Encore Plus d’Animaux …Floral Friday

While dusting and reconfiguring some shelves yesterday, I stumbled across some vintage animal themed planters.  Right away, I decided to freshen up the arrangements in them.

One of my favorites is the mustard yellow McCoy tiger.  A simple array of yellow flowers is all that is needed to create an innovative look.

A horizontal placement of blooms gives a “Relpo” fancy horse vase the illusion of movement.

This beautifully detailed “Lane” fawn is at home in a forest themed arrangement. A sprig of evergreen paired with reddish orange flowers pulls this off convincingly.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes David Attenborough. “There are some four million different kinds of animals and plants in the world. Four million different solutions to the problems of staying alive.”

Posted in Floral Arts, Hobbies, projects, Vintage Collectables | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Some Magazine Ads From 1959

I’ve been carefully culling the mildewed, and spoiled contents of the black steamer trunk that was stored in the basement of an old house dad owned. Some of the vintage newspapers and magazines are so contaminated that I’ve had to wear a filtering face mask.  I don’t know if the paper can be successfully and economically salvaged or not, so I’ve been photographing the pages of some of the periodicals.

Mom used to subscribe to The Saturday Evening Post of which there was only a couple of issues remaining.  The best copy is dated November 21, 1959.  While someday I might read some of the articles, the advertising is most immediately interesting.  Old ads fascinate us because we’ve all been subjected to advertising our entire lives.

With that in mind, I decided to share a sampler of the most interesting print ads that appeared in that issue of the Post. I shot these images in high definition so you can expand them for more enjoyment.

It’s hard to believe that a company would spend big bucks on a double-page spread to plug some clocks. General Electric did just that for their line of Telechron clocks. Nowadays, Telechrons are highly collectable artifacts.

Speaking of collectables, the mid-century versions of prestige wristwatch brands are quite popular with many serious hobbyists.

Among the various trends in home audio was the short-lived concept, three-channel stereo.  The Motorola company made a big push for the format in this double-page spread.

If you were skeptical about three-channel, you might opt for conventional stereo gear from Magnavox.  The top of the line was a family entertainment center that included a teevee set.

The motor vehicle industry has long been a mainstay for publishing. The November 1959 issue featured the introduction of the 1960 models of the “big-three” manufacturers.

Chrysler Corporation showed off their flagship luxury car of the day, the Imperial.

General Motors featured two Chevrolet models. The huge Impala was the last of the series to feature tailfins. In the background is the introductory model of the then brand-new Corvair.

Ford made a half-hearted effort to push their very unpopular Edsel.  November 1959 was the end of the production line for the brand. Ford built fewer than 3,000 of the 1960 Edsels which were basically 1960 full-size Fords decorated with poorly styled trim.  Ironically, these days, Edsels are highly prized collectables.

I’ll continue to weed out more vintage magazines and newspapers from the old trunk.  There are bound to be some more interesting finds.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the Canadian political scientist and humorist, Stephen Leacock. “Advertising: the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.”

Posted in art, cultural highlights, History, photography, Vintage Collectables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

This Is International Twit Award Month

Someone on Facebook asked, “What is a pregnant goldfish called?”  It’s one of those questions that puts you off guard for a moment.  I scrolled down to read the comments. One of them said, “A pregnant goldfish is called a ‘twit’.” The next one stated that goldfish lay eggs so there is no such thing as a pregnant goldfish. The comment thread contained a dozen or so additional opinions. One person trolled the others by saying everyone in the comment thread should be nominated for the Twit Award.

I had to chuckle at the word “twit” because I haven’t heard it used as an insult in ages. Impulsively, I decided to look up the word and discovered that April is International Twit Award Month.  Apparently April Twits continue where April Fools leave off.  The field of nominees for the Twit Award is quite vast.

When I Googled “twit”, the social media site “Twitter” appeared in the first several entries. A person who tweets is apparently a twit. One article suggested some famous political twits as award nominees, including Keith Olbermann, Rush Limbaugh, and, of course, Donald Trump.

I clicked a few more links and discovered a wealth of alarming discussions that had quickly devolved into threads of insults–the reproaches being much more rude than twit.  The “G Rated” synonyms for twit include: idiot, fool, moron, twerp, cretin, and Neanderthal.

