Where Do You Get This Stuff?

A friend once asked me where I came up with the things that I put on this blog. I don’t recall what I said to her at the time, but it comes out of my everyday life, because every single day that I take a breath I am confronted with either my own ridiculous behaviors or those of other people. Each daily newspaper provides more than enough grist for my small mill. (Some of what I read does make me angry or depressed, and I try to avoid writing about those things. I admit to not being 100% successful in this.)

What I do enjoy writing about is when we are really being preposterous. With our pretensions, our guarded conversations, our raising of our eyebrows. And if nothing is happening in the world, the stream of thoughts that my brain generates produces some really amusing stuff if I just pay attention. Maybe one out of ten thoughts that I have are absurd or laughable (it could even be as frequent as one out of five). I have no control over them popping into consciousness at all. When I really notice them is when I am trying not to think, as in mindfulness mediation sessions. It is at those times that I see that what I have read is true – that the mind never stops going, but jumps from one branch to another continuously, like some monkeys do, giving rise to the phrase “monkey mind.”

And some of what my mind brings up for brief consideration is hilarious. At least to me it is. Occasionally I will stop the flow for a moment and think to myself – that was almost unbelievably arrogant. I must really be that pompous ass that people have called me at times. Robin would be the expert on whether I am or not. One of the most useful things she does for me at times is to gaze deeply into my eyes and repeat: “Pedant, pedant, pedant .. .

But it is exactly those flaws that I often find endearing. Our human sillinesses. Our foibles. Considering those and writing about them is part of my personal plan in order to hang on to the shreds of sanity that I still possess. I’ve been doing it for more than a decade now, and it is still working for me. Truth is, studying a well-executed pratfall does much more for my state of mind than anything I will likely find on CNN today.

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Public Service Announcement

The Surgeon General announced at a press conference yesterday that a food product has been declared so severely addicting that it will be handled as such. That product is Cheetos Popcorn. To quote the good doctor: “This is a snack combining the seductive flavors of regular Cheetos with those of one of the most popular snack foods of all time – popcorn. They potentiate one another so that the combination is much more potent than you might expect.”

It’s one of those cases where 1+1= 3. From now on you can only get this snack by prescription, and there will be severe limitations on quantities dispensed as well.

You may recall that old folk tune, The Blue-Tail Fly, that goes like this:

When I was young, I used to wait
On the master and give him his plate
And pass him the bottle when he got dry
And brush away the blue tail fly

Jimmy, crack corn and I don’t care
Jimmy, crack corn and I don’t care
Jimmy, crack corn and I don’t care
My master’s gone away

We now believe that this is evidence that the authors of this song had access to something much like Cheetos Popcorn way back in the 19th century. Perhaps they made it themselves out of the homely ingredients they had at hand and kept the recipe secret until now, when it has been unearthed and newly marketed. It is worth noticing in the song’s chorus that when you get some of that crack corn you don’t care. Typical addict behavior.

Fortunately there is an easily observable marker which will help us identify victims of this scourge and get them the therapy they so sorely need – their fingertips are universally stained a bright orange.

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There seems to be quite a buzz about the fact that television journalist Chris Wallace is quitting Fox News and moving to CNN. An interesting choice for him, with CNN being the most anti-Fox of them all. The running thread is that it is bad publicity for Fox News to have one of the rare “legitimate” newsmen on its staff leave off and move on.

That may be true. I have a slightly different take. For seventeen years Wallace cashed those checks while lending his name to what is essentially a journalistic hogsnort. For me, that’s taking an awfully long time to decide that you finally care about the s**t on your shoes at the end of every working day.

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We watched another Christmas story last night where the holiday was really just the subtext. It all started out that morning when I ran across a YouTube video taken from an episode of the series The West Wing. It was intriguing enough that I searched for the original episode and found that I was going to have to pay for it, which usually causes my interest to fall pretty precipitously. For some unfathomable reason I persisted. Good that I did, for Robin and I found ourselves in a story that was funny, intelligent, and so moving at the end that we turned to each other choked up and in tears.

The video was from Season 1, Episode 10, and entitled In Excelsis Deo. Here is the clip running on YouTube that attracted me to spending the considerable sum of $2.99. You can watch the clip if you like but be warned, it may end up costing you.

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I can’t exactly recall the day when I realized that the world was even more complicated than I had previously thought, but it could have been the day that I discovered that Velveeta didn’t require refrigeration. As I stared at that display of variously sized yellow boxes all sitting there on a grocery store end-cap without needing any special environmental care, the thought came to me that all that other cheeses needed to be kept cool … why not this stuff?

There is a list of answers to this and other Velveeta-related questions at delish.com if you wish to pursue your education further.

In the early 1900s, Monroe Cheese Company wanted to salvage its Swiss cheese wheels that were either broken or misshapen. So it enlisted the help of Emil Frey, a Swiss immigrant who tinkered with the scraps until discovering he could melt them together and add byproducts like whey until they melded back together in a velvety consistency.

delish.com

If you’ve ever worked with Velveeta, you know that keeping the loaf covered when being stored is supremely important. Else the stuff will turn into something completely inedible, and the now brick-like material is even dangerous. A five-pound chuck of dried-up Velveeta falling from an airplane at 20,000 feet would be traveling at more than 1000 mph when it hit the ground and would leave a crater 100 feet across. (I have no idea why it would be falling from an aircraft, but the point is to look out if it does.)

Another fact is that the knife you used to cut Velveeta into slices must be immediately washed. If this product dries on the blade, you can never get it off, and the tool must regrettably be thrown away.

Originally Velveeta was made from real cheese. Today, it’s mainly whey protein concentrate, milk protein concentrate, milk, fat, and preservatives. By the Food and Drug Administration’s standards, that’s not real cheese—which is why the FDA forced Kraft to change its label from “cheese spread” to “cheese product.”

delish.com

So why do we even buy it? Because it is delicious. Because it melts so very well. Because it makes some of the absolute best mac n’ cheese there is.

Robin and I were discussing this interesting stuff last night at supper, as we ate our non-Velveeta-based mac n’ cheese. We mused that foodies would probably never allow themselves to be seen buying a loaf of Velveeta. If they just couldn’t help themselves and felt they needed a couple of pounds of this liquid gold they would probably have to steal it, sneaking it from the store under their clothing to avoid being seen at the checkout stand as they made their purchase.

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Postscript: the kids in the photo are named Allyson, Justin and Amy. I am their wicked stepfather.

Postpostscript: by way of followup on my do-it-yourself follies discussed in a previous post, I have taken out a protection order against myself so that if I get within 100 yards of a hardware store I am immediately arrested and taken to the calaboose. Robin is the only person who has the authority to arrange my release.

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