November 30, 2004

Hack, Wheeze...

Hi, everybody. I'm feeling rather poorly today (feels like the onset of a cold, actually), so I'm going to do a little quickie column today. (Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice will be around tomorrow, which is just as well because Uncle Millie is due to leave Betty Ford today.) If anyone has some spare chicken soup to send along, I'd be grateful.

The run of good comments continues, with loyal reader Ensie leading the charge:

So many things to say...first, you can't listen to Richard! His mind is a little altered from living behind the Orange Curtain--just kidding Richard. You know I love you. And I love to argue with you. No one argues like you. :)

And on the new flavors of soft drinks...there are original flavors out there--check out Jones Soda's Holiday Pack (come to think of it, I really need to blog about this). Mashed potatoes and butter? Turkey and gravy?!? It makes me gag just thinking about it.

For the unaware, the "Orange Curtain" has nothing to do with your grandmother's kitchen. It's a slang term for Orange County, that Republican enclave in suburban LA that once gave us the legendary congressman "B-1 Bob" Dornan, who may have been the craziest man ever to run for president (which is saying something considering that Ross Perot is one of the contenders). I have no idea why Ensie considers Richard to be so lovable, especially since she never says she loves me. Sigh.

About the Jones Soda... I'm not sure I've ever had it, but The Smart Lady has (they sell it at Panera, which is a place we frequented with some frequency). I will admit that, while I have had mashed potatoes with soda and turkey with soda, I've never thought of combining the two into one. Possibly because it's a really dumb idea. The Web site poses the rhetorical question, "Have a better idea for a new Soda flavor?" At least I assume it's rhetorical, because just about anything I could come up is a better idea for a new Soda flavor than this bunch. They should be challenging people to come up with a worse idea for a Soda flavor.

That said... if they're going to go down the vile-flavor route, I think it's a crime against humanity that they haven't introduced a fish flavor, and pasted on a label featuring Dan Aykroyd hawking the Bass-O-Matic 76 ("Wow, that's terrific bass!") I'm just saying.

Loyal reader Tripp continues on the soda theme:

Regarding soft drink flavors: "I can't, for instance, think of a good idea for a soft-drink flavor that's [not] already been tried."

This statement is true, but I still find it odd. For example, try making the same statement about regular cooking, or deserts, or painting, or music, or, well, okay, music has all been used up. For some reason, soft drinks seems to be a limited subset of approved flavors.

Tripp makes an excellent point. In theory, the number of viable soft drink flavors should be, if not practically infinite, then at least large enough to allow room for growth. If we're rolling out flavors like turkey, however, I think it's a safe sign that we're reaching the bottom of the barrel.

Is there another field that seems similarly limited? I submit candy bars as a possibility. When was the last time you saw a candy bar that was really and truly new? They roll out "new" bars with or without peanut butter, or with a different kind of nougat, or with a different chocolate, but the degree of innovation seems remarkably narrow given the number of things that go well with chocolate.

Tripp followed up with a candy question, though not about candy bars:

Out of the blue, do you like Circus Peanuts candy? Can you name the flavor? I do, and think I can.

That drew a withering response from Ensie:

Tripp--Is it cough syrup? 'Cause that's what those orange chunks of hell taste like.

As it happens, I'm sort of on the fence here. I don't hate circus peanuts as Ensie does, but I've never actually purchased them or felt any particular jones for them. To me, though, they always tasted like the antibiotic amoxicillin, so eating circus peanuts always reminds me of childhood illness. (Although I actually liked amoxicillin pretty well; it was my second favorite medicine behind Dimetapp.) The leading manufacturer, Spangler, claims that they taste like banana, which I don't actually believe. But I'd love to know what your impression is, Tripp.

Loyal reader Frinklin pounces on my admission that I like the Ohio Express:

The music of the Ohio Express? There is more to them [than] "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy"? Or do you lump all horrid bubblegum stuff together. I'd go with "Green Tamborine" myself.