Neanderthal?  Recent evidence unearthed by archaeologists suggest that Neanderthals should not be on the list. They were not the stereotypical “cavemen”, club-carrying brutes as depicted in numerous, popular histories and tales.  Neanderthals were just as sophisticated as the contemporary homo sapiens sapiens of the day. There have been no data to support any supposed inferiority of Neanderthals, so they shouldn’t be equated with twits.

My dictionary also defines “twit” as a verb. In this sense, twit is also unpleasant and demeaning. We find out that to twit is to deride, mock, or criticize. It is an unfriendly behavior that induces anger or resentment. To twit is to harass with persistent criticism or carping. Its synonyms include: bait, cod, razz, ride, tantalize, and tease.

Taken together, we can properly say, “A twit twits.”  We can also say that the name for the social media site “Twitter” is very appropriate. I don’t have a Twitter account, so I guess I’m not a twit.

So, we come back to International Twit Award Month.  All of us have a list of nominees. I have my own batch of famous and infamous people.  In the interest of social harmony, I’ll keep my selections private.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes John Milton’s Paradise Lost.  Embryos and idiots, eremites and friars, white black and grey, with all their trumpery.”

Posted in Controversy, cultural highlights, Meanderings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Laundromat Misery

Strip the bedsheets, get the towels, gather the dirty clothes baskets, grab the detergent and dryer sheets, shove them in the car and drive to the laundromat. After returning home, put away the fresh laundry and iron the few items that need pressing.  Repeat the process a couple of times each month.  It’s enough to make a person seriously consider nudism as a lifestyle.

The little house where I live is too small for a washer and dryer.  The basement is too damp and cramped as well, so laundromats have been a necessary evil in my life for many years.

The inconvenience factor has gotten worse over the past few years, too.  There used to be several laundromats in town. However, my favorite one changed their business plan to only doing commercial contract laundry–uniforms, towels, and floor mats of corporate customers. Another one closed following the death of its owner. Now, there are two laundromats that serve the needs of this town of more than 20,000 inhabitants.

The downtown laundromat is unsupervised and does not have a change machine nor other conveniences. The other place has plenty of conveniences and also houses a tanning salon. The second one is also very crowded.

Every year or so, the coin boxes of the washing machines are altered in order to require more coins per use.  The dryer cycles are shortened in order to gobble up more quarters. At both locations, the ratio of washers to dryers greatly favors the washers. It takes a bag full of quarters just to do a few loads of washing.

Laundromats foster unhappiness, frustration, and boredom.

Feeble attempts to distract patrons from the unpleasantness of laundry day are present.  A few teevees and outdated video games are in the building.  Plus, the games require quarters to operate them.

Laundromats are places to learn patience and tolerance. Most of the time, there are crying, bored children who run around and cause their parents to yell and scream commands and threats. It’s also rather embarrassing to have an otherwise adorable little kid strike up a conversation while I’m trying to sort and fold my socks and underwear.

Something must be done about the lack of tables we need in order to fold our laundry. The same can be said about the shortage of roll-around basket-carts.

If you have ever used laundromats, you’ve probably encountered malfunctioning or broken machines. We discover bad machines after we’ve inserted coins and attempted to start the wash cycle.  If there is no laundromat attendant on duty, good luck getting a refund. Also, good luck finding paper, pen, and tape to leave a note to warn the next patrons.

Speaking of other patrons, there are always a few who leave the laundromat to do other chores or whatever. Their clothes go through the cycles unattended. It’s annoying when a washer becomes unbalanced and struggles through the spin cycles.  Afterwards, the washed clothes remain in the machine, hogging it until the patron finally decides to return. This happens despite signs that request patrons not to leave laundry unattended.

If the laundromat is crowded and a washer or dryer has been stopped yet full for a long time, I remove the offending clothing then place my own into the machine instead.

Sometimes I encounter empty detergent containers and used dryer sheets as well as empty soft drink bottles and food wrappers around the machines I need to use. This makes me say grrrr.

