Friday, September 30, 2011

Why Would the Marines Want to Know?

Here's something you don't hear anymore:  "Tell it to the marines".  You may not have heard of it at all unless you're a big Lon Chaney fan and love his 1926 starring vehicle .... Tell It to the Marines.  The origin of this pithy phrase is found in the history of the British Royal Navy.  In the 1600's marines weren't sailors, they were landlubbers stationed on ships. What did they know?  Bupkiss.  So the actual sailors could tell the marines anything and the poor guys would believe it.  "Right, you shimmy on up the really tall pole there, that's where we keep the grog.  Keep going!  Almost there!"  The phrase came to be used as a rejoinder to anyone who recounted a big fat bag of lies.  Along the lines of, "No sir!".

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Brand Spanking New Poetry

Remember poetry?  Roses are red, quoth the raven, the woods are lovely dark and deep.  That stuff you've heard since you were a kid.  Did you know they're still out there writing poetry?  And getting it published!  And people read it!  If you'd like to get your feet wet by reading a few poems by a few contemporary poets pick up Between water and song : new poets for the twenty-first century .  Here's a sample:

 "Hoodlum Birds" by Eugene Gloria
The fearless blackbirds see me again
at the footpath beside the tall grasses
sprouting like unruly morning hair...

I like that, sounds just like a country road in Iowa.  There may be blackbirds but not a rose or a raven in sight.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Lose Your Marbles

Because they might be worth dollars and dollars!  Marbles are collectible you know.  And oh my stars and garters, they are bea-u-tiful!  Cool names for different kinds of marbles: 
Onionskin - archaeologists found one in an Irish 'privy' from 1850.  Do we really want to know that story?
Taws -  a type of carpet bowl.  A what?  Carpet bowls are ceramic and big - as large as 3.5 inches in diameter.  Guess what type of surface the game is played on.
Oxbloods - for their dark red color.  Only mildly creepy.
Clambroths - you're kidding, right?  Clambroths? Chicken broth not good enough? Clambroths have stripes of uniform thickness.  They bear no resemblance to a clam or a broth.

Source:  Collecting antique marbles : identification and price guide / Paul Baumann.
You might also like:  Marble mania / edited by Stanley A. Block.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Not Papa, Dada

You know the artistic movement Dadaism?  Me neither and it's not for lack of trying.  I've looked it up several times and the info just slides right out my ears.  One more time!  And ... well, no wonder.  Turns out Dadaism was more of a cultural and political movement, not just an artistic style.  The movement 'focused on decrying and satirizing the arrogant, commercial, military and political regimes relevant to World War I'.  Dada artists include Man Ray!  He's the guy who snapped a photograph of a woman's back and made it look like a cello.  Marcel Duchamp!  Totally heard of him.  'Readymades' were his forte.  He took industrial objects and made alterations - some minor - and voila, Art.  Remember the tower of vacuum cleaners (Jeff Koons "The New Shelton Wet/Dry Triple Decker) purchased by the Des Moines Art Center in the 1980's? I believe there was some controversy at the time over whether or not it was art. Sounds like Dada to me. 

Art in America, Jun/Jul2006, Vol. 94 Issue 6, p142-207, 12p.
Three books about Dadaism

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ode from Billy Joel

My friend sent me a list of songs written about famous people.  Some I already knew ... or did I?  Turns out Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" was composed in reference to Elle MacPherson, not Christie Brinkley.  Oh yeah, well who was in the video?  Take that, Elle!  And two women had two different songs written about them.  Pattie Boyd got "Something" while she was seeing George Harrison and "You Look Wonderful Tonight" from Eric Clapton when she dated him.  Then there's Rosanna Arquette.  She was with some guy from Toto and he wrote "Rosanna" about her.  Was she satisfied with that?  No.  She had to go and inspire one of the loveliest songs ever written, "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel.  I've enjoyed Rosanna Arquette in various movie and television productions.  And I think she's a good actress.   But who knew she was the most amazing woman that ever lived?