There is indeed more to the Ohio Express than "Yummy Yummy Yummy." Other hits they produced include "Mercy," "Chewy," and "Down at Lulu's." And yes, I'm demented enough in my love of bad bubblegum to be able to distinguish the Ohio Express from the Lemonpipers (who did "Green Tamborine"), the Archies ("Sugar Sugar" and "Bang Shang A Lang"), the 1910 Fruitgum Company ("Simon Says," "Indian Giver," "1-2-3 Red Light" and others), the Cufflinks ("Tracy" and "When Julie Comes Around"), the Edison Lighthouse ("Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes"), Tommy Roe ("Dizzy"), and the Kasenetz Katz Singing Orchestral Circus (which I swear I am not making up). I have all of the above songs on CD, and I knew all the groups and titles without having to consult my collection. That's how far gone I am. I even know that the Ohio Express and the K.K.O.S.C. have the same lead singer (Joey Levine), as do the Archies and the Cufflinks (Ron Dante, who also did the novelty hit "Leader of the Laundromat"). I do not need to be told what appalling taste I have, believe me.

This does not, however, excuse Frinklin from liking Holiday Spice Pepsi. My grandmother, who apparently watches the same commercials I do, bought some for the family Thanksgiving celebration. My grandmother, my mother, my father, my aunt and two uncles tried it. None of them liked it. Only my grandmother managed to get through her whole glass without chucking it down the sink. Such phrases as "This sucks," "Who approved this for public sale?" and "Where did you get this crap?" were uttered. If you like it, Frinklin, more power to you. Because I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of it available on markdown later in the season.

Back to Tripp, who takes a crack at solving the VH1 riddle:

"How is it, exactly, that VH1 sees fit to bleep the word "vagina," and yet has no problem displaying the word in six-inch-high letters right behind the head of the woman they're bleeping? "

Do you think they figure their audience can't spell and thinks the word is "Virginia?"

This is the comment of the week, Tripp. Congratulations! I'm still laughing. Your prize for winning is a personally recorded birthday greeting from Uncle Millie. (Note: timeliness, non-obscenity and clarity not guaranteed.)

In other news... Round One of the Washington stadium wars is over, and the victory goes to the baseball fans of DC! The City Council voted 6-4, with three abstentions, to approve stadium funding on a preliminary basis. Now the Council has until the middle of December to tinker with the legislation before taking a final vote. For the curious:

Jack Evans
Vincent Orange
Sandy Allen
Sharon Ambrose
Harold Brazil
Kevin Chavous

Adrian Fenty
David Catania
Jim Graham
Carol Schwartz

Linda Cropp
Phil Mendelson
Kathy Patterson

Stadium backers aren't out of the woods yet. If all three abstainers vote "no" on the final bill, it would lose. (If they all abstain again, the measure would pass.) Cropp is milking this moment for maximum political leverage, proposing last-minute schemes and amendments left and right. No one's quite sure what Patterson is up to; most everyone had her down as a hard "no." Mendelson, by abstaining, voted his conscience; more on him in a minute.

None of the supporters came as any great surprise. Among the opponents, only Graham is a late switch, and he's just ticked off because Cropp took his library funding out of the bill. All in all, this was a good day for stadium backers. Not as good a day as it could have been, though, if we had a mayor with a better understanding of retail politics.

I have a great deal of respect for Anthony Williams. He's raised the level of competence in city government a good deal, and he's dared to take on projects that many other mayors wouldn't or haven't. He's done a great deal to rehabilitate the District's reputation from the Barry years. He deserves a standing ovation for everything, not just the stadium.

However, his political tin ear keeps him from being as effective as he could be. If he devises a plan that he believes to be good for the city, he assumes that everyone else will see it too, and that's that. It's as if he can't comprehend that there are people out there who will oppose his plans for reasons that have nothing to do with the merits. In interviews and conversations, he seems downright annoyed when people fail to grasp how brilliant his plans are. He's a technocrat to the core.

And his political shortcomings have put the ballpark in jeopardy. When we staged the big announcement party at Mount Vernon Square, Williams seemed to think the battle was already won. Baseball fever would carry the day. And even if it didn't, everyone would realize what the ballpark could do for Near Southeast, and would back it for that reason. He did almost nothing to sell the park to the public after the announcement. Instead, he kept leaving town. You'd think that a mayor who'd just proposed a plan that would be the signal achievement of his term in office would want to spend some time making sure, you know, it actually happened. But he didn't. Nor did he seem to understand that Council members have their own agendas, and would need wooing to support the mayor. Hasn't he ever seen politics in action? Isn't he in his second term already? Isn't it awfully late in the game not to have figured this out? Criminy.

Incidentally, based on the proceedings in Council to date, I have the most respect for Evans, Fenty and Mendelson. Evans did a masterful job managing the bill, beating back the unfriendly amendments and being unyielding in his support from the start. The ballpark would never have made it through Council were it not for Evans' bulldog support.

And even though we're on opposite sides of the issue, I admire Fenty in his opposition. Although he's clearly doing some grandstanding and preparing for his forthcoming mayoral run, I do believe he's sincere in his belief that this is a bad deal for the city, and he makes an eloquent and intelligent case. At it became increasingly apparent that his was a lost cause, his crusade took on a bit of a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" air, but he continued to acquit himself respectably. (Contrast him with Catania, who was hell-bent on obstructionism and came off as a real prick.)

Phil Mendelson has always been one of my favorite Councilmen. I read a profile of him in the City Paper last year; it noted his willingness to wade through the minutiae of obscure bills that everyone else on the Council barely bothers to read. He's the most earnest and diligent Councilmember by far. He's not flashy in the least, and he's usually pretty quiet in public hearings, but he really considers himself a servant of the public, and not of his own ambition. And his abstention was another example of this. He's actually and genuinely concerned about whether the public is getting ripped off by the deal. You know, actually considering the bill on its merits. He abstained today because he's not yet sure if this is a good deal. If, upon review, he decides that this is good for the city, he'll vote for it. He's a conscientious and reasonable man. Obviously, he has no future in politics.

Oh, and by the way, Tyrone Willingham got hosed. More on that later this week.

That's all for me today. See you tomorrow!

Posted by Fred at November 30, 2004 10:24 PM

Okay, three things need mentioning...

1-Yes, I like Holiday Spice Pepsi, okay? You and everyone else (including my wife) just need to accept it and move on. Trust me Fred, when Holiday Spice is cruelly taken away from me like Crystal Pepsi was, I'll know who to blame.

2-Your knowledge of bubblegum pop astounds me. It frightens me too, but you live across the country, I figure when you finally snap and start screaming about the love in your tummy to random strangers, I'll be far enough away to enjoy it in an arch, ironic way.

By the way, I was listening to the radio here in San Diego recently (actually, this was some time ago, and I believe I was in Palm Springs, but the point is the same) and the random idiot DJ mentioned bubblegum pop after playing The Left Banke's masterful "Walk Away Renee" (number 220 on the RS Top 500). What kind of moron confuses that song with "Green Tambourine"?

3-Notre Dame had better sign Urban Meyer and do it quick, or this move will backfire on the big. Ty Willingham should end up at Washington, and he'll have them in the Rose Bowl before his first class graduates. I don't think ND fans have any idea how good a coach he is, or how hard it is to deal with recruiting to South Bend.

Posted by: frinklin at December 1, 2004 12:17 AM

Circus Peanuts taste like oversweet banana to me, and I like them. For one thing, they are one of the few candies I can bring home and still have some the next day, because the kids won't go near them with a ten foot pole. Also, they come 'stale' so they never get any worse.

Come to think of it, maybe that was why my Grampa gave me horehound candy. Now *there* was some awful stuff. He was German, and he also ate brown bread in a bowl of luke warm sour milk. Yuck! I'm tempted to buy the horehound candy over the web just to see if it is still horrible.

I once had an idea for a gooey green candy that would come in a plastic nose. You'd 'pick' the candy out of the nose. The slogan would be "Some call it boogers, but it's not!" Get it? Do you get it? Huh, huh?

Posted by: Tripp at December 1, 2004 10:31 AM

See what you've done Fred? You've turned my husband against me. I really don't have a problem with Holiday Spice Pepsi. Tastes like sugary, carbonated stuff to me--it's all the same. But now I have to hear about it here! And every day. You'd be really surprised how much of our evenings is taken up with discussion of Holiday Spice Pepsi. It's rather sad, actually.

And Fred--I do love you, even if you supported the wrong name for your new baseball team. :)

Posted by: ensie at December 3, 2004 08:26 PM
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