Another annoyance is the person who thinks she can “reserve” a dryer or two before her washing is finished. She needs to remember that everyone must wait for an empty dryer the same as the rest of us.  Furthermore, when the drying is done, the machine should be emptied promptly. Also, if there is a lint screen, the fuzz needs to be scraped off before the next person uses the dryer, yuck.

In case you haven’t guessed, I composed this rant at the laundromat while waiting for the dryers to finish their cycles.

The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that on today’s date in 1934, the first pay self-service laundry opened in Fort Worth, Texas. C.A. Tannahill rented electric washing machines to patrons by the hour. There were no electric dryers at the Washateria.

Posted in cultural highlights, Hometown, Meanderings | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments


When a person sincerely loves other people, one never truly thinks of duty or responsibility.  Duty and responsibility have been put in place to offset thoughtlessness. When a person strictly conforms to doctrine, economic theory, the “party line”, or social norms, we have a person who exists by thoughtlessness.

It seems that most people don’t question the loss of life of thousands of innocent fellow humans in places like Syria, Afghanistan, or Ethiopia. Our leaders and the commentators who agree with them encourage us to think of the deaths as collatoral damage.  The deaths of non-combatants are supposedly acceptable prices to pay. We have people who are just following orders.

The question that rarely comes up is, “For what is humanity paying with such monsterous costs?”  We have only a vague, nationalistic, patriotic idea about why our nations engage in such wars.  We read and hear news stories about death and destruction every day and most of us give little thought about them.  They have become commonplace.  We might say to ourselves, “Oh well, the world is a cruel place.”

I remember once hearing, on a radio talk show, that civilization is a ship of fools headed towards a one-way destination of catastrophe and annihilation. Its many captains are thoughtless idiots who all believe it is unsinkable.

It’s easy to point our fingers at the Vladimir Putins and Donald Trumps of society. What kind of world would we have if they had been taught the lessons of selflessness and compassion? What kind of world would we have if the people who allowed such persons as the Putins and Trumps to rule had been more cognitivly aware?

In place of thoughtlessness, we could practice cognitive awareness. That is the joint spiritual and logical comprehensive wisdom of people and society that comes about through observation and deep contemplation of our thoughts and actions. This concise knowledge and thoughtfulness would apply to all aspects of public and private life.

We rightfully recoil in horror at the news of such tragedies as Sandy Hook at Newton, Connecticut or The Pulse in Orlando, Florida. These horrific crimes were not committed by cognitively aware, compassionate individuals.  Why doesn’t society react with as much or more outrage when dozens of women and children are wounded and killed in a drone attack?

Thoughtlessness in criminal behavior, such as a lack of empathy, sympathy, and thoughtfulness is rightfully punished with severe penalties such as incarceration of armed robbers and murderers. If decent, civilized people understand not only that violent crime is wrong, but why it is wrong, then why do so many “decent” people believe it is OK to persecute and oppress people who are not like themselves?

Without true thoughtfulness coupled with critical thinking, we become a society of automatons who just obey dogma and orders. This is why it is vitally important to have ongoing instruction in critical thinking.  We need to go beyond the multiple-choice quizzes that do not challenge our intellects and inquiring abilities. Without cognitive awareness, western democracy is doomed. Individual and collective thoughtlessness can only lead to greater, more horrific evil.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders this thought from the prolific writer, Thornton W. Burgess: “That’s the trouble with thoughtlessness, it never remembers other people.”

Posted in Contemplation, Controversy, History, Politics, religion, Science | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Secret Life Of Fat (Review)

During my early years, I was actually underweight and very skinny.  When I hit the mid-40s, that all changed.  The weight and size began to continually increase.  Fat soon became a major concern in my life. Like many heavier people, I tried many diet plans and exercise regimes but could find no solution to permanently lose weight. I eventually gave up on self-help weight loss books and diet plans.

While browsing through the health titles the other day, the orange dust cover of Sylvia Tara’s book caught my eye. The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body’s Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You is not another diet book. It’s a summary of what science has found out about body fat. I decided to bring it home so I might gain some important information about the nature of fat and how it works.

The book promised to be credible because its author is a highly educated scientist.  Sylvia Tara Ph.D., has a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California at San Diego, and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Her own struggle with weight motivated the writing of this book.

