Complete Columns

Just Hand Over The Thin Mints And No One Will Get Hurt (Girl Scout Cookies)
We chew our way through the history of America's yearly calorie indulgence.

Yes, it’s finally here; that time of year when we grab our wallets and write out large checks in order to fulfill the demands of our families as well as support our national economy. But enough about tax season; let’s talk about Girl Scout cookies.

Mistletoe, Rudy, and Coconut Dream ripoffs

[x_pullquote type=”right”]The Girl Scouts of America first had the idea to sell cookies in order to ruin the diets of every living American back in 1917, when cookies were probably made out of sawdust and hope.[/x_pullquote]The Girl Scouts of America first had the idea to sell cookies in order to ruin the diets of every living American back in 1917, when cookies were probably made out of sawdust and hope. They were first sold by the interestingly named “Mistletoe Troop” in Oklahoma, who I’ll assume did not meet in the same room as the “Spin The Bottle” Boy Scouts. These cookies were not yet the familiar, calorie-bombed versions we love to binge-eat behind our spouse’s backs today, as the girls had to make their own cookies. The 1922 issue of the Girl Scout magazine “American Girl” was the first to feature an article on using cookie sales as a troop fundraiser, as well as a somewhat racy feature on why heartthrob Rudy Valentino was not only the cat’s pajama’s but just plain the duckiest. It wasn’t until 1936 that the national Girl Scout organization began using commercial bakeries, such as Keebler, to manufacture their cookies, although their elves complained bitterly that the Scout’s “Caramel deLites” were just a ripoff of their own Coconut Dreams cookie. Some 125 troops launched cookie sales that year, which consisted of a large task force of Peanut Butter Patties proceeding up the middle of the main battle line, with 20 elite tactical troops waving boxes of Thin Mints attacking from both sides, producing a pincer effect which essentially brought America to it’s gluttonous knees.

Mrs. Brubaker’s Motivational Enhancement Therapy

As incentives to sell, Girl Scouts are offered prizes such as coupons, stuffed animals, recognition, and the promise that they will not have to sell any more Girl Scout cookies for at least a year. Girls can also choose to earn money for their troop in order to pay for such things as uniforms because Mrs. Brubaker used the troop dues to support her yearly “Motivational Enhancement Therapy” in Vegas again. Each regional council sets the price for their cookies, which has led to some controversy as illegal cookie syndicates have sprung up between neighboring towns, with rival gangs of minivan-driving moms making midnight runs of Peanut Butter Patties to sell to cutthroat cookie brokers for a profit. This has the added benefit of teaching the girls the vital position of graft in our society. Today, Girl Scout Cookies are a $700 million empire, with sales of over 200 million cookie boxes a year, enough for every man, woman and child in the United States to contract Type 2 diabetes in a week.

Girl Scout Cookie facts

  • Until recently, the record for most cookies ever sold was set by Elisabeth Brinton, who sold 18,000 boxes in a single season while garnering 122 walks and only 23 strikeouts. She even sold cookies to then-President Ronald Reagan, who immediately made her Secretary of Commerce.
  • In 1943, Girl Scouts collected fat in cans in order to aid the war effort. Ironically, today it is the cookie customers who collect fat in their cans.
  • The most popular cookie variety is the Thin Mint (25% of overall cookie sales), which is used as currency in some Indonesian countries.
  • There is an (unsanctioned) variety of marijuana called “Girl Scout Cookies”, which can be grown only with the tears of a Brownie who didn’t get her merit badge in horticulture.
  • “Golden Yangles”, “Kookaburras”, “Golden Nut Clusters”, and “Van’Chos” are not slang terms for diseases the Army warns you about in their training films, but some of the many types of cookies which are no longer made.

So the next time you’re thinking about dieting, you silly overweight American, just remember that extra box of Thin Mints you hid under the fish sticks in the deep freeze when your spouse wasn’t looking. Remember, we’re here to help.

Don’t Get Your Gootch In A Sneedle: It’s Dr. Seuss
Our murky-mooshy humpf-humpf-a-dumpfer of the most bippo-no-bungus author in history.

