greatest inventions began in a home workshop, invented by people who had the leisure time to work on projects of their choice and interest.

Our leisure time is an endangered species. Enemies of constructive leisure time can include Continue reading