First and foremost, Tara explains that fat is a bodily organ and will struggle for its own preservation. Fat cells have communication and receptor segments that keep themselves in control.  As an organ, fat influences the brain and participates in brain function, itself. As an endocrine organ, fat produces hormones, including leptin. These hormones link into the brain’s hypothalamus to signal hunger.  Another hormone category is cytokines. They are inflammatories used as the first line of defense when the fat “knows” there is too much of itself.

When fat reduces the levels of leptin, the brain signals hunger. During weight loss diets, the lower levels of leptin trigger overeating. Another hormone, adiponectin, is circulated by the fat and helps clear the blood of fats.  Overweight people who have high levels of this hormone can enjoy good health.  The author states that vigorous exercise helps increase levels of adiponectin.

During times of lowered food intake, or dieting, fat maintains itself by signaling lower bodily energy levels.  That means a dieter has to put out much more effort than usual in order to maintain a slimmer size. The only way to effectively keep off weight is to have a regular, hard exercise program. Vigorous exercise helps many people who have genetic predispositions to fat and weight problems.

The takeaway is that as we try to decrease bodily fat, the fat manipulates our metabolism to lower levels. This is how fat actively fights to maintain itself and why it comes back after the conclusion of dieting–the infamous rebound effect.

There is a wealth of scientific information presented in The Secret Life of Fat. It is mostly jargon-free and easy to understand. Knowing more about fat as an organ, can help inform readers in their own efforts to control weight.

{ The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body’s Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You by Sylvia Tara, Ph.D.; 288 pages, published December 2016 by W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN: 978-0-393-24483-0 }

The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this Internet meme: “Do not reward yourself with food. You’re not a dog.”

Posted in Books, cultural highlights, Health, Science | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Knuckle Down

I saw an advertisement that claims over 20-percent of Americans wait until Tax Day, April 15th, to file their Federal and State Income Tax returns.  That figure represents a lot of procrastinating people.  I think about the panic taking place in the millions of households that have put off this onerous chore each year. That means today is the day most of those folks will finally knuckle down and take care of this obligation.

On the surface, to knuckle down, is one of those odd English language idioms that seems to make no sense. The word “knuckle” is used in many forms.

Of course, knuckles are the joints of the fingers when the fist is formed with the hand.

There are brass knuckles, the metal weapon worn over the fingers to supplement the knuckles during a fight.

In baseball, there is the knuckleball. This is a “slow” pitch in which the ball moves unpredictably and erratically. This is accomplished when the pitcher grips the ball with the tips of the fingers pressed against the top.

We have the insulting term, “knucklehead”. A knucklehead is a stupid person. Even though this insult isn’t used as often anymore, we still understand its meaning. It is usually used in frustrating situations, such as, “I’d like to get my hands on the knucklehead who designed that faulty can opener.”

A much more popular insult is “knuckle dragger”.  This is a much stronger phrase directed at a person who is not only stupid, but is unrefined and crude. The mental picture is that of a lower ape such as a gorilla or chimpanzee that drags his knuckles along the ground as he walks or runs.

There is also the act of being knuckled, that is being pressed or rubbed with knuckles.

There is the term, “knuckle under”, which is to submit or surrender to someone or something. It might be used this way:  “You have to knuckle under the dictator if you wish to stay alive.”

Finally we get around to knuckling down. That is getting serious or sincere about something, especially applying effort to work or a task. Sally is finally going to knuckle down and do her taxes.

How did this expression get its start?  The most popular explanation is that it came from the game of marbles. The point of the game is to hit an opponent’s marble with your own.  The most effective, accurate way to do that is to propel your marble along the ground with the movement of your thumb. In order to accomplish this move, you cup the hand, place the marble in the first joint of the index finger, then hold your knuckles against the ground, and flick the marble with the thumb.

So, are you going to knuckle down and do your taxes today? If they’re already finished, what will you knuckle down and finally do?

Or are you going to play a game of marbles?

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes British journalist Toby Young. “Oddly, I do have a problem with authority. I find it very difficult to knuckle down and follow rules. Which are the classic symptoms of someone who has a troubled relationship with their father. And yet, I never had a problem with my father.”

Posted in cultural highlights, Meanderings, Youth | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment