Under the Influence

Happy Super Bowl, I mean Big Game weekend. Today’s guest blog comes courtesy of the Goatstess with the Mostess, Barb In Blackhoof.

We sometimes watch TV (the few channels we can get without cable out here in the boondocks) – news, a few crime shows. Steve mutes the commercials, but I like to watch them and often giggle.

Love the mouse at the dinner table who –when the housewife says, “You really disgust me” – responds, “I understand what you’re saying – BUT I DON’T RESPECT IT.”

I like the cute baby giving investment advice.

And the Clydesdales are always great (“that referee is a jackass” “no, I believe he’s a zebra.”)

One of the most famous series of TV ads was for Utica Club Beer – running mostly on the East Coast from 1959 to 1964. I’ve read that they are the only commercials whose scheduled times could be found in TV Guide. If you want an example, here is Number 2. You’ll recognize the voice, I’m sure. I wonder if these cute ads sold much more beer.

This brings me to tomorrow and the Super Bowl. One reads about the cost of a 30 second ad during the game. This doesn’t even count the (probably) millions of dollars that went to some ad agency to develop the piece or the production cost.

I wonder – does the expense of a Super Bowl commercial justify the result?

If you ask me what or whom any commercial (even the ones I enjoy) was advertising, I can’t tell you. The mouse and the cute baby? – I have no idea what products their ads are pushing. When I do know the company (Clydesdales are Budweiser), my choices are not influenced – e.g. I’m not going to switch from Summit EPA (for which I’ve never seen an ad). I enjoy the commercial as entertainment but the message is lost on me.

Of course I realize that I am not the twenty-something target audience for most of those ads. But you – young, attractive, brand-conscious with cash to burn – changing your behavior must be the reason so much money is spent on these commercials.

Can you remember when a TV commercial that caused you to buy something?

A Basketful of Eggs

Today’s guest blog comes to us from Jim in Clark’s Grove.

Remember when Donna wished all of us “a resilient New Year”? I’ve already started.

I have been reading The Resilient Gardener, a new book by Carol Deppe . One reviewer suggests that this book is worth reading even for people who are not much into gardening. I agree. She presents many ideas, tips, and techniques for developing a gardening style that can help us get through difficult times, incorporating ideas about health, diet, cooking, and physical fitness. She sees these topics as being an integral part of developing resiliency.

I think Deppe would look on Trail Baboon as an effort that can increase resiliency. She makes it clear that dealing with difficult times is not something one should do in isolation. She says you will not do a good job getting through hard times if you retreat back into your house like a hard core survivalist. In addition, she believes that we shouldn’t wait until hard times are here to enjoy each other’s company and help each other. I think Trail Baboon exemplifies the kind of good interaction between people that Deppe is encouraging.

Deppe believes we should think carefully about what we are doing and not always follow old adages such as “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

According to her you should use just one basket when gathering eggs so that your other hand is free to pick up eggs. If you spill the eggs, you can get more if you have your own flock and you will be less likely to spill the eggs if you have one hand free to support yourself.

Deppe provides her own personal list of things she believes she should do to be a mature person who can deal with difficult times, including:

• Be courteous.
• Do Basic Math.
• Take Care of Old and Ill People.
• Wash Your Hands.
• Be Both a Leader and a Follower.

What would you put on your own resiliency list?

Taking Your Licks

People like to know how their regional traditions look to those who were raised in an entirely different environment. At least they want to know as long as the impression is positive. I’ll leave it to you to decide how well one of our unique northern rituals comes off in this guest blog by Beth-ann.

Tommy Don’t Lick that Pipe – a song by John McCutcheon

Winter is a-coming
And the weather’s getting cold
I have to watch my brother Tom
He’s eight years old
I never have to worry
That he’ll slip on ice and fall
In fact there’s only just one thing
That worries me at all

Tommy, don’t lick that pipe
Your tongue will stick like glue
I’ve warned you twice
And I wish you’d mind
Don’t you remember
What happened last time
You can do about anything else that you like
But Tommy, don’t lick that pipe

Do you still remember Uncle Albert
Such scientific curiosity
He stuck his tongue out on the old pump handle
It took us two whole days to get him free

Do you still remember Grandma Dawson
She touched her tongue on to a waterspout
She said she thought that it was made of plastic
It took us until May to thaw her out

Do you still remember our dog Fluffy
He went outside to do his doggy thing
We found him frozen solid to a hydrant
We couldn’t break him loose until the spring

I grew up where it was warmer and thought admonitions not to “lick the pump handle” were the equivalent of “Don’t eat the yellow snow” or were the stuff of Little House on the Prairie and Caddie Woodlawn. That was until they called from preschool to say that my son had licked the stair railing and stuck to it.

Luckily Scott attended a fine Minnesota preschool with teachers specially trained in tongue defrosting and removal. They detached him without trouble.

I turned to my coworkers with the story expecting them to agree that my kid was a goofball. Instead the universal response was, “Didn’t you tell him not to lick the pipe?”

