Category Archives: Culture

When the Test Pattern Meant the End of the Day

 

It wasn’t that long ago when television stations “concluded” their programming and “left the air”.

Sometimes you would be up and awake for the announcer’s voice to tell reassure you that “programming would resume” at its regularly scheduled hour the next morning.  Sometimes you would fall asleep on the couch and wake up to the the test pattern.  Seeing it meant the day was over –or the day’s news– and you could go to bed knowing that the next day was the next day and a chance to start over.

Cable has ruined that.  The day never ends, and neither does the trouble of the day.  If you fall asleep with a cable news program going the horrors of the previous day are going to carry over into your sleep and into the next day.  And now all it takes is a phone on the pillow next to you to do this.  A smartphone has no test pattern.

In Chicago there were basically three network stations and one independent, and they all had their distinctive patterns, as you can see.  My favorite was Chanel 5’s NBC Peacock, even when it was in black and white.

The world might be happier if all you could get were test patterns after 11:00 pm or midnight; then yesterday’s news could stay yesterday’s news.

 

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Being belted saved my life

There was a time early in my life when I was never belted.

Life was free, I was able to jump like an acrobat from front to back seat, and even spent time napping in the rear window above the back seat.

The beginning of the end of my freedom came on this day, July 10, 1962, when  Nils Bohlin, a Swedish engineer working for Volvo received a patent from the US Patent Office  for the first three point seat belt.

Here is how Bohlin described his invention:

 In the patent, Bohlin explained his invention: “The object… is to provide a safety belt which independently of the strength of the seat and its connection with the vehicle in an effective and physiologically favorable manner retains the upper as well as the lower part of the body of the strapped person against the action of substantially forwardly directed forces and which is easy to fasten and unfasten and even in other respects satisfies rigid requirements.”

Until that time there were either no seat belts in the cars we owned, or the two point ones which saved your ass but made you into a vegetable when your chest was either crushed by the ram-rod steel steering wheel or smashed against the metal dashboard or you did the flying header through the front windshield.

I admit I didn’t like seat belts at first, and for the first few years of my driving career I didn’t wear them.   I justified it by repeating horror stories of people trapped in cars due to their seat belts after a crash and burning to a crisp.

There was no one instance that convinced me that I loved being belted.  As I got older and a few more brain cells activated I began to slap the belts across my chest.  The one time I was probably saved from flying out of my car was when a flat-bed truck hitched my car on I-57 on its left side.  I was in the truck’s blind spot.   I felt the car engage with the truck and start to be dragged along.  They don’t teach these scenarios in Driver’s Education, so I did the only thing I could think to do: slam on the brakes.  So did the truck.  My car fishtailed and ended up sideways in front of the oncoming truck in the truck’s lane.  I still shiver when I see “MACK” on the front of a truck.  So I lived.  The car whipped into the far left lane of traffic away from the truck in the middle and I skidded to stop with my car door on the driver’s side wide open on the shoulder.

There was another time when the brakes went out in a car I was a passenger in  and careened down  a hill towards Lake Superior, but one story about being belted is enough.

Hamburger Helper is Toast. Get it while you can.

Better get it while you can.

The food that bloated an entire generation is in danger of going the way of the VCR.

In the late 1960’s and 1970’s Hamburger Helper was the staple of thousands of avacado-colored kitchens or eaten on a “TV table” in front of the four channels that passed for choice in viewing back then.

The Wall Street Journal, no less, is reporting on the possible demise of a ” food” that ranked right up there with the Twinkie.

Now that Hamburger Helper will soon be lost to history I expect that it will become the trendy food for the food snob, and HH Bistros will soon populate Bucktown and Logan Square and probably even dot Manhattan — the one in New York state.    All sorts of creations will spring from the imagination of chefs too young to be poisoned –or fed– the cardboard box delicacy.

Some old standbys haven’t fared as well. Hamburger Helper, and the other Helper varieties owned by General Mills, declined to 40% of sales of dinner mixes in the U.S. last year from 61% in 2007, according to market researcher Euromonitor, and Conagra Brands’s Chef Boyardee’s share of shelf-stable ready-meal sales fell to 23% from 25%.

General Mills said Hamburger Helper might not have robust growth prospects but generates consistent profits and feeds millions of Americans. It improved the taste by using real cheese and, to attract value-oriented shoppers, has added 20% more pasta, a spokeswoman said.

302 Answered Questions about Perking

Perking.

It used to invoke emotions that were not as savage as twerking, but had its place in every American home at one time.

I am talking about the coffee pot.  A type that perks.  With a little glass dome on the top that you can see the coffee erupt into and then drop and then cycle again.

I have no beef with Joe DiMaggio and Mr. Coffee and all its descendants, but one day about two months ago I pulled out a small campfire coffee pot that you have to put on the stove and fired the gas and let her perk.

It was music to my ears and smell porn to my nostrils.  I was in bed and in love.

Then I tasted the love.

It was everything I remembered.

And more.

I am a perk addict.

Naturally, to feed my addiction I wanted ever more. My little perk coffee pot was good for one cup, so I set off on a mission to find a bigger pot.

This kind of pot is not easy to find.

Impossible, in fact.

I went to all the big box stores and  Ace Warehouse and Dick’s Sporting Goods and could not find a perking coffee pot.  I even went to Good Will and the Salvation Army, and no such machine.

So I turned to Amazon, and found it.

 

coffee pot

I am ordering it tonight.

I paused long enough to notice that there are 302 answered questions about it and over 3000 reviews.  Of a coffee pot, a simple coffee pot.  You put cold water in, put the grounds in a steel basket, cover, and put on a flame — and 302 people have questions.

We have come a long way.

Meanwhile, I will ponder the 302 questions and sip my coffee and maybe post a review.

Of a coffee pot.