Only one author in all of history can claim to have won an Academy Award and depicted Hitler as a turtle. That would be Theodore Giesel, more commonly known as “Dr. Seuss,” much less commonly known as “Jimbo the Cave-Diving Monkey Squirrel,” who sold an estimated 600 million books in his career, many of them containing the word “floob-boober-bab-boober-bubs.”

Steven Seagal vs. the Chartreuse Ovums

Giesel began his career as an advertising illustrator for Standard Oil and a product called “Flit,” which was a bug spray you bought in one of those big old-fashioned cartoony bug sprayers that, pumped once, fumigated your entire house, pets and family, as the bugs back then were all communists. He began to use the pseudonym “Seuss” in college (Geisel actually meant to have the name “Seuss” pronounced “Sue-ice.” Lesser known: he also wanted “Dr.” pronounced as “Dee-Arr-Dot.”) During World War II Giesel supported the war effort by drawing posters and working in the animation department of the Air Force, which was housed in the belly of a B-17 and would drop ink wells and derogatory cartoons on the heads of enemy soldiers. After the war he helped produce the decidedly non-kid-oriented documentary Design for Death, which did not star Steven Seagal as an undercover dressmaker in Cold War Moscow, but nevertheless won the Academy Award for “Documentary Not Using Made-Up Words Such As ‘Squitsch’, ‘Grickly Grucktus’, or ‘Gootch’.” It wasn’t until after the war that Seuss’s career began to take off, with a string of hits in the 50s including Horton Hears a Who!, The Cat in the Hat, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. One of his most popular works was the result of a bet he made with his publisher that he couldn’t write a story using only 50 words, and none of them dirty. Seuss took the bet and wrote Green Eggs and Ham, which ranks 3rd in the most popular children’s books of all time, and contains such famous lines which, for copyright reasons, we cannot reprint here, but go something like:

“Do you prefer
Chartreuse ovums and the cured flesh from a domesticated porcine animal?
I do not prefer them, Sam, the self-aware antagonist
I do not prefer
Chartreuse ovums and the cured flesh from a domesticated porcine animal.”

Sloo-Slunkers and Amphibrachic Tetrameter

[x_pullquote type=”right”]Geisel wrote most of his books with anapestic tetrameter, a particularly virulent form of poetic arthritis that caused him to rhyme in four rhythmic units.[/x_pullquote]Geisel wrote most of his books with anapestic tetrameter, a particularly virulent form of poetic arthritis that caused him to rhyme in four rhythmic units. In later years, such as when he was writing “If I Ran The Circus,” he also suffered from amphibrachic tetrameter, a debilitating attack on the metrical foot consisting of a long syllable between two short syllables. Despite this, he was able to live a full, normal life, although he fathered no children. Most of Geisel’s artwork had a tendency to be somewhat rounded and droopy with no straight lines, indicating that he either was working in a hot studio or his ruler was broken. His post-war work was mostly in black and white sketch form, as color for the book and film industry was still being rationed, as can be seen in every Three Stooges short of the time. Later books, such as 1971’s “The Lorax,” used multiple colors, mixing bright greens, oranges, and purples, because it was the 70s, and no one knew any better because they were too worried about the width of their bell-bottoms. Some of his books have even been turned into full-blown Hollywood-style money-vacuuming motion pictures, which we’re going to pretend never happened, seeing as how none of them can hold a sloo-slunker to the classic Chuck Jones version of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

So no matter the color of your sneedle, or if you don’t know your zong from your diffendoofer, or if your turtle is a fascist, or if your belly has a star or just navel fuzz, or if you’re young or really old; I mean, like so old you can remember when there were pay phones, you can still enjoy the work of that guy who’s name I forgot because this sentence was too long.

Photo Credit: Jim Larrison cc

I Don’t Ever Not Care If I Don’t Never Not Get Back (Cracker Jack)
Stick around for a doolalley of a column on America's oldest snack.

Cracker Jack is a uniquely American snack surprisingly made from neither crackers nor jacks, but molasses-flavored popcorn and peanuts. It was invented in the late 19th century (Official Motto: “Anyone Want To Buy A Bunch Of Buggy Whips Cheap?”) by Frederick William Rueckheim, a Chicago popcorn vendor who developed the now closely-guarded secret method of keeping molasses-coated popcorn kernels from clumping together by [redacted by Frito Lay company], and that’s how babies are made. Fritz, as he was called, produced the first batch of his new confection in 1896, and trademarked the “Cracker Jack” name later that year. The name was taken after an unusually excited customer, after tasting it, proclaimed “that’s a crackerjack!”, which, not to drive you all doolally and take the gilt off the gingerbread, but at the time meant it was the cat’s meow of a dressed to the nine’s bee’s knees sitting in the catbird seat, by a long chalk. The name stuck like a hot glob of molasses on a doolally, and Cracker Jack began selling like hotcakes, albeit hotcakes made from peanuts and molasses-coated popcorn using the super-secret method of [redacted by Frito Lay company], and that’s how we beat the Nazis in the Big War. Fritz quickly registered the Cracker Jack name, along with the slogan “The More You Eat The More You Want,” which it obviously did not steal from the National School Lunch Association.

Save your sous for your grammatical hissy fit

Cracker Jack’s long association with the game of baseball began in 1908 when songwriting team Jack “No, Not The Cracker Kind” Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer wrote the song “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” containing the line “Ev’ry sou, Katie blew,” which even the hipsters and doolallies of the time didn’t get. But it also featured the line “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don’t care if I never get back,” which is now traditionally sung during a baseball game’s “Seventh Inning Stretch,” assuring that generations of stuffy ex-English teachers would throw a grammatical hissy fit because of its use of a double-negative. Nevertheless, the song has unmistakably cemented Cracker Jack and baseball together like a hot glob of molasses on a bee’s knee, and it is still as common a sight at ballparks across America as that drunk guy and his loud friends who always sit behind you at every game.

Hippo Vaughn and the Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs

One of the hallmarks of Cracker Jack that separate it from it’s rival candy-coated popcorn products such as Fiddle Faddle, Poppycock, Screaming Yellow Zonkers or Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs is not only that it surprisingly has the least ridiculous-sounding name, but its inclusion of a “prize” inside, although all you apparently have to do to “win” the prize is to be able to eat candy-coated popcorn and peanuts. Prizes were placed in boxes starting in 1912 and originally were called a “Toy Surprise,” because anyone discovering the “toy surprise” was “surprised” to find a baseball card was called a “toy.” However, if you happen to be an approximately 105-year-old boy with a 1915 Cracker Jack “Hippo Vaughn” card in mint condition, you could sell it for $15,000, provided you hadn’t already died from a mirth-induced heart attack from laughing at the name “Hippo.” Longtime fans of Cracker Jack have lamented the quality of the recent prizes, however, which have been reduced to stickers, paper puzzles and lame jokes that would make even Bazooka Joe cringe.

So next time you’re at the ballpark, remember to remember past remembrances by remembering to get some Cracker Jack, and enjoy the sweet caramel goodness of Fritz Rueckheim’s famous recipe made by [redacted by Frito Lay company] and then the robots will come to destroy us.

Photo Credit: JeepersMedia cc

Tree Sap, Science, and Bazooka Joe’s Real Name (Chewing Gum)
We ruminate on (but don't swallow) the history of our most favorite inedible hydrocarbon polymer.

Chewing gum is a soft, flavored confectionery designed for maximum adherence to minivan carpets. It is also used for freshening breath, blowing bubbles, popping bubbles in order to annoy coworkers, and for reminding smokers that their doctor was right: nicotine is really addictive.