Both on that day and ever since the Minnesotan inevitably continues on with a reminiscence of a personal licking and sticking experience. No matter how many decades have passed the storyteller has crystal clear memories of the sparkling icicle, glistening jungle gym, or icy cold hammer. Amazingly enough the pain and embarrassment of the adhesion and the removal pale next to the telling of how cool it was to lick those icy sparkles.

I have come to the conclusion that this licking and sticking is the quintessential Minnesota experience. It is what separates tourists from the true denizens of the frozen tundra. Tommy and Scotty were warned not to lick, but they slurped their way into Minnesota and stuck to it.

What did you do BECAUSE you were told NOT to do it?

The Bear That Ate Jerry

Happy Groundhog Day!

Somehow it seemed appropriate that a wild animal should make an appearance in the blog today, and I’m happy to say that one was provided by our wilderness loving friend from St. Paul.

Today’s guest blog is by Steve Grooms

In early June of 1967, I took a Boundary Waters canoe trip with my roommate, Bill, and his California friend, Jerry Voorhees. Bill was a tall, arrogant fellow who enjoyed barking out commands to Jerry and me. Although I was twenty-five at the time, Bill called me “Steevie,” because he knew it annoyed me. It amused Bill to order Jerry and me about like the drill sergeants he’d suffered under in Army Basic Training.

Jerry is harder to sketch. A plump fellow with thick glasses, Jerry was no athlete and less of an outdoorsman. He was on the canoe trip because Bill ordered him to be. Jerry was a sweet, accommodating soul who lacked self-esteem. Bill didn’t help Jerry’s composure with all the abuse he heaped on Jerry, calling him “fat” a dozen times an hour and mocking Jerry’s stammer. Jerry’s father had been a liberal New Deal congressman in California who became famous because he was the first politician to have his career trashed by mudslinging lies from young Richard Nixon.

The trip was more fun than it might have been. I caught a trophy northern pike whose memory still thrills me. We were out in the bush for six days. When we got back to Grand Marais, we were stunned to read that the Israelis and Arabs had conducted a whole war in our absence, the “Six Days War.”

Other than that, the most memorable moment was provided by the bear.

We slept three across in our little tent. Jerry, as the omega trip member, was stuck between Bill and me. Our heads were at the back of the tent, our feet by the door. It was rather tight in there.

We had gone to bed one night after dinner. It was fairly late, late enough that the loons had finally gone silent. Spring peepers trilled from every puddle in the woods. Jerry snored softly. Bill tossed in his sleeping bag.

I had almost fallen asleep when I heard the bear. Something was shuffling around our campsite, something with heavy feet. We had not been careful enough to run our food packs up into the trees, which should have concerned me. Stupidly, I wasn’t afraid.

Instead of being scared, I was enjoying the moment because I knew Bill heard the bear. Bill’s breathing changed, becoming fast and ragged. I had been with Bill in a violent storm once, and I knew how terrified he could be when he felt himself threatened. I grinned into my pillow, picturing Bill on the far side of the tent, his face a mask of terror. Jerry snored on.

“Jerry! There’s a bear!” hissed Bill.

“Snaaaaark,” said Jerry.

“Jerry, dammit! There’s a BEAR!”

“Snoooooooooooop!” said Jerry.

I pressed my fist into my mouth to keep from laughing out loud.

That’s when Bill snapped. In total panic, he grabbed Jerry with his left hand, clamping down on Jerry’s right thigh like the Jaws of Death.

Jerry, dammit, THERE’S A BEAR!”

“I KNOW! I KNOW!” screamed Jerry, now very awake. “And he’s GOT ME BY THE LEG!”

That’s when we broke into laughter. The three of us hooted and whooped until our pillows were soggy with tears and our tummies ached. Whatever the creature in our camp had been, it obviously fled in panic when we began roaring with laughter.

Jerry later explained that he was awakened by the vice-like grip of Bill’s hand on his leg. “I thought he was going to eat me right up,” said Jerry, “starting with the sweetest meat.”

Have you ever had a frightening animal encounter?

Tut Tut

Welcome to the month of February!

I know many people actually enjoy winter, but to me, January seems endless. I am happy to have crossed the line into another month, and now we are that much closer to June.

Today we begin another wonderful collection of guest blogs submitted by Trail Baboon readers. Many, many thanks to all who stepped forward to write a post so I can take a step back and enjoy reading.

With a major winter storm bearing down on Chicago today, it seems right to go back to a warmer and more mysterious time.

Today’s guest blog is by Anna.

Summer 1977. A family trip to visit friends in Chicago. One memorable part of the trip: a two-hour wait during the hottest week of the summer outside of the movie theater so we could see “Star Wars” when it was first released. Totally awesome in all senses of the word, totally worth the two-hour wait. But the really big deal, the super cool thing, and the reason for the trip, was to see the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum.

You remember King Tut – that guy that Steve Martin sings about (…born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia…has a condo made of stone-a…).

He also had some fabulous stuff buried with him when he died, just in case he needed several servants, some animals, and his organs in a jar in the after-life. A bunch of King Tut’s treasure made its way across the country (creating Tut Mania nationwide), and I got to see it – during the hottest week of the summer in Chicago (90+ degrees in the shade). I’m not harping on this because I remember the heat (though it was memorably hot), it’s because of how it affected my trip to see King Tut’s treasure.

