I have to speak on a panel today. No, amend that: I get to speak on a panel. I am fortunate enough to be invited to a panel to talk about writing for an audience of 250 or so. Being part of a panel is the easiest speaking gig in the business. You get stuck? Defer to someone else. You want to make a big impression? Interrupt the others frequently and step on their anecdotes. Oh, they’ll remember you!

Kidding. I have interrupted a few times, and I remember them with shame. I have been interrupted a few times, and while I have forgiven the people who stepped on my stories or punchlines, I will never - what’s the word? - actually forgive them, in a very real and true sense. But aside from that, I forgive.

Across the street today was a young woman dragging a suitcase down the sidewalk. This wasn’t unusual. People leaving a hotel, or heading to one. She paused at the crosswalk. The wind came up. Blew the suitcase open.

It was empty. She stood there through light changes, then pulled it across the street, open, and disappeared under the massive Hennepin County Building.

There’s a story there, and not a happy one.

It made me wonder whether she’d gone inside the Hennepin County Building to seek assistance. I don’t know if there’s any immediate assistance to be had there. Half of the building is a courthouse. The other is a “county government administration building,” according to Wikipedia.

Could you walk up and ask for something to eat? No; doesn’t seem so. They administer the places that have something to eat, which are elsewhere. Perhaps they've made a cold but necessary decision: if we give out sandwiches, the building will be full of people who want sandwiches. It's a building for the people who do the things for the people who shouldn't come to this building expecting anything, because they don't keep it here.

Nothing unusual in that, but it's odd to think that the place that centralizes state charity has no ability to do something, right then, right there, and everyone who might need something knows it. There's never a supplicant at the information desk.










I have six series going right now. I like them all. I also bank them for a night where I can really enjoy them, so I have to find something I can knock off in a night. Does that make sense? No. But in the days when we had VCRs and tapes, it was the same: I could watch that now, but then, well, I will have watched it.

So something grabs you eye and the series are pushed off into the distance, where you will forget what was going on, so you have to watch the recap, and it’s still a bit fuzzy.

Anyway: what would you presume this is about?

You might think “that’s probably a documentary about Mel Brooks? Although there have been a lot of those. Have there been a lot of those? Seems like it. Not that he doesn’t deserve it. He’s great. So what is this? Is that Mel Brooks?"

It was, and that caught my eye. The subject matter sealed the deal. Here is the stale-toast-dry imdb description:

Documentary centers on the vending machine popularized in the 20th century that offered fresh cooked meals in a commissary-style eatery.

This does not prepare some viewers for the moment when they will encounter politicians with whom they do not agree discussing the subject of coffee and pie. The trailer spends too much time on the recording of a song and the list of accolades, when it should just get right to it, please:

As one complainant notes:

I would never wear a Notorious RBG sweatshirt, but I found her comments charming, and Powell was warm and funny. They were just talking about a restaurant. Sometimes it's nice to agree with people about the importance of a good cup of coffee that costs a nickle and pours from the snout of a brass dolphon.

Here’s another charmer:

This story about the death of a restaurant chain is exaggerated and untrue, because totally unrelated restaurants exist on an island nation in the far Pacific. Also, what’s with all the Jews.

There was a time when YouTube’s comments were an interesting innovation, a part of the new internet where we all got to have a voice in the conversation. I think that was the first four or five minutes of its existence.

The comments serve no purpose. Except when they agree with me!

"I won't buy coffee there because of his ideology" seems a bit limiting. I mean, we're not talking Hitler Grind 'n' Brew.

Anyway. The entire documentary is delightful,  and a testament to America. Really. I'd make it required viewing in high school. Evil capitalist chain restaurants? Hardly. Beautiful architecture and affordable meals for all in an egalitarian setting, provided by a company that cared for its employees and customers.

This didn't make the doc.




It’s 1912.

Did they not have alarm clocks before this one?

They did.

The first American alarm clock was created in 1787 by Levi Hutchins in Concord, New Hampshire. This device he made only for himself however, and it only rang at 4 AM, in order to wake him for his job.[11] The French inventor Antoine Redier was the first to patent an adjustable mechanical alarm clock, in 1847.

This one was patented, and the first to be nationally advertised.


And we bitch about IKEA shelves:

No skilled labor required! If you can hammer a nail, you can build a house.

What satisfaction it must have given a man to build the thing from scratch. I note, however, that there's no mention of plumbing.

The standard of the fastidious:

From Find a Grave:

Dr. Joseph Parker Pray was a well-known manicurist and chiropodist who practiced in New York City. He died at the aged of 52 from complications of an operation on a carbuncle.

By the time this ad ran, he’d had some problems:

In 1882, a lawsuit was brought against Dr. Pray for assault by a young woman, Della Springstead, in which she accused Dr. Pray of placing a towel over her mouth and, by his own admission, trying to kiss her. Dr. Pray, in turn, filed charges agains Miss Springstead for blackmail, stating that she demanded $2.00 or she would file assault charges against him.

He’d been dead for 19 years by the time this ad ran.


It’s a damned odd ad, considering they’re selling train tickets.

I wonder if the lines owned lots of land down there. Wouldn't be surprised at all.


Whew! At least! Clear sailing for everyone from here on:

"Oh, no, the payments are due on the chair. Wherever am I going to find 50 cents?"

"Maybe in the chair cushions?"

"You're right! We're saved!"

"Same thing happened last month."

I always wonder how many people paid, or rather didn’t, and what they did about repossessing the goods. Seems like a great leap of faith to mail the chair for a fifty cent down-payment.

Speaking of which:

They would send you an ostrich feather. They would trust you to buy it. Or, if you did not wish to buy it, they would give it you if you sold five ostrich features.

This presumes a market for ostrich feathers. Obviously, there was one.

“Well, now that I have my invention perfected, I’d best patent it. But how? If only there was a way to - oh.”

Once you get one of those, the money pours in.

That's how it works, right?




That will do! See you tomorrow, unless of course I win the Powerball or our system of governance is ABOLISHED in a stroke.

Kidding. Either happens, I'll be here.





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