Saturday News Chum Stew: On The Outs

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and you know what that means. That’s right — it’s time to go to Games Day 55. So while I’m playing games, you can enjoy some tasty news chum stew:



Friday News Chum: Redistricting, Fonts, Liddsville, Dogs, Lawns, Apollo 11, Stomach Flu, and Postage

userpic=headlinesWell, it’s Friday at lunch, and you know what that means — time to clear out the accumulated links that couldn’t be formed into a coherent theme. Well, at least I couldn’t figure out a theme. Perhaps you can:

  • Impacts of Redistricting. Let’s start with a couple of aspects of redistricting. First, in California, the state senate districts have staggered elections and terms (just like the real senate). This means when redistricting occurs, there is a short period where some people might have two state senate representatives and others might not have a state senate representative at all. The state senate has just addressed the quirk, assigning senators to those areas that ended up without representation. If you are wondering how this happens, The no-senator areas, known as deferrals, stem from the interplay of the Senate’s election schedule and redistricting. One-half of Senate seats are up for election every two years and the 2011 remap moved some residents from odd-numbered districts scheduled to be on the ballot in 2012 to even-numbered districts on the ballot in 2014. The result is that those areas have no senator for two years. Here’s another redistricting issue: Redistricting in many states results in gerrymandering, where districts are created to have majorities in one party or another. The Republicans in Virginia and a number other “swing” blue states are attempting to take advantage of this by allocating electoral votes to the winner of the district. It’s one thing to allocate proportionally based on total state voting, but doing it by congressional district allows the gerrymandering effect to predominate, disenfranchising those in the minority in the district.
  • Readability. Let’s move away from politics. You’re reading this post on your computer, in a serif or non-serif font, depending on your preference. Mine’s serifed. We’ve always believed that serifed fonts were more readable because the serifs helped move your eye along the line. Guess what? Serifed fonts may not be more readable. Ariel or Lucida Sans for the win!
  • It Won’t Be The Same Without Charles Nelson Reilly. Those of us who grew up in the 1970s will remember Lidsville, a Sid and Marty Krofft series about talking hats. It may even live in that scary memory place with the Bugaloos, the Banana Splits, and H.N.R. Puffnstuff. Well, this article will really cause you to flip your lid. Alan Menken, composer of such shows as Little Shop of HorrorsBeauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and many others, is working on a live-action movie version of Liddsville (as well as a musical episode of The Neighbors). Dreamworks is producing.
  • Turning Wolves into Dogs. There has been a lot of debate of how the wolf was domesticated and became man’s best friend, the dog. A story in the Washington Post posits that it was moving to a diet of grains and potatoes that did it. A team of Swedish researchers compared the genomes of wolves and dogs and found that a big difference is dogs’ ability to easily digest starch. On their way from pack-hunting carnivore to fireside companion, dogs learned to desire — or at least live on — wheat, rice, barley, corn and potatoes. As it turns out, the same thing happened to humans as they came out of the forest, invented agriculture and settled into diets rich in grains. Co-evolution at work!
  • A Concrete Jungle. Los Angeles has been referred to as a concrete jungle. San Francisco, on the other hand, has a problem with concrete lawns. Specifically, under San Francisco city law, at least 20 percent of a front yard must consist of permeable surfaces with vegetation, mostly to allow for proper drainage and to keep the neighborhood looking green. Homes can be reviewed for compliance every time an owner does construction on the driveway or property. However, this is ignored more in the breach, and now the paved-over lawns in San Francisco are creating environmental concerns due to excessive drainage.
  • Learning from the Past. Another thing that those of us from the 1970s will remember is the Apollo Program and the launches to the moon. Bet’cha thought it was dead. Well, not quite. NASA has started testing a vintage F-1 series engine from the Saturn V.  The hope is that it could become a template for a new generation of motors incorporating parts of its design. Those of us who live in the San Fernando Valley remember well the roar of those engines — they were built in Canoga Park and tested in Chatsworth!
  • Getting Sick of It All. I’m sure you have all heard the exhortations about the Influenza going around the country, and you have gotten your flu shot (except those of you who don’t believe in vaccines — but that’s a different debate). There’s another “flu” going around (with “flu” in quotes since it really isn’t a flu), and this one doesn’t have a vaccine: There’s an epidemic of norovirus, a/k/a “stomach flu”, going around. It’s a pretty strong variant (from Australia, where they make things stronger). This variant causes nausea, forceful vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, accounted for 58% of outbreaks of norovirus nationally. Norovirus typically begins very suddenly and lasts one to three days. Most people recover without treatment, but some require rehydration with liquids or intravenous fluids. The disease is most severe in the elderly and can also hit young children hard. Norovirus is extremely contagious. The best protection is vigilant hand washing with soap and water. If surfaces may have been contaminated, the CDC recommends disinfecting them with a diluted bleach solution made of five to 25 tablespoons of household bleach to a gallon of water.
  • Stamping It Out. And lastly, first-class postage is going to 46¢ on Sunday, with postcards going to 33¢. I’m sure most of you are unfamiliar with postage and postage stamps, as you have never written an actual letter or paid a bill by mail. You see, people once communicated not via email, but by putting pieces of paper in an envelope, affixing a money-equivalent to the envelope, and giving it to someone to take to the recipient. Seriously, even those of us that use postage stamps forget the price of postage these days, as most first class stamps are “forever” stamps. So pick up some forever stamps now, before the price goes up. Those dollars you save might buy you a cup of coffee. I emphasize the “might”, given Starbucks’ prices. You’ll do better at McDonalds!



An Icon Passes

An icon of my childhood has died: “Sheriff” John Rovick has died at the age of 93.

Back in the era of children’s television hosts, Sheriff John was one of the most beloved in Los Angeles. His “Lunch Brigade” was a staple for kids like me growing up. We grew up on his songs, his cartoons, his morals, and his ideals… and of course, Farmer John Hot Dogs. We preferred the Birthday Cake Polka (“Put another candle on my birthday cake”) to any other birthday song.

Our motto, after all, was John’s:

Laugh and be happy and the world will laugh with you
When people see you smiling they can’t help smiling too
When you look out the window to a dark and gloomy day
Break out a smile and in a while the gloom will go away
So laugh and be happy with a merry melody
A song will make a hat rack look like a Christmas tree
Get rid of worry in a hurry, chase the blues away
Just laugh and be happy all the live…. long….. day.

Rest in peace, Sheriff John. You taught a generation well.




Thursday News Chum: ATM PINs, Olympic Mascots, Looney Tunes, McDonalds, and Jewish Single-Malt

I was hoping for a theme, but alas, that was not to be. Here are a few items that caught my eye from skimming the papers the last few days over lunch:

  • From the “He Made It Too Easy” Department: The Chicago Tribune brings the obit of John Shepherd-Barron, the inventor of the ATM machine. We all know how we are stuck with 98.6 as normal human temperature because the inventor’s wife had an illness when the calibration was done. It turns out there is a similar story on why ATM PINs, and PINs in general, are a relatively insecure four digits: “Shepherd-Barron originally planned to make PINs six digits long, but cut the number to four after his wife, Caroline, complained that six was too many. “Over the kitchen table, she said she could only remember four figures, so because of her, four figures became the world standard,” he told the BBC.” The first ATM machine was installed in 1967!
  • From the “Hidey, Howdy, Izzy, Syd, Ollie, and Millie” Department: And the question is: “Who were some of the worst Olympic mascots?” The National Post has a nice article today looking back on some of the worst Olympic mascots, including photographs.
  • From the “They’re All A Little Looney” Department: The New York Times