The summer has begun!

The boiler is on!

And by “boiler” I mean furnace, or vice versa depending on what you call it. Either words for me. My engineer friends, of which I have one, says “boiler,” I think. My father said “furnace,” and while he was not an engineer he sold the stuff that powered them, so that’s not nothing.

Point is, you’re usually not hearing the radiators clank on the first week of Summer.

Yesterday’s pre-fab recounting of the weekend was absolutely correct, except for all the side-mulching. Front-mulching, too. By-god actual front-mulching galore, ten bags, and they stunk like a barn where sixteen cows had exploded three weeks earlier. I put down eleven bags on the south boulevard; that’s where my wife put a hundred and fifty hostas. Started with two, and then did the planaria thing, I think.

Did you study planaria in grade school? I don’t think we cut up any, but I read about them, and found the subject fascinating and unnerving. Cut them in half and they regrow the missing part. Slice them lengthwise, and they grow another head! So . . . who was looking at this worm, thinking “perhaps if I slice this one’s head in half, each half-head will form a full noggin. Never worked before but this could be it. Then I will learn the secrets of nature, and rule the world!

That was always the end objective of the Mad Scientist. He would unlock the mysteries of science and Rule the World.

I come before you, members of the UN, with an ultimatum! Submit to my authority or face a hideous death and the hands of my six-headed planaria army! You have two of your hours.

Okay, Dr. Odd, or whatever you call yourself, you’re an English speaker in the Western hemisphere so two of our hours are two of your hours, too; don’t know why you put it that way. Second, no one is afraid of your worms. How did you get in here?

My worms! I have trained them to do whatever I desire! Also, the guard was away from his post, but it he had been, my worms would have smothered him with hideous slime!

Ah, thanks for that. We’ll stock up on salt. Can you go with the sergeant at arms? He’s right behind you, wait.


Sergeant, could you? Thanks. Don’t slip on the slime on the way out.

Anyway, she divided the hostas to come up with more hostas, which makes you feel stupid when you go to the store and pay money for a hosta. But someone has to give you Hosta Number One.

Which came first, the Hosta or the Hosta?

Okay, I'm at that point where the word Hosta looks weird and sounds weird, like any word you repeat over and over. I'm outta here. Why, Hosta la -

Sorry; I was thiiiiiis close to saying it.






I’ve been watching Chernobyl, and holy wormwood it’s mortifying. I’m bothered by the English accents, though. In a podcast about the show, the director said they tried “Eastern European” accents for a while, but the actors were acting the accents. Sorta kinda get it. But maybe the solution was “do better at the thing that gives the scenario its terrifying power and verisimilitude,” because the accent is at odds with the setting. Should Gorby have spoken with a southern English accent?

There’s also a composite character who seems invented simply to give women something to do, and the problem with that is simple: you don’t trust any scene she’s in. Everyone else is based on a real person, and while there will be fictional licenses taken for the sake of compressing the story, you can be reasonably sure this is a broad simulacrum of the event. But when a Fictional Composite walks in, your trust in the scene evaporates.

Online nitpickers have come up with details that the Western eye wouldn’t get - the faceted glass one character uses to drink at home? No. Those were for street drinkers. (Street drinkers used glasses?) The cane the old man had was too nice. And so on. There aren’t any details where the film downplayed the everyday realities of Soviet life; no one’s saying “that’s ridiculous, our carpet and plastic translucent windows were much nicer than that.” Other notes I've read on the Chernobyl subreddit says they nailed so many details that former Soviet residents are agog that they got so much right.

I tend to suspect the latter is the case more than the former.

There’s a shabbiness to the interiors, a dated look that might interest mid-century enthusiasts, except Soviet-era mid-century stuff just sucks. It has no verve, no cool. It may have had a few days of promise and newness, but there’s drabness in its soul that comes out after a few years. So everyone is dressed like it’s 1978, walking around buildings that look like 1962, except it’s 1986.

I mentioned “wormwood.”

And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. Revelation 8:10-11

Wormwood in Ukranian is “Chernobyl.”

This was a not-insignificantly unnerving piece of information in 1986, even if you didn’t take the book literally.





It’s 1947.We'll be looking at newspaper grocery-day ads.

The practice of using unnerving disembodied heads to apply Gershwinisms to baked goods has, thank God, abated



Not that you’d know from this page:

It’s all mush, and I say to hell with it.

“This is delicious! What’s on it?”


“I must try it. What kind of sauce?”

"Old Style."

Here’s the recipe.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it bears noting: people don’t think about their soap bill these days.

A bar soap for clothes washing? Only a hint of the amount of labor involved.

Tasteless tot-paste - now in E-Z Chip glass containers, so there’s more danger!

The glass looks a lot like a can.

The world asked for kosher Spam, and the pleas did not go unheeded:

It’s a peculiar word and not at all unappetizing, no sir, not at all sounding like a high-volume fart.

The worst quisling mascot of them all, I think. He displays much more enthusiasm for his horrible lot in life than the situation required.


Look out! She’s insane!

I love the “catsup-style sauce,” which clearly warns you that the tomato water in the can is not actual catsup. That would be quite the luxury.



Let's drop in on the far-away yet oh-so-relatable world of 1916, as seen through the work of Clare Briggs. See you around.



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