Tree sap vs. Manilkara zapota van Royen

[x_pullquote type=”right”]The first gum chewers voluntarily put into their faces the same thing that sticks to our hands for a week after putting up a Christmas tree.[/x_pullquote]Varieties of substances have been chewed for enjoyment by humans for centuries: ancient man chewed aromatic twigs from trees, ancient woman then chewed ancient man for chewing twigs when he should have been hunting wild animals they could chew for food, while the wild animals in turn chewed ancient woman while ancient man was out not hunting them, completing the great, masticating circle of life. Then, somewhere around the mid 1860s, American John Bacon “Yes, That’s My Real Middle Name” Curtis and his exemplary 19th-century beard created and sold the first commercial chewing gum, which he named “State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum”, an appropriate name considering IT WAS MADE FROM TREE SAP. Yes, the first gum chewers voluntarily put into their faces the same thing that sticks to our hands for a week after putting up a Christmas tree. Around that same time chicle, a rubbery tree sap made from the sapodilla tree, a member of the family Sapotaceae, known botanically as Manilkara zapota van Royen (syns. M. achras Fosb., M.) blah blah science was brought to the US by Mexican President General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de “Long Name” Lebrón. President Long Name gave the gummy sap to his former secretary Thomas Adams (not the Thomas Adams who was the Lord Mayor of London, or the son of U.S. President John Adams, or the Commander-in-Chief of India, or the English organist and composer, or the English bookseller and publisher, or the English Nottingham lace manufacturer and philanthropist, etc.). Adams first intended to use the substance as a replacement for rubber tires, but after realizing no one wanted to drive around on thin, pink wheels that popped every two feet and stuck all over your fenders, he naturally switched to using chicle to manufacture gum. He marketed this first product in 1871 as “Adams New York Chewing Gum” because the name “Most Boring Gum Name In The Universe” was already taken by the aforementioned “State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum”, and soon gums such as Chiclets and Black Jack dominated the market.

The dawn of Dubble Bubble, plus: more science

The first successful gum designed specifically for blowing bubbles (previous test versions had caused hideous disfigurement) was invented by Walter Diemer for the Fleer company in 1928 (Official Motto: “Thanks a Lot For Warning Us About The Stock Market Crash, History”). Called “Dubble Bubble“, it was an immediate hit among school children because it deliberately misspelled “double” and their teachers couldn’t do a thing about it. The 1930s and 40s saw the replacement of chicle with synthetic substances; primarily hydrocarbon polymers such as styrene-butadiene rubber, isobutylene, isoprene copolymer, paraffin wax, blah blah more science. Although flavors and gimmicks, such as dental industry-mandated sugarless gum or bacon gumballs, have been added over the years, modern chewing gum has changed little since its inception, except for the parts about it coming from tree sap and tasting like tree sap and smelling like tree sap and sticking to your face like tree sap and also not being pink.

Chewing gum facts

    • The world’s oldest piece of chewing gum is over 9,000 years old. And, yes, it tastes horrible.
    • Chewing gum while cutting onions can keep you from crying. Conversely, chewing onions while cutting gum causes those around you to laugh uncontrollably.
    • If bubble gum gets stuck in your hair, congratulations! You’re not bald. You can remove it by rubbing the stuck gum with peanut butter. To remove the peanut butter, sprinkle cornstarch on the area and let stand for 15 minutes. To remove the cornstarch, dab it with chewing gum.
    • The largest bubble ever blown was 23 inches in diameter by Susan Williams of Fresno, California, who is still presumed to be floating somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
    • One of bubble gum’s most famous icons is Bazooka Joe, who, curiously, is actually armed with a Smith and Wesson Model 460V Revolver and whose real name was “Alphonse LeCribbage”.
    • The Topps card company began packing gum in their baseball card sets in order to teach kids about the dangers of chewing pink cardboard.
    • A common myth is that if you swallow chewing gum a watermelon will grow in your stomach. This, of course, is not true; watermelon’s grow in your pancreas. Swallowed gum is processed normally through the digestive system, where it is excreted and used to make circus peanuts.
Photo Credit: patrick_damiano cc

Smells Like Preschool Spirit (Play-Doh)
We squeeze out a column on the world's favorite ex-wallpaper cleaner.

