It's a bit ridiculous to say "sorry about this here" when I know there's 1,400 words below, not a few of which involve the search for a building that was once home to an imaginary city the nation's children knew by heart, but I always feel as if there should be lots of stuff up here at the top. Column night AND Diner work. But first, a Mystery!



Answer at the bottom.


It snowed today. Just a few flakes, hard like frozen rice, harbingers of the invasion to come. Thirty-nine degrees - a jolt, a kick, a warning. The weekend rain was perfect for late October, but this makes things seem brittle and uncertain. So you look for the usual compensations, and they are around you in abundance: pumpkin breakfast bars, hot chocolate, the fireplace, the bottle from Scotland that contains the sweet ichor of oblivion. So you drink at noon, again. Did I say you? I hate when writers do that. I mean him, the guy down the street. He dumps his empties into the recycling bin, it’s like listening to a Coca-Cola bottling factory slide down a cliff in an earthquake.

Oh, I’m just making that up. But there are the compensations of indoors, and for some reason I was invigorated by the weather. That old manic re-resolution, kicking up with intentions and plans galore. For heaven’s sake, I even fixed the dishwasher yesterday, that’s how much vigor I have. I was goofing around after breakfast with Daughter when the control panel of the dishwasher beeped IO IO IO IO. Was that it? No, that’s when it’s getting a message from Jupiter. OE, that’s it.

I figured: “Operating Error.” One of those highly specific instructions. Well, to the internet, Robin; turned out if meant that the dishwasher wasn’t draining. This could be because:

The hose was kinked

The hose was blocked

The drain was blocked

The hose drain was blocked with a kink

The filter trap was blocked

There was a body inside

Ha ha your warranty has expired

I verified that the hose was not kinked, and disconnected it from the disposal. We live in fear of the disposal; it is the brother of the other kitchen pain-tool, the Waring Blender, each of which can blend your flesh to a slurry of blood and pain in seconds. I mean, I cut power to the house before I put my hand down the disposal. Ran the dishwasher again, draining the water into a bucket, and rogered out some gunk in the disposal with a rusty snake, thinking that’s a great name for a charismatic bad-guy character, preferably played by Kurt Russell. I also snaked the hose, tweeting the event with the hashtag #50shadesofplumbing because it sounded naughty. Someone responded with #50shadesofgreywater, which was so much better.

Eventually it drained without giving me the OE. Now, if it was OEO, you would think that the problem was your wicked witch; an OEOEO means an expired Morris Day. There are other error codes I will get before the thing dies, but so far it’s a hardy appliance.

Point is, I fixed something. Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and do you know why? Because there’s no other task to which your wife can set you. And by “your wife” I mean the lady who lives up the street, married to the akly. No, I mean my wife. She sees me under the sink with TOOLS EVEN and it’s obvious I am showing initiative. I think I will do this every weekend: find something that looks like it’s a job, but really isn’t, and get to it. If you’re on your back and you need a light and a tool, it’s work.

Monday morn two guys came by to install new lights in the kitchen. Xenon lights to replace the halogens. I loathed those halogens; they went out all the time, and the bulbs were $7 each, or more. If you touched them the oil of your skin cut the life expectancy of the bulb in half, and, being unskilled in the arts of telekinesis, I frequently touched them while putting them in. But now we have Xenons!

Except for the ones over the stove!

Er - guys?

As he explained, that would be a custom job, because, well, look at it. I nodded: yep, that’s custom all the way. No matter. There are but three lamps, and I harvested all the bulbs from the other lamps. The light is cleaner. Another incremental improvement. Jasperwood is in the best shape it’s ever been in.

Jasper less so, but he’s hanging in there. Good dog. Today:


What can we learn from looking at old ads and logos and designs of consumer goods past? Lots. Eventually. No Borden this week; couldn't find any, but Elsie deserve a rest. We start with:


Such a deal:


I’ve probably mentioned Dial before; it sticks in my mind because it’s what we had at home. For a while. At that tender age when you start to notice brands, you develop domestic identities built around these things - you’re a Dial / Heinz / Colgate family, whereas your pal is a Palmolive / Hunts / Pepsodent family, which makes them slightly foreign, and makes their house feel like the parallel universe to your own.

But wait! There’s more! The ad promises your weight in gold:

Love to know who won that. I know I’ve mentioned this before as well, but it bears repeating: Armour made Dial. That’s right: a meatpacker. Armour was an immense brand, nationwide, hog-slaughter to the nation, but Dial was so popular they renamed the company Armour-Dial. Bacon and deodorant soap, eh? Well, Armour-Dial was purchased by a natural ally . . . GREYHOUND BUS. If there’s one thing that you don’t associate with Greyhound bus it’s soap, and the slogan “aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everybody did?” means a lot more after 17 hours on the road.

