Friday, October 31, 2008

Hayden's Country Wisdom

By Smorgasborg Country Correspondent Hayden Holbert

1. Pick your corn before tassel turns dark brown.

2. Make sure you properly dry your hay before you put it up.

3. If you find that you can't get your diesel tractor started in the winter, try a glow plug.

4. When planting any kind of squash by a start, make sure that you don't plant too early. Definitely a week after first frost.

5. Remember to put good heart in your soil by spreading manure or organic matter on, either after you harvest, or in the early spring.

6. If you just can't get your goat to go where you want it to, try making a sound by putting your lips together and blowing out, as if you were playing a trumpet. The goat will surely go where you want.

Come visit my farm in Wisconsin, AVROM FARMS. Fresh, local, and naturally grown produce is what we're all about.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Haunted Janitor

Of all the hauntings that occupied the school when I was in 2nd grade, the Haunted Janitor is the one I remember best. The Haunted Janitor was a ghost janitor that occupied the janitor's closet across from Ta's class. Many children were afraid to go inside, solely because they were afraid that the Haunted Janitor would do something to them.
However, my two friends Lucas Binion and Alex Auyeung, and I, were above that. We weren't afraid of that ghost. In fact, we had relations with him. We had been granted with the special power to see the haunted janitor, to talk to him, and in one case, to be possessed by him.
We saw the Haunted Janitor many times. Once was at recess, when I thought I saw him on the roof, looking down at us. I promptly pretended to get hit on the head with something and fall down.
“What happened?” asked Lucas.
“'I've been hit!” I replied theatrically.
“What hit you?”
For effect, I paused a second before saying, “The Haunted Janitor” and pointed up ominously. Lucas and Alex freaked out and started looking up to the roof... but there was nothing there. It was all an act, of course, but it made us feel important, and consoled us to the fact that we weren't, and never would be, Harry Potter. We all desperately wanted to be Harry Potter, of course, but we needed something different, lest someone accuse us of wanting to be Harry Potter. Sometimes at night before I went to bed I would practice spells in a bad British accent, but it always eventually made me more embarrassed and depressed. It seems that anything I did to make up for my own mystical inadequacy only made me feel more inadequate and unmagical.
Another time I saw him I was in the Janitor's Closet after lunch. From what I remember of it, it was dimly lit and usually smelled like aged ramen noodles. There was also a toilet, and on many occasions I found someone actually sitting down and taking a poo, which is really unacceptable, even if you're in first grade. Anyway, at the end of this hallway-like closet was a door that was always closed. It was of course the actual janitor's closet, but none of us wanted to admit it. I secretly believed that behind the door was an abandoned elevator shaft, which, if you went straight down, would eventually lead to the Haunted Janitor's secret lair. This was one of the few things I actually believed about the Haunted Janitor, in line with the Haunted Janitor himself, The Polar Express, and a Teddy Bear that came down to my house during the night in a parachute and left me a note in my favorite book, which was about the same teddy bear.
I was cleaning out my bowl of ramen noodles in the janitor's closet when a thought struck me. I was alone in the Haunted Janitor's closet. This was the perfect opportunity to see the Haunted Janitor. I abandoned what I was doing and hesitantly walked towards the door at the end of the closet. I was still 7 feet away when I got too scared, but hey, it was still pretty close. At that point I blanked on what to do. In previous encounters I had just pretended to see him, and the thought saddened me greatly. Now that it was the real deal, I had no idea what I what to do. So I just kinda stood there staring stupidly at the door, waiting for something to happen. I feel like I must have waited for ten minutes, but still nothing happened. Minute after minute, each uneventful second ticked uneventfully away. Finally I heard a door open behind me and I turned around to see Alex standing in the doorway.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I saw the janitor,” I gasped.
“What? Where is he?”
“He's gone now.”
“Did he say anything? What did he do?” It was then that I had an idea, although at the time I disguised it as a terrible epiphany: I was possessed by the Haunted Janitor.
Alex asked again, but I was already in possessed mode. I assumed a glassy-eyed stare and a slow, stumbling shuffle. He continued trying to get my attention, but I kept ignoring him. It went on like this until recess, until the full effects of my "possession" started kicking in. I started yelling incoherently and having short battles with Lucas and Alex. By this I mean they would get near me and, both yelling, we would kick each other until one of us backed away to regain our strength. Between these skirmishes Alex and Lucas would say cheesy action movie clichés, along the lines of "Henry, snap out of it, come on, don't give up!" and "Noooooooooooooo!" This went on for the entire half hour recess period. When the whistle blew I entered the next and final stage of my possession- the part where it kills me slowly. As we were walking in, I leaned against Lucas and started wheezing as best I could. They both kept up the clichés, but this time they were more dramatic and heavy with remorse.
During read aloud, I lay on the floor and wheezed, but quietly so Ta would not notice. I chimed in with dramatic clichés: "It hurts...", "Help me...," and the classic, "I feel... so cold..." I kept repeating these lines over and over again, mainly because I couldn't think of anything else. Eventually Alex got bored and listened to Ta's story, and Lucas wizened up. "Henry, cut it out. This is stupid."
"No..." I wheezed, "I don't have much time..."
"It's getting old." he replied moodily.
"Please... help me..."
"So... cold..." Eventually I had to get up, of course, and we all went on with our lives. After that point, I don't remember any significant encounters with the Haunted Janitor, and after some time I stopped believing in him all together. It was probably because of my friends' negative attitude towards it: they weren't working with my fantasies anymore, no longer feeding the flame of my passion. I would try to bring it up and they would either play with it for two seconds just to humor me or flat out ignore me. If The Haunted Janitor changed me in any way, he probably helped me realize the delicacy of a good friendship. A friendship can only really survive if there is excitement, something to spice it up. After the Haunted Janitor, we really didn't have much to talk about; it got boring. I was never good friends with Lucas again until mid-7th grade, and never really talked to Alex again. Maybe age made us go our separate ways, but I am pretty darn sure that our 2nd grader attention spans couldn't hold up to the test of time.
Funny how the same rules apply later in life the same way they did in 2nd grade. If you think about it, older people are not so different from 3-6ers. We still want just about everything and get upset at the drop of the hat. We are willing to love anyone who comes are way, but just as willing to purposely trip someone we don't like. We are never really self-sufficient. We still need some spice in our lives, and in some cases, we still believe in ghosts.


