Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Thank You for Being A Friend

If you hear "July 30" and you think, "Oh! That's National Golden Girls Day!"* you will probably want to hear about a place where you can have a nice meal and live for a while in the world of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia. 

There is a pop-up cafe in Los Angeles, which is where things are always popping up. It came with the blessings of Disney, which owns the rights to the old NBC sitcom which ran seven seasons, beginning in 1985. The theme of the place is, of course, aging, dating, and cheesecake.

It's called The Golden Girls Kitchen, and they're getting people from all over to come dine in the memories. Some of these fans probably attended the GoldenCon convention in Chicago held recently and are hoping that the rumors of a reboot for the show will come true.

Joe Saunders and his family, from Cranston, Rhode Island, were touring Northern California when they heard about the place, and headed south just to see it.

“I was a little hesitant about coming but my kids’ mom really wanted to come,” said Saunders, who was wearing a T-shirt referencing the sitcom’s fictitious Shady Pines retirement home. “It’s been a good time... the lasagna, the strawberry daiquiri and I’m going to have a piece of cake with ice cream, too.”

A.J. Maloney, just 23, said it's been "so heartwarming to see my mom light up. I know that she’s watched the show at least 50 times each season,” so he and his mom, Shellee, 45, came up from San Diego to be there.

 It's all been put together by a firm called Bucket Listers. Derek Berry, their "Director Of Experiences," has done this with food venues saluting other shows, such as “Saved By the Bell,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Beverly Hills 90210." Berry says if a show has “staying power” and "people are constantly quoting it," it would make a good place to eat, so “Golden Girls” was inevitable.

“Every time we announce a pop-up, we look at the comments. People are like ‘I love it, but you should have done this!’ And it’s always ‘Golden Girls,’” said Berry.

Executive chef Royce Burke came up with appropriate menu items and names...such as Sicilian Sophia's lasagna, all the various cheesecakes they mentioned on the show, and the Scandinavian delicacies Rose bubbled over in her stories about her hometown of St. Olaf, Minnesota.

“I like all the St. Olaf items where you never knew if they were real or not,” Berry said. “We threw a couple on there. It’s so fun to see my staff and myself try to pronounce them.”

The plan for now is to stay open in LA through October, and then take the restaurant show on the road to New York, Chicago, San Francisco and, of course, Miami, the most Golden Girlish city in the world.

Of course, none of the Golden Girls is still with us. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty all passed in the 2000s and the beloved Betty White left us last  last December at 99. But the show lives on, with cable reruns and Hulu streaming, and some people still probably have the DVD Box Set. 

A real-life quartet of Golden Girls - Shirley Lyon and three girlfriends from Palos Verdes, California, came to dine with their own drinkware. They made mugs with their own faces printed instead of those of the characters. 

“People here, I think, all love them,” Lyon said. “I don’t think anybody comes who hasn’t experienced how precious they are. I just love their friendship.”

 *It's also National Cheesecake Day.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Old Bluetooth Is Back

I have time to look things up now, and I'm not limited to the World Book Encyclopedia! (By the way, the rumor has it that Yogi Berra was asked whether he planned to get his young son an encyclopedia, and according to legend, Yogi said, "No! Let him walk to school, like I did.")

World Book aside, I have the world of Google to look things up. I have always wondered what the deal is with Bluetooth. I mean, it connects two things that are not connected, so there must be magic or wizardry or sorcery involved, so that I can get annoying telephone calls right on the dashboard while I'm driving to Aldi. And wireless headphones! Hurray! And it's all done by low-power radio waves on a frequency between 2.400 GHz and 2.483.5.

SO! That's how it works! And what's with the name? It's not from some currently-living inventor named Leon Bluetooth, but rather, for an old European king! 

Harald Gormsson was the king of Denmark from about 958 to about 986. No, I didn't skip the "1" in 1958. He was on the throne a long, long time ago. He was "Gormsson" because he was the son of King Gorm The Old and his missus, Thrya Dannebod. It was Harald, a Viking, who converted to Christianity and founded some of the first churches in Denmark.

Because of a tooth that was probably dead, owing to a paucity of mall dental clinics at the time, he was lovingly called "Bluetooth" by his subjects, as modern people here sometimes called their president "Orangehead" due to imprudent use of tanning beds. 

There is a debate raging in Europe now as the whether old Harald was actually buried in Wiejkowo, an area of northwestern Poland, or in Roskilde, in Denmark. The coin seen below is central to the discussion. It came to the attention of historians in 2014, when an 11-year-old girl presented to a museum this small, soiled coin that had been in her family’s possession for decades. It was shown to date from the 10th century.  The Latin words on it say “Harald Gormsson (Curmsun in Latin) king of Danes, Scania, Jomsborg, town Aldinburg.”

The girl's family obtained it in 1945, after World War II, when the region became part of Poland. It had been found and archived in 1841 when a new chapel replaced the old in Wiejkowo.

The debate about where Harald is buried will probably continue. If you go to Europe anytime soon, you can report back to us using your Bluetooth connection. 

And why did they name the system for Harald? Because, just as Bluetooth technology connects your phone to your earbuds, old Harald connected much of Scandinavia during his lifetime. 

The Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson, inventors of the technology, named their wireless link system to honor the king. And the logo you see everywhere Bluetooth is came from from the Scandinavian runic letters for the king’s initials, HB.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Sunday Rerun (from 2015): The Fleek Is In!

 I like to think I stay up with the English language, both the formal variety that frowns on people saying, "Your looking great" or, "I should of stayed home that night"  and the colloquial, in which people say something is "bad" when they think it's good, or "sick" when it's well, or "near miss" when two airplanes nearly hit, and "the alarm went off" when, in fact, it went on.

I love language and the words it uses.  And I read a lot, from newspapers to magazines to almanacs and biographies, and you know what?  That's a good way to run into a lot of words, and when I come across a word I don't know, I like to look it up.

And so, it has come to my attention that a new term meaning great, good, fantastic, groovy, marvelous, purt-near-perfect is being used.

I like to have a picture with every blog entry, but what picture could I use
to illustrate a word?  Then it hit me...this is a picture of a Taylor Pork Roll
sandwich from Uncle Bill's in Cape May, which is three fleeks right there!

I have to admit, I thought I heard it wrong the first time someone said someone was "on fleek." I thought they were saying they were down on Fleet Street, and I thought, oh man, I have to go down to Fell's Point to pick her up?

But "on fleek", a term that no one can really pinpoint the etymology of, means all of the above terms.  Your hair is on fleek. That song is on fleek. Your shirt, your sox, the sandwich you gobbled at lunch, your roommate's willingness to share the cheese tray her mother sent her, and the likelihood that love will follow a new bride and groom all the days of their lives: all of these things are on fleek.

And just so you know, I checked, and it's not all right to say that rotten fish, running out of gas on the Beltway, losing your all-day MTA pass and catching a cold from the snotty cashier at the Save'N'Run are "off fleek."

Saturday, August 6, 2022

The Saturday Picture Show, August 6, 2022


Snoopy had the right idea. Music is to be enjoyed!
Nature has a way of looping around good things, such as this bison scratching his head on a bison sign. I don't know that the sign means. Perhaps it's a bison bus stop?
I must have tacos on my mind this week (as usual). Birthday Piñata, anyone?
This is Baltimore's famous Graffiti Alley. Edgar Allan Poe lived his last dissolute days here.
Five of the greatest men in the history of music met in Hamburg in November 1962 when The Beatles appeared on the same bill as Little Richard. The Fab Four did their versions of some of the The Innovator's songs, such as “Long Tall Sally,” “Lucille” and “Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!”
Taco Two for today: you can always store your sunglasses somewhere else in exchange for making sure you always have lunch ready.
Another idea I pass along to all elementary schools is this one, called The Friend Bench. The idea is that a kid who doesn't have anyone to play with will sit there and some good soul will come along and offer a chance to be friends. I like it.
I will vote for him if Calvin is on the ticket as Vice-President!

People often ask me to "name a movie you have seen dozens of times" and I usually mention "Uncle Buck." I understand that there are people who have never seen it, and I urge them to check it out as soon as possible! That way you will know why Marcie Dahlgren-Frost gets compliments on her hyphen. Sure she would!
My Magic 8 Ball went crazy and kept giving me the answer "Couldn't give you a bigger NO on that, buddy boy!"

Friday, August 5, 2022

Take Me To The Other Side

Noted prankster Vincent Van Gogh left behind a self-portrait that was only discovered when someone decided to look behind another of his masterpiece paintings, said the National Galleries of Scotland.

Van Gogh (1854 - 1890) was not at all successful during his lifetime, which ended when his longtime depression overtook him and led him to commit suicide by pistol. Long before that, he led a dissolute life, suffering from psychotic episodes and failure to maintain standards of physical health, drinking heavily, eating improperly, and hacking off a chunk of his left ear with a razor after arguing with fellow painter Paul Gauguin. 

History shows us that while the two often bickered about how much butter to slather onto a baguette, and whether a three-hour lunch was too long, the final fight came when Gauguin argued that artists should work from their imagination, and Van Gogh claimed that art should only be based on nature. The melee ended with Van Gogh asking Gauguin to imagine how Van G would look with half an ear.

The end came in 1890, but at some point before that, Van Gogh created his painting “Head of a Peasant Woman.” An interesting aspect of his painting was that, in much the same way I will use old envelopes, grocery lists, and subpoenas to leave notes for myself ("Buy envelopes!) ("Buy Groceries!") ("Respond to subpoena!"), old Vincent would save money on canvases by flipping them over and painting on the other side.  

Above, you see the painting of the peasant woman, and to the right, his selfie. For over a century, the selfie side was covered by layers of glue and cardboard, only to be revealed by a routine x-ray. It's obviously an early work, because, well, because we see his whole left ear.

Senior Curator for the National Galleries of Scotland, Frances Fowle, calls this discovery "thrilling."