Play-Doh is a modeling compound used by children as an unsupervised alternate food source plus a really easy way to make snakes. Simple, colorful and reusable, this popular creative toy is lodged in the memories of most American children like a piece of dried, red Play-Doh stuck in that “Fun Factory” thing that’s supposed to squeeze out cool tubes that look like poop but your sister left it out last time she used it even though you were the one who cleaned it the last time she left it like that and now it’s all dried out again and I’m telling mom.

Fuzzy Pumper Crazy Cuts and the Red Can

[x_pullquote type=”right”]Joe discovered that a classroom of children, apparently bored with playing with the drain cleaner and scouring paste, was using the Kutol compound to make Christmas ornaments.[/x_pullquote]Play-Doh was originally designed in the 1930’s to be a wallpaper cleaner, back when dirty wallpaper must have been a raging epidemic. It was invented by Noah “Not The One In The Bible” McVicker for a Cincinnati manufacturer called the Kutol Products Company (Official Motto: “We’re A Products Company; So… That’s Pretty Much Our Official Motto”). By the mid-1950’s Kutol was on the verge of bankruptcy, probably due to the invention of self-cleaning wallpaper, so Noah’s nephew, Joe, was assigned the task of saving the company. Joe discovered that a classroom of children, apparently bored with playing with the drain cleaner and scouring paste, was using the Kutol compound to make Christmas ornaments. He wisely saw this as an opportunity to save the company and quickly began marketing scouring paste as modeling clay for children, whereupon his wife suggested using the wallpaper cleaning stuff instead. In 1956 the McVickers began to manufacture their new product, called “Play-Doh”, under their newly-formed Rainbow Crafts Company, which was bought by General Mills in 1965, which placed it with Kenner Products, which then merged with Rainbow Crafts in 1971, which was bought by the Tonka Corporation in 1987, which was bought by Hasbro in 1991, which is now planning a major motion picture featuring Dwayne Johnson as the Red Can and Bruce Willis as Fuzzy Pumper Crazy Cuts.

Mommy needs a what now?

After advertising on the popular children’s shows of the late 50’s such as Captain Kangaroo, Romper Room, Ding Dong School, Brat Academy and Mommy Needs A Cocktail Now, sales for Play-Doh increased dramatically, reaching $3 million by 1958 (today’s money: enough to buy two complete Play-Doh 24-packs with a Scoops ‘n Treats DIY Ice Cream Set). Now a soft, pliable part of our cultural landscape, giant Play-Doh Fun Factories 12 stories tall daily squeeze out tons of multi-colored, coiling Play-Doh onto barges for distribution to hungry children around the world.

Play-Doh facts

  • Play-Doh’s main ingredients are flour, salt, water, mineral oil, boric acid, dog hair, dust and dried bits of older Play-Doh.
  • September 16 is National Play-Doh Day, possibly because it also marks the day that Gandhi began his fast in protest of caste separation in India in 1932, but most likely because Hallmark wanted another reason to sell greeting cards.
  • Over two billion three-ounce cans of Play-Doh have been sold since its inception, enough to make a huge, doughy, six-billion ounce ball of Play-Doh.
  • Demeter Fragrance Library partnered with the Hasbro Company to make a Play-Doh-scented fragrance they are calling “Sweaty Preschool In The Morning”, to go with their line of other toy-oriented fragrances, “Stretch Armstrong Guts”, “Model Airplane Glue”, and “Eau du Strawberry Shortcake”.
  • The official mascot on every box of Play-Doh is “Play-Doh Pete”, who is actually a 45-year-old actress named Barbara who lives in Santa Monica and drives a Tesla.
  • Play-Doh was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998 where, during a controversial acceptance speech, it kissed Madonna.
Photo Credit: Betsy Weber cc

Puck Bunnies, Flying Squids and Womochowskionski’s Crease (Ice Hockey)
We throw our gloves down and take a swing at America's most bearded sport.

Okay, so everyone knows the joke about going to a fight and having a hockey game break out, but in case you haven’t heard it before: “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.” Possibly our most violent sport, not counting Wolverine Jarts, Russian Tank Roulette and trying to get a seat on the Chicago CTA during rush hour, hockey has garnered a poor reputation that has kept the many positive aspects of the game, such as not being on TV very much, from being enjoyed by potential sports fans. Other qualities such as speed, athleticism, flying squids and the use of Zambonis can make hockey an exciting and enjoyable sport to watch while you’re waiting for the fight to start.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”asterisk”]You might also like “It’s the Super Bo… Excuse me; the Sensational Basin.”[/feature_headline]

Orangutans and tooth slayers

[x_pullquote type=”right”]Considered one of the most contactual of contact sports, hockey is played on ice, usually in a “rink”, also known as a “ring” after the fight breaks out.[/x_pullquote]Considered one of the most contactual of contact sports, hockey is played on ice, usually in a “rink”, also known as a “ring” after the fight breaks out. Teams of six players each wearing beards and what looks like gaudy medieval armor attack each other while skating in hopes of moving the puck, or “tooth slayer”, into the opposition’s net, or “goal”. To do this, they have to get the puck past the goaltender, usually a large orangutan with Z-shaped arms, who aren’t so much concerned with “tending” the goal as they are with ripping the limbs off of any player who comes too close to it. Goals are determined by a flashing red police light that goes off, which acts to further enrage the goalies, who hate the color red, into carrying out even more violent acts, such as speaking loudly in French. The team that scores the most goals without actually getting an exciting high score wins. Ties are broken by sudden death overtime, which hockey fans love because it involves the words “sudden” and “death”. In sudden death, teams continue to play until a goal is scored, whereupon the fans proceed out into the parking lot to fight some more.

Warning: fight imminent

The origins of the word “hockey” are in dispute; some argue that it is taken from the 1773 book “Juvenile Sports and Pastimes”, while others yell that that’s a dirty lie and proceed to clear their bench for an all-out hockey history brawl. But it is known that the word “puck” derives it’s meaning from the Scots Gaelic word puc or the Irish poc (to poke, punch, smite, hit, smack, smash, sock, WHACK, WALLOP, WHAMMY WHY YOU @$%!$%&! [sound of gloves being thrown down and hockey fight ensuing]). The modern version of the game has it’s origins in Montreal (Official Motto: “Have We Mentioned We’re French?”) in the late 19th century with the first hockey club being established at McGill University. The NHL (National Hockey League) was officially formed in 1917 with teams first formed in Canada, and then spreading to the United States like blood stains on fresh ice.

Mason, Dixon and flashing the puck bunny

Hockey historically was played mainly in the north, where ice is a naturally occurring substance sometime around late August. Today, you can find professional hockey teams even in warm, southern states such as California or Florida, where fans come to a game mostly just to see what a huge sheet of ice looks like in person. If you live below the Mason-Dixon line (Official Motto: “‘Say, Mason!’ ‘Yes, Dixon?’ ‘What Do You Get When You Create A Survey Line That Begins To The South Of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania And Extends From A Benchmark East To The Delaware River And West To What Was At One Time The Boundary With Western Virginia?’ ‘I Don’t Know Dixon, What?’ ‘A Cultural Boundary Line That Separates The North From The South?’ ‘Amazing! Have A Mint Julep!’”) it will be rare that you have to involuntarily come into contact with hockey; however, never count out the ability of a rabid hockey fan appearing in your neighborhood or office in a state as far away as Hawaii. A transplanted hockey fan can be a dangerous creature, as they are often very protective about their sport and have no tolerance for your condescending ignorance, such that if you say that hockey is only about fighting so help them they will punch you in the mouth. Your best conversational bet when encountering this type of fan is to Smile and Nod as they are going on about how some player named “Feudeauxlouiex” got thrown out of the game for “flashing the puck bunny in the penalty box after the natural hatty” and “put one right in Womochowskionski’s crease”. You might try mentioning in a soothing voice something about how nice and warm it is here in South Town, until the sultriness and humidity of your location lull them into sleep, and you can get back to whatever it is you do in the south to keep from dying of heat exhaustion and/or cockroaches.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Sports Survival Guide for Men[/feature_headline]