I was a mere pup of 10 at the time, so I really don’t remember much of what I saw in the exhibit. I remember being stunned by the brilliant colors, trying to puzzle out how a wood or gold statue of something could come back to life in the great hereafter, and being fascinated by the hieroglyphs and style of the artifacts. I have vague memory of seeing part of the sarcophagus and the iconic gold mask. And being disappointed that I didn’t get to see the mummy.

Also: the power went out when we were about half way through the exhibit.

Remember the heat? That meant that all of Chicago was running their air conditioners pretty much non-stop. What happens when everyone demands a lot of power all at once? A blackout. Lucky for me, there was some emergency lighting, just enough to keep the place a little spooky and somewhat tomb-like.

Did I mention the big gold cobra? There was a big gold cobra.

In the case right across from where I was sitting while we waited to find out if the lights would come back on.

A big gold cobra with sinister eyes.





If Howard Carter (the Brit credited with discovering King Tut’s tomb) had been more like me, he would not have gotten past that cobra – he would have skedaddled out of the tomb and left everything in it. And perhaps been in need of fresh shorts.

That cobra was creepy; I was sure that it was the embodiment of the curse of King Tut’s tomb. And it just kept staring. Just about the time I was really getting wigged by a 3000-year-old statue, it was our turn to be led out of the exhibit by the security guards. No time to dilly-dally and look at the other stuff – and, unfortunately, no opportunity to go back through the exhibit later (though I will get a second chance at some of the treasure while it is here at the Science Museum). I did, however, get out and away from that cobra. Bye-bye snake – see ya in the afterlife!

What is the most memorable thing you have ever seen or experienced at a museum?

Re-writing History

Protesters challenging entrenched governments in Tunisia and Egypt gained early momentum thanks to social media. That Facebook and Twitter could play such a role in modern insurrections was unimagined by the founders of these social websites, and the whole notion of a website would be incomprehensible to Our Founding Fathers.

Where current events will lead is unclear, but if you transport these latest devices back 236 years, it’s not hard to imagine that earlier revolutions might have started in the same way.

Friend me, children, and you shall hear
Of the Twitterstream of Paul Revere.
In April of 1775
Hardly a man is now alive
who remembers the web was already here.

He said to his friend, “When the Brits intrude,
If by land or sea from the town they lurch,
Send a message to me from your iPhone, dude
I’ve got coverage up by the old North Church.

One tweet if by land and two tweets if by sea
And I on the opposite shore will be
Already connected to Facebook and Twitter
I’ll rally each farmer and rancher and knitter.
Assuming they all can arrange for a sitter.

Later, impatient and holding his cell,
All jumpy from Starbucks and eager as hell
on the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he’s tested his ringtone’s knell
Now five bars, his reception clear.
Checked his battery. It was charged.
His pounding heart was twice enlarged.

He searched for hashtags to hasten speed
#British, #man-o-war, #redcoats and #steed
The network was up, but was it corrupted?
Then quickly to life the device erupted.
“Brits go 4 #man-o-war, coming by sea
Revolution is here, P. Revere OMG!”
He copied this message, not missing a beat.
Proceeded it with an “RT” for “re-tweet”
And then closed up the phone. Revolution complete.

You know the rest. It was blogged. It was posted.
The Redcoats, defeated, were routed and toasted.
For social connections can work with a power
as potent as lanterns hung in a church tower.
A people, aggrieved, can now push for redress
in one hundred forty quick keystrokes or less.

Longfellow’s poem (which actually does include the word “twitter”), is as famous today for it’s inaccuracies as its narrative – evidence that a memorable simplicity must eventually succumb to a more complex truth.

Ever been part of an uprising?

Walking Music

In one of yesterday’s comments, Clyde mentioned taking a brisk morning walk in Mesa, Arizona while listening to this song by Peter Mayer.

Peter is a wonderful guy and this is a great song for many cosmic reasons. But one of the more cosmetically attractive things about it is that the music unfolds at a pace that is just right for walking. Same thing here, though a little faster, from Fats Domino.

The right music at a perfect pace can make a walk more pleasant, though caution is always advisable. There has been a recent flurry of attention devoted to the developing hazard of walking while fiddling with electronic gadgets, amplified by a viral YouTube video of a Pennsylvania woman tumbling into a shopping mall fountain because she was walking while texting. Inattention can have serious consequences, and it’s not a new problem. These NPR stories about distracted pedestrians are two years old.

Back to walking and listening to music – we’ve been doing this since the invention of the transistor radio, though at least in the pre-Sony Walkman days you didn’t have the immersive experience of headphones to seal off the outside world – just a single earplug to deliver the music. Or else you turned it up all the way and had the sound blasting out of the radio’s tinny little speaker through the tiny holes in its leatherette case.

And before that? We had to play the music back in our minds. Or, heaven forbid, sing it to ourselves! That’s the kind of strange behavior that caused our fellow pedestrians to cross to the other side of the street (after looking both ways, of course).

What’s your favorite walking music?

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