Music from:  Billy Joel    George Harrison     Eric Clapton    Toto     Peter Gabriel

Friday, September 23, 2011

Baseball Pandemonium

Ah, it was 103 years ago today.  I remember it like it was yesterday because I don't follow baseball so it's all the same to me.  The Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants!  It's the decisive game for the pennant race and in the bottom of the ninth the score is 1-1!  Giants are at bat with 2 men on! What happened!!!!!!! I hear you cry.  The batter hit a runner in, scoring the win!  Hurrrah!  But wait, sayeth the Cubs.  The guy on first base never went to second, he headed straight to the dugout!  We never got a chance to tag him out!  For one thing the crowd saw the runner in safe and Mr. First Base, hereinafter referred to as 'Merkle', head to the dugout.  The fans stormed the field, blocking the second baseman from reaching Merkle.  A few days later the game was declared a tie, a do-over was eventually played and the Cubs won 4-2.  I don't know anything about baseball, but I do know the Cubs are not going to give up a possible win lightly.

Source:  Chase's ... calendar of events.
Graphic source: COLLECTION:  Baseball Cards from the Benjamin K. Edwards Collection   Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Thursday, September 22, 2011


It's a doozy!   Meaning it's fantastic! Astounding!  Sweet! (A nod to you under-40 types.) According to the book Duesenberg by Dennis Adler, the term 'doozy' is derived from the name of the Duesenberg automobile because that car was so darn amazing.  If someone referenced the Duesenberg, you knew it was time to put on your party hat.  Adler's book even says The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum has trademarked the slogan "It's a Duesey".  Lest we forget.  Local bonus:  the car had its roots in Iowa where Fred D. built the first 'Duesenberg' - a gas powered motorcycle!  Because he was obsessed with bicycle racing and the pace horses were too slow.  Iowa is awesome.

More Duesenberg Books

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do You Walk it or Drink it?

Hey, a new dog breed!  Don't see them too often since I've always been fascinated by the unusual and fantastic breeds you only find at dog shows, which I love.  I want the happy dogs to win.  Anyhoo, meet the Basset Griffon Vendeen. Griffon means 'rough-coated'.  Cool.  At first I thought it might be that dog from the movie 'As Good As It Gets', but Verdell was tiny and a little weird-looking.  Verdell was a Brussels Griffon.  So no. Here's The Ultimate Dog Book's description of the new kid: "Basset Griffon Vendeen now comes in two sizes, the larger Grand, and the smaller Petit.  Both are extremely energetic, sparkling and affectionate animals..."  They now come in two sizes!  They sparkle! Could be a dog or a carbonated beverage.  So don't get confused when you go dog-shopping.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Des Moines Streets Paved with ... What?

Des Moines surfaced streets with cedar blocks from 1882 to 1891.  I didn't think cedar was that tough.  It's not even a hardwood, ranking only 900 on the world-famous Janka Hardness Scale which goes all the way up to 3680.  (Brazilian Walnut, Ipe (?) and Lapacho, which appear to be the same tree, own the 3680 rating).  I guess you didn't have to worry about moths eating up your street.  Brick arived  in 1889.  Is there anything prettier than a brick street?  Practical, no.  Beautiful, yes. Then the modern era hit town.  In 1901 asphalt was applied to 21st St., and concrete slathered on 19th in 1907.  But I surely do wish I could have seen the cedar-paved streets.  Wonder if they smelled good.

Source: Des Moines Register 5/12/1950

Monday, September 19, 2011

Surfacing in Des Moines

Streets, roads, thoroughfares.  You've got your concrete and your asphalt.  Who could ask for anything more?  Des Moines, apparently.  First came the macadam, in 1882.  What is macadam, you ask?  While a delicious snack is brought to mind, Webster's defines macadam thusly: "macadamized roadway or pavement especially with a bituminous binder".  Ooooooo, that's helpful.  OK, macadamize means "to construct or finish (a road) by compacting into a solid mass a layer of small broken stone on a convex well-drained roadbed and using a binder (as cement or asphalt) for the mass".  What happened to bituminous?  So, to sum up: the first road surfacing in Des Moines consisted of mushed-up stones held together by something mysterious.
 I couldn't stand it, I looked up bituminous! It means "impregnated with bitumen".  Aaaaah!!!  When will I learn to look up the simplest form of the word?  When?  Bitumen.  Oh dear.  The definition is a whole paragraph long.  I think I'll stick to macadam.  More surfaces tomorrow.

Source:  Des Moines Register 5/12/1950

Friday, September 16, 2011

Festival! Festival!