Monday, October 27, 2008

A Brief Brief Brief Biography of Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra was born and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey. He was born on December 12, 1915. He got his start singing at dive bars and saloons. He eventually got work as a band singer with groups like the Hoboken Four, and with artists like Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. In 1942 he started his solo career and was a huge hit among teenage girls-- perhaps because of his image of a street thug and a punk*.
Around that time, his career started taking off. He scored a lead role in "Anchors Away" in 1945, and the film was nominated for best picture in the 1946 Academy Awards. The same year, he was awarded a special award for the short film "The House I Live In", which was about racial intolerance. In his life, he won 3 Oscars, three Golden Globes, ten solo Grammys, 20 grammys for albums, an Emmy, a Peabody, and the Kennedy Center Honors Award.
His career on screen and on record was booming until 1951, when a vocal cord hemmorhage all but finished him. He kept fighting, however, and he kept performing and recording until his death. From 1953 to 1961, Sinatra recorded over 17 albums. In 1960, Sinatra formed his own record label, Reprise and became a producer. He also had a side-role in Ocean's 11. He continued producing and acting for a decade. In 1970, he refrained from making any more movies. In 1977, he produced the made-for-tv movie "Contract on Cherry Street". His last acting performance was in 1987, in an episode of "Magnum P.I.". In 1993, he returned to Capitol Studios to record his last two albums, Duets I and II. They both were very successful.
Frank Sinatra passed away on May 14, 1998 of heart and kidney disease and bladder cancer. By the end of his life, Sinatra had starred in over 50 movies.

* For 5 decades starting in the 40s the FBI kept Sinatra under surveillance for alleged relations with the Mafia. By the end of his life they had compiled 2,403 pages on Sinatra.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cake Wrecks

Hello everyone! My dearest mother recently showed me this blog (3 days ago I believe it was). Cake Wrecks is exactly what you would expect it to be: professional cakes gone wrong. While the pictures are funny enough, the captions below them are often witty, poignant, and laugh out loud funny. The variety is stunning, too-- but don't just take my word for it. Visit the blog here.

My personal favorite is the cookie monster cake (there are many, but this is the one that is most screwed up.)

Hope you enjoy it, and have a pleasant evening.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kristen Wiig is Funny

Lately I have been noticing that Saturday Night Live has... well, been severely unfunny (and i'm sure i'm not the only one). However, there is still hope for the show, as a couple performers have been standing out from the rest. I am talking, of course, about Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg. They either get into the good sketches or make the sketches good, I don't know.
First, Kristen Wiig. Her characters are just hilarious. My only criticism would be that they are all very similar. I can't quite put a name on it, it's just something in the way she takes her characters way over the top. It's risky territory, but she pulls it off. A favorite of mine is the sketch that takes place at a dinner party. The hosts keep calling in their hideous children, and in the end the guests just leave. They have done two reproductions of the sketch, both starring Kristen Wiig. I can't quite remember who accompanied her in the first sketch, but I know it was better. Mainly because, let's face it, Michael Phelps CAN'T ACT. He's a swimmer. Not a performer.
Second, Andy Samberg. He is perhaps not quite as funny is Wiig, but sometimes he can really save a sketch. His demeanors are quite good. Without him, "Deep House Dish" would be totally lost. He manages to save the terrible writing, but only barely. It's just that bad (although the spoof of Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" was pretty damn hilarious, if you like that sort of thing). My favorite of his is the Space Olympics digital short. He really sells his character... whatever his character is.
In my opinion, SNL should stop putting a ton of work into making the sketches just plain weird and start focusing on making their sketches have an actual punchline. Otherwise the sketches fall flate on their face, which has been happening frequently.
At least we still have Wiig and Samberg.

I apologize for the slightly under-par grammar and sentence structure of this post. It was a long day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Silly Putty Party: The Wonderful History of America's Favorite Stretchy Compound

With the U.S.' involvement in World War II escalating, the demand for rubber was overwhelming (most of it was being used for boots, truck tires, etc.), and the government was searching for an alternative. In 1943, William Wright, a Scottish engineer for General Electric, mixed silicone oil and boric acid in a test tube. What resulted was a strange material that stretched to enormous lengths and bounced about 25% higher than a rubber ball. In 1945, GE sent the substance to engineers worldwide hoping to find a use for it, but no practical use was found.
Silly Putty floated around various scientific circles until Ruth Falgatter became interested. She paired up with marketing executive and entrepreneur Peter Hodgson. They decided to put a description of the substance in the mail-order catalog of the Block Shop toy store in New Haven, MA, which was owned by Falgatter. It was offered in small, transparent plastic eggs for $2.00 a piece. They first started selling the product under the name "Silly Putty" in 1949. It outsold all other items in the catalog but one: a box of hexagon-shaped Crayola markers which cost 50 cents. However, Ruth Falgatter decided to stop marketing the product, despite its success. Not one to quit, Hodgson gained control of the product.
At the International Toy Fair in New York in 1950, marketing execs from all around the globe advised Hodgson not to market the product; he was already 12,000 dollars in debt. Hodgson was persistent, however, and managed to get Silly Putty into Neiman Marcus and Doubleday bookstores. After moderate success there, he created the Arnold-Clark company and relocated to a barn in Connecticut.
That August, the New Yorker ran an article about Silly Putty. Over the next three days, Hodgson was flooded with over 25,000 orders. In 1957, Hodgson made the first television ad for Silly Putty. The ad featured a sailor demonstrating all the fantastic things you can do with Silly Putty. He advertised that if you pull it, it will "go on forever, like taffy, but when you give it a sharp tug it breaks in half, like a biscuit", finishing the ad by saying "nothing else is Silly Putty".
Peter Hodgson died on August 6, 1976. The next year, Binney and Smith, inc. acquired rights to Silly Putty.
After it was first put on the racks, Silly Putty sold faster than any other toy in history, with $16 million in sales for the year. Since 1950, over 300 million eggs (about 4,500 tons) of Silly Putty have been sold. But you don't need statistics to tell you that Silly Putty remains a true American classic. And remember, "nothing else is Silly Putty".