Chair Up

Portable chairs these days are of a kind: metal rods supporting a hammock seat and back, designed to collapse and fit in a tubular cloth bag. It’s been impossible to find those web chairs, strips of woven plastic interlaced on a frame of light aluminum tubing; it just folds for transport. Web chairs are more comfortable and to me about even in carrying convenience: their light weight counters the heavier but smaller package made by the hammock chairs.

That’s before a recent trip to Sam’s Club. Weighing in at 37 pounds is the Kingpin Chair. While the box has a picture of a couple of people sitting on it side by side, it’s not sofa-shaped but surely intended for a plus-sized person.

No photo here because it’s a proprietary item. Click here for Amazon’s photo and description. At Sam’s Club it cost a bit over $100.

The intent here is not to mock big folks. On recent visits to hospitals I’ve spotted at the doors of the emergency room a several wheelchairs, as always. Among them now sit several extra-wide models. This is a fact of current American life.

Something here is worthy of mockery, the cynicism of the manufacturer, seen by the name but mainly on the arm rests. The new style portable chair often has a fabric cup holder sewn in. The KingPin Chair has six cup holders, three on each arm.

Thinking about a half-dozen cans or bottles lined up at either elbow makes me need to stop typing and head to the little boys’ room.

By George

With apologies to George Orwell:

Winston gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two Victory Gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose, only to be absorbed by crumbs from two Rick’s Bakery cookies. A just dessert for submitting to a biometric fingerprint scan, not for national security, but a private employer’s time clock. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

A vuvuzela blast.

Mosque, Ow, on the Hudson

Some blasts from the vuvuzela. I used to play instruments, not just blow my own horn.

While avoiding graven images, there’s no writ against craven puns.

Mosque, ow, on the Hudson? Saying where houses of worship do not belong raises all sorts of red flags, no matter the neighborhood, no matter the religion. How could a house of prayer in the vicinity of New York’s Ground Zero not be a splendid idea? Besides, Moscow on the Hudson is recalled as a delightful movie from 1984; I wonder if it’s dated?

Ground Zero? Ground Zero Mostel!

Now there’s a Jewish radical with humor and chutzpah. I remember Zero Mostel best for appearances with Jim Henson’s Muppets. He is quoted as saying of Henson: “He has the best possible actors. If you have a disagreement with them, you can always use them to wash your car.” Ground Mostel, a real New Yorker.

* * *

Foodie program: Tomatoes no longer are tomatoes. A couple of the major frozen pizza brands, I saw when shopping this week, state in their ingredients list, “tomatoes (water and tomato paste).” In reaction I bought a Wal-Mart Great Value (house brand) pie. Its sauce ingredients start as, “Water, Tomato paste.” As it should be.

Continue reading

Vuvuzela Monologues – Ads

Here’s some vuvuzela blasts to advertisements of the you-must-be-kidding sort. Virtually all of these are from the Sunday newspaper coupon sets. Because these go a long way to paying my salary, please buy every one of these. They’re fine products at honest prices.

• • •

Del Monte has a new campaign for its canned fruits and vegetables. The slogan goes, “When fresh fruit spoils, your food dollars disappear.” The rest of the ad’s big print goes, “Pick Del Monte canned fruit instead. Enjoy sunny taste. Without the waste.”

Moldy peaches are no fun, but keeping an eye on them, eating the softest ones first or cooking them in something, will strengthen the world’s supply of tin cans and syrup.

• • •

Kraft is remarketing, repackaging or repurposing its processed American cheese as ideal for microwaved nachos that even children can make. “Kraft Singles Melt Downs — Kids Can Melt Their Own Fun!”

Anyone who can punch 15 seconds (as pictured) on a microwave keypad can use real cheese, with more flavor, calcium and protein, as easily as laying over a handful of chips a slice of Velveeta, in three flavors, Nacho, Pizza and Taco. Take the plastic wrap off first, kids! It takes no more time, and want those flavors? Mom has spices you can sprinkle –chili powder, Italian mix and, uh, chili powder –and you won’t get extra salt and preservatives you didn’t need in the first place.

That was before I checked the related website. A video mini-drama automatically opens of a high school principal having a bad morning with, yes, a meltdown. Apparently, this 2:03 video has been re-edited into 30-second TV spots. Intact, this feels much longer than two minutes. Maybe it’s intended to remind adults if not kids of comedies like Ferris Buehler’s Day Off or Breakfast Club, but soon the overwriting and overacting seem real — even before the 2-second segment with a gun.

• • •

Our friends at Kleenex (Kimberly-Clark has “Personal Care products manufacturing facilities” in Conway and Maumelle, Ark.) have introduced paper hand towels with a pop-up dispenser not unlike their tissues.

The copy reads, “Your hands are only as clean as the towel used to dry them.” The picture shows two bathroom walls side by side, sharing a towel bar. Hanging on the left is a wadded, smudged, formerly white towel. On the right is an upside-down dispenser box of Kleenex Hands Towels with a crisp piece of paper ready to grab. Slogan, “A Clean, Fresh Towel Every Time.” The box, with a wedge-shaped top, is designed to rest on and behind the towel bar, or right-side up next to the sink.

The website includes a song for children to sing as they wash. For convenience, it’s an MP3 audio with a pleasant male voice, under which are printed the lyrics with a bouncing ball hopping happily to each syllable as it goes along. On the same page are two videos. One is an animation with a boy and a dog, an orchestrated version of the singer on the MP3. The one with the real little boy is rap. Hip-hop, get a mop, don’t be a sop, as they say in the ‘hood.

We could expect the sequel videos to explain how to use Cottonelle toilet tissue so let’s check. Nope. It’s a video where a gray-haired serious man in a suit and tie addresses the over and under controversy.

I wanna go baffroom.

• • •

Want the convenience of modern public restrooms in your own bathroom and kitchen? Lysol recommends its No-Touch Hand Soap System. Put this unit by the faucet, and place your palm under the nozzle where an infrared eye will sense that you’re ready for a dollop of hygiene. The price online is about $17.

Slogan: “Never touch a germy soap pump again” and the copy continues, “Helps stop the spread of bacteria … Starter Kit Includes No-Touch Dispenser, Hand Soap Refill and Four AA Batteries.”

The website has a helpful, fear-mongering video and notes the soap — you have to use Lysol’s with a specially shaped bottle — comes in three varieties, Soothing Cucumber Splash, Refreshing Grapefruit Essence, and Cleansing Green Tea & Ginger.

It’s a wonder the soap isn’t canned by Del Monte.

Vuvuzela Monologues

As long as soccer’s World Cup has made the vuvuzela stadium noisemaker a common word in America, Brick wants to horn in on its ubiquity for a new series of short takes. Today, it’s skin and drama.

• • •

Speaking of vuvuzela, one rash has come home to roost, on my left forearm. Until the most recent semi-seasonal clean-up the  Shady Hill yard, I have for years assured My Beloved of my immunity to poison ivy. Early last week, two days after battling privet on the perimeter, itchy blisters appears on said limb. Immunity has ended.

In researching valid treatments, I found a great Wall Street Journal article. Along the way to prevention and treatment, it notes that anecdotally there seems to be more, and more toxic, poison ivy this summer. The story cites research blaming global warming. Being the Journal, it does not use the phrase “global warming”:

A study, published in the journal Weed Science in 2007, suggested that poison ivy is getting bigger, spreading faster and producing more urushiol [the itching oil in the sap] as the result of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

As for prevention, science says soap-and-water works as well as store-bought poison-ivy rinses. My mistake was washing hands but not up the arms. This gardener has briefly suspended his organic principles to buy the smallest bottle of Roundup and spray only the leaves of three. We have lots of other ivies and other nuisance plants, and chemicals cause too many problems for cavalier use. I’ll continue to cut and pull rampant weeds, year after year. But poison ivy? Shrivel and die, you!

Science says over-the-counter cortisone cream reduces the itching. I agree. One tip not found online: Cortisone spells relief, but if you pick up a cat before the ointment soaks in, fur will stick to your arm. That spells itch.

• • •

Maybe my town’s municipal auditorium, the Walton Arts Center, has gotten small for the area. Maybe not. But there’s enough influential people who think the Washington-Benton County area needs either a bigger capacity space or simply a new one that it’s going to get cussed and discussed until the recession eases enough for bids, designs and contracts.

The latest kettle has been tossed in the fire by Continue reading

Japery and Ivory

DATELINE MIRTHOLOGY — You expect government to be naive sometimes, but some prominent research universities — that’s you, Cornell — treat animals like birdbrains. This week, they formally gave up on finding the ivory-billed woodpecker.

This was reported in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which for a half-decade has kept a special projects team just for hard-hitting reporting on scientists confirming the bird once considered extinct. (Proving that reports of newspapers going extinct need to be verified by science as well.) The article in Friday — the three paragraphs you can read without a subscription are sufficient because, well, you have me — would go on to note how this began in 2004 with a valid sighting.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is ending its funding of the project, $14 million so far. The administration of George W. Bush authorized the expenditure so it was a conservative use of tax money.

What Fish, Wildlife and Cornell forget is the intelligence of animals. This woodpecker species may not be rare, they’re just cleverer than we assume. Consider how often your pets outsmart you. We think of creatures as guided by instincts of food, mating and migration. While those are necessary — they’ve certainly stood me in good stead — ivory-bills successfully have avoided poachers, habitat developers and other idiots since the 19th century. After the turn of this century, maybe they got a little careless.

Scientists saw an ivory-bill some six times in 2004-05, but not since. Before disappearing, ivory-bill woodpeckers apparently wanted the last “Ha-ha-ha-HAA-ha.” A series of police reports in 2006 documents their path of mischief: Brick’s Birdberg Blotter.

I found these 14 news items from newspapers in towns so small they don’t have Wal-Marts, much less cell towers and the Internet. The 14 blotter briefs make slightly more sense when read from earliest up, Feb. 12 up to Feb. 25.

In 1982, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder recorded “Ebony and Ivory.” On muggy nights in the swamps of southern Arkansas, you can hear among the “kent-like” calls of either ivory-bills or bluejays a twee version of the hit pop song: “Japery and Ivory live together with some tension / Like keys dropped in bogs, here and there, don’t give it a mention.”