This was part of Greyhound’s engulf-and-devour conglomerate phase, which ended with the usual festival of sundering.

Dial, by the way, also gave away an oil well. Those were the days.





“They crackle in cream,” which made you suspect cereals that laid there silent, as if they couldn’t be roused to action. The ad notes that Rice Krispies will float for hours, as if marketing to the elderly portion of the audience that poured a bowl only to wander off and do something else for the rest of the morning, returning to the kitchen to look for scissors, and oh, there’s the cereal. Well, it’s still floating. An age of miracles!

“Blue rose” was a “medium grain developed in Louisiana.” Oh, but that’s just the tip of the story. From a 1914 story on rice pioneer Sol Wright:

From the spectacular standpoint Sol Wright and his Blue Rose rice can not fairly be classed among the most striking exhibits at the Southeast Texas fair, but for the man who is interested in rice the Louisiana genius and his little exhibit of pure American types of rice are as important as Thomas A. Edison would be in an electrical show with a new and revolutionary method of lighting by electricity. For this plain Louisiana farmer has done for rice farming what Edison did for electrical science.

That was almost 100 years. Sol Wright’s company is on Twitter.



Something of a mixed-message, brand-wise: the old-time stern rectitude of the Brothers, and the nifty-fifties colorful box design:



Their names were William and Andrew. Wikipedia:

Of the brothers, William Smith was the dominant, community-minded and a prohibitionist. He was known for such quirks as keeping financial records on the backs of used envelopes. He ran for public office several times and was a generous local philanthropist who assessed his brother Andrew for half of all charitable donations whether he knew of them or not.

Andrew, on the other hand, was known as the more amiable brother and not a tea-totaller.

Hah! A fellow with a limber wrist, then. Their cough drops were the first of its kind, a big national brand that required trademark protection - hence the logo. When F&F, took over in ’72, they downplayed the logo, because it was 1972 and they thought “F&F” would really hit the spot. (They made their own cough drops.)

It’s now in the hands of a private-equity firm. The brothers have been dead for over a century. They are also on Twitter.



I wonder what they’re looking at. It’s not the house.



There’s a little picture of the mascots. Whoever thought up that ad campaign probably knocked off around 1 PM, having decided that two sprites with the product’s name was a no-brainer.



It’s one of those things we say without realizing what we’re saying, which is “nail and spoon.”

From spick-and-span-new (literally “new as a recently made spike and chip of wood”) (1570s), from spick (“nail”) (variant of spike) + Middle English span-new (“very new”) (from circa 1300 until 1800s), from Old Norse span-nyr, from spann (“chip”) (cognate to Old English spón, Modern English spoon, due to old spoons being made of wood) + nyr (“new”) (cognate to Old English nīwe, Modern English new).[1] Imitation of Dutch spiksplinter nieuw (literally “spike-splinter new”)[2] , for a freshly built ship. Observe that fresh woodchips are firm and light (if from light wood), but decay and darken rapidly, hence the origin of the term.

Spic and Span are not on Twitter, which seems odd in this day and age.



I haven’t the slightest idea what they hell they’re talking about. Let alone adding "Brown" to "hot."



For a while it was made at a factory called Wheatenaville, in Rahway. I can’t find out the exact location. Some cards say you can see it as you pass on the Pennsylvania railroad, and while I’ve found that line I’ve no idea where the building was. Seems like such a structure would have landmark status, or at least be renovated for the 21st century, no? Especially since Wheatenaville became the setting for stories on a children’s radio show, Wheatenaville Sketches. The author of the program was a man named Raymond Knight, about whom a rather broad claim was made:

This show was the forerunner to most of what America thought was funny afterwards. Ray, unlike most of the other radio personalities at the time, didn't have a background in vaudeville. He did all of his work within a short distance from home. Consequently, Ray had a good grasp on what people did when they were at home. Nothing was safe from Ray Knight's sarcasm. It wasn't meant to be rude or upsetting. But The KUKU Hour was so different from anything that was going on at the time.

Influential? “Wheatenaville Sketches and The Cuckoo Hour were both important influences on comedian Bob Elliott, who attended Knight's show with his parents and later became friends with Knight.” That’s putting it mildly. Knight ended up as a writer for the Bob and Ray show, and after he died in ’53, Bob Elliot married his widow.

Meaning that the guy who invented the modern idea of “funny” was the great grandfather of a Saturday Night Live cast member.

Ah! I finally found it.






Nice to know America has some good habits.



Work blog around 12:30 and Tumblr as well. See you around.





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