“Moments like this are incredibly rare,” she said. “We have discovered an unknown work by Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most important and popular artists in the world.”

While art experts figure out how to get the glue and cardboard off the canvas without wrecking either side of it, the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh will allow patrons to see the X-Ray picture through a lightbox. 

If you stop over at the house some afternoon, I will show you the X-Ray of my knee replacement, which makes my left leg look like something made of Legos.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

I'd like to order Shrimp Fried Rice and a metal fork

Let me start this by saying that even before my left hand became bedeviled with the arthritis, I always lacked the manual coordination required to eat with chopsticks. I watched instructional videos, I followed the directions on the chopstick packages, I even had one-on-one tutoring from someone proficient in the art of maneuvering food from plate to mouth with the use of two skinny sticks.

"All to Noah Vale," as I recently saw someone write. They meant, "all to no avail," and that's the deal with me and chopsticks. Pass the fork, please.  And the shrimp fried rice. 

I do understand that people have been using the sticks for over 5,000 years, and that a third of the people in the world have mastered the art for their daily dining. But now I feel a little better about letting restaurants wash the fork I use, because a great many of the world's chopsticks are single-use, and that is leading to a serious environmental problem.

It can't be anything but a problem when you think that 80 billion pairs of sticks per year are tossed into landfills. In China, they figure 100 acres of aspen, birch, and bamboo are deforested every DAY to make more chopsticks. There are always efforts underway to get people to switch to reusables, but since disposable is so easy....you know how it goes.

Chopstick factory

Felix Böck, of Vancouver, is working on the problem and trying to get people not to use single-use sticks. The founder of ChopValue, a company that uses recycled chopsticks to create "stunning, high-performance office furniture, home decor, kitchen accessories and games," Böck says, "In Vancouver alone, we’re throwing out 100,000 chopsticks a day. They’re traveling 6,000 or 7,000 miles from where they’re manufactured in Asia to end up on our lunch table for 30 minutes.”

When you put it that way, it seems foolish.

Böck started his business in 2016, on the grounds that if people won't stop using single-use sticks, there's something better than just dumping them in landfills. His people pick up around 350,000 used chopsticks from over 300 restaurants every week, and turn them into bookshelves, cutting boards, coasters, desks, and custom decorations. Böck says his outfit has kept over 50 million pairs of sticks out of landfills since it began.

“Once you see the volume, you think maybe that little humble chopstick can be the start of something big,” Böck says. “My expertise is in bamboo, so I always looked at chopsticks differently. I used to joke to my friends that I would make something out of chopsticks, since most of the ones we use in North America are made of bamboo.”

Of course, you don't just pick up a barrel of used bamboo from The House of Lo Mein and turn that into a set of shelves. First, the sticks are coated in a water-based resin, then sterilized at 200 degrees for five hours. Then a machine breaks the wood into composite slab of board, which get sanded, polished, painted or whatever.

And then, “This material is then the core piece for everything from desks and table tops to home decor,” Böck says.

In case you want to try your hands at making yourself a desk from your old chopsticks, keep ordering from China Delight until you have 10,854 sticks! That's how many it takes.

And, in a neat circular loop, there is a restaurant chain called Pacific Poke that recycles its chopsticks with ChopValue, and then buys decorations and new tables for its restaurants from them!

“I think change starts small, and change can be a very relatable thing that we all know from daily life,” Böck says. “Right now, we’re focusing on the chopstick because it’s a very powerful story, but I think there are so many other urban resources where we can make this work.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

R you kidding me

Here in seafood country, we have a saying: "Oysters 'R' in season" - to remind us that fresh oysters are plentiful in all months except those without an R in them - May, June, July, and August. 

Come September 1, we'll all be in an oyster stew!

But R is an important letter in many words and it should never be left out. F'rinstance, in New Mexico, which many people think is a foreign place to begin with, there is an enchanting city called Albuquerque.

And as hard as it is to spell now, think of how it used to be! The city's website will tell you,  there used to be another R in there. The website informs us that it was King Philip, the King of Spain, who granted permission in 1706 for some colonists to start a community down on the banks of the old Rio Grande river.

By way of thanks, the governor of the colony, Francisco Cuervo y Valdés, wrote an email to the Duke of Alburquerque in Spain to tell him he had a burgeoning city named in his honor: La Villa de Alburquerque. No one is even sure where they got that tongue-twisting name, but one school of thought says it's from the Latin "alba quercus," meaning "the white oak."

Later on, the first R was dropped because so many fifth graders couldn't get Alburquerque right on tests, and neither could their parents and half of the city officials, so they decided to go with "Albuquerque." 

But not even that simplified spelling was within reach of the highway sign shop, where the New Mexico Dept of Transportation proudly put up a new sign showing drivers the road to "Albuqueque."

The sign was placed on Route 66 and I-40.

Kimberly Gallegos, a department spokesperson said it didn't take long for people to call and email about the error. “I do not recall this happening before,” Gallegos said. “But I honestly think this was just a simple mistake.”

And she said a corrected sign went up already, so all is well in Albuwhatever.