This weekend you can enjoy the 9th annual Iowa's Latino Heritage Festival!  Whoohoo! It's back to the bridges - this year the celebration takes place on the Locust and Walnut bridges downtown.  Hours are Saturday, 10am – 11pm and Sunday, 10am – 6pm.  The delights include a Quinceanera Style Show.  Fun!  Who doesn't like admiring gorgeous dresses?  And for food fans, like myself, there is the Elote Eating Contest.  I had to look up 'elotes' and here is the definition I found:  roasted corn on the cob to which you add butter, cheese, salt, lime juice and chili powder. I want one now.  Mayo may be substituted for butter but I don't hear anyone complaining.  Those are just two examples of the fun!  Go, watch, eat, enjoy! 

More information on the festival:   Iowa's Latino Heritage Festival 
Books of interest at the Des Moines Public Libraries:
Toward the preservation of a heritage : Latin American and Latino art in the midwestern United States
Quinceanera Books

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where do Corn Dogs Come From?

  An innocent enough question.  Strangely enough, the answer is not Iowa!  In the 1930's George and Vera Boyington produced a battered, fried hot dog at their stand in Rockaway Beach.  The batter they used was really pancake batter, so experts are reluctant to call it a corn dog.  This 'Pronto Pup' was tres popular and the Boyingtons even franchised it!  As for actual corn-battered dogs, Carla nd Neil Fletcher served up 'Corny Dogs' at the Texas State Fair in 1942.  Texas!  I would venture to say that the Iowa State Fair is currently the fried-food-on-a-stick champion.  Even if it's not strictly true, I'm venturing.  

Source:  Who put the devil in deviled eggs? : the fascinating stories behind America's favorite foods / Ann Treistman p. 41-42

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Candy Nostalgia

As if I didn't eat candy today.  No, I'm not nostalgic for candy in general.   The candy we loved as children!  Some of it still sounds delicious, some just plain icky but they all have a special place in our hearts.  And our arteries.   Mmm, Kits Taffy and B B Bats.  Best flavors:  banana and chocolate but watch your fillings!   Likewise with Slo Pokes, Black Cows and Lemonheads.   But wait, there's more! Lik-M-Aid, you'd pour it on your palm and lap it up!   Pixy Stix, it's Lik-M-Aid in a tube!  Fruit Stripe Gum, Chiclets, Gold Mine Bubble Gum - the last 2 didn't keep their flavor long, but they were cool!   Even wax bottles full of liquid have their fans.   Hey, guess which candy I draw the line at?   Exactly!   I am so over licking my palm.  If I had a dog, the job would still exist.  But I'm not doing it.  (Bonus! A young co-worker just gave me a package of Fruit Stripe!  I am the luckiest blogger ever.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

One Last Summer Movie

Dirty Dancing
It's still hard to believe Patrick Swayze is gone. He was something of a force of nature.  And you know a movie has become firmly embedded in the shared consciousness when one can say something as non-specific as 'Nobody puts Baby in a corner', and you think of a young woman in a party dress, not a toddler in a timeout.  Have some Dirty Dancing trivia, on me!  OK, on the good folks at Dance Spirit magazine.  But I found it.

Who is Baby, actually Frances, named after?
Frances Perkins, the first woman selected for the Cabinet  Huh.

Where did Johnny learn to dance? 
Arthur Murray School of Dance!!!  Really.

 What does Baby say when she first meets Johnny? 
"I carried a watermelon."  Really??
Source: Dance Spirit, Dec2006, Vol. 10 Issue 10, p26-26,

Monday, September 12, 2011


"I stopped taking pictures and started crying."
Michael Walters, a free-lance photo journalist in Manhattan.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Grandson of Summer Movies

Hayley Mills.  That girl had summer living in her shining blonde hair. One of her lesser-known starring roles was in the turn-of-the-century confection 'Summer Magic'.  Highlights include a spirited rendition of the song "The Pink of Perfection" and bonus Jimmy Mathers, Iowa-born brother to You-Know-Who.  (Not Voldemort.) 

Fond Memories From a Staffer:   When Des Moines still had Drive-Ins, my younger brother and I went to the movies (in our pajamas) with our parents. Dad made kind of a “bed” in the backseat with a piece of plywood and a piece of foam with sheets and blankets on top of that. Mom made a brown grocery sack full of popcorn and we took a cooler of Kool-Aid. The kid’s movie was first - The Apple Dumpling Gang - and then we fell asleep while my parents watched the 2nd show.
Does this not sound wonderful and comfy?

In my home town if you had a coupon from the paper you could get into the special Wednesday Kid's Matinee for $.25.  I got to see:
Best 25 cents I ever spent.

Thanks to all the staff who contributed their favorites!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Son of Summer Movies

More favorites from the Des Moines Public Library staff:
     Jaws.  The shark scared the whillikins out of me.  Thank goodness I live in Iowa!  But repeat viewings are due to the vivid characters. I watch it every time I come across it, and hope I don't miss the scar-off. 
     Summer of ’42.  Just drenched in summer, you can get a tan watching this thoughtful film.  Enjoy a coming-of-age story with a little grace.
     One Crazy Summer. This fun, goofy 1986 release, stars John Cusack and Demi Moore.  Guess what?  Demi plays a successful singer!  Ah, the wonders of cinema.
     Transformers.  They're big, they fight and they're made out of cars.   
     The Fast and the Furious.  Did I mention cars?  These aren't from outer space but they go really really fast.  There's no stopping this franchise or Transformers. 
     Looks like automoblies rule summer!  Especially since the shark movies just aren't what they used to be.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer Movies II

Oh, the summer movies are getting the love. 
The First Ever Star Wars.  The original Star Wars, we'd never seen anything like it.  It was exciting, funny, even a little complex.  Hello, culture quake!
Wet Hot American Summer - I finally saw this recently! If you like your comedy satirical and a shade of black, join the wacky folks at Camp Firewood. 
Dazed and Confused. Depicts high school life in the 70's so realistically I nearly got unstuck in time when I watched it.
American Graffiti. The first time I realized it was possible for me to care about cars.  I still want a T-bird with a porthole window.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summer Not!

Summer Movies!  Some are ... not?   Ha ha?  Well I thought it was funny.  I know the calendar says summer doesn't end until September 22 but Labor Day is over folks.  We ought to move on, but let's not give up on summer movies!  Here are some staff favorites:

Independence Day - seen in a theater that consisted of folding chairs and a screen on a stand.
Breakin' and Breakin'2 Electric Boogaloo.  When only Hammer pants will do.
Shag.  It's 1963; Phoebe Cates, Bridget Fonda and Iowa's own Annabeth Gish go in search of pre-wedding mayhem.  Shag is a dance by the way. 
Sandlot.  Big Scary Dog but the kids triumph!  Sandlot baseball kind of screams summer, doesn't it?
Grease.  The movie may span a school year, but it starts out with Summer Nights. 

More to come!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day 2011!

Don't do anything I wouldn't do. Which pretty much limits you to naps, movies and reading. Have fun! The dingus in the picture is some kind of wood splitting thingy. Aren't you glad you don't have to split wood? Although I do enjoy splitting the occasional hair. There it is, a touch of levity for the holiday! All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library will be open their regular hours tomorrow. Enjoy!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Labor Day Closings 2011

All six locations of the Des Moines Public Library will be closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday September 3rd, 4th and 5th for the Labor Day holiday. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, Labor Day is also observed in Canada. Plus Europe celebrates on May 1 and in Australia they honor the Eight Hour Day. And here I thought it was just us.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Are You Sure?

Do you lack realistic long-term goals?  Are you impulsive?  Prone to boredom?  If so you too may be a psychopath!  Whoohoo!  According to Robert Hare, a psychologist who developed the Psychopath Test, those 3 qualities are shared by most psychopaths.  There's a whole lot more but they're obviously negative and I knew I couldn't trick you into saying you have these qualities.  No one wants to admit they live a parasitic lifestyle, have a grandiose sense of self-worth or are 'criminally versatile'.  So how do they get the psychopaths to complete the test truthfully?  Well, maybe they don't.  I just finished The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson ("Best-Selling Author of The Men Who Stare at Goats!!!!!) and the book is way more entertaining than you would expect.  Especially because Ronson is something of a psychological hypochondriac and continually checks himself to see if he's a psychopath.  Or are we all?  Dun dun dunnn.

The Psychopath Test
Psychopath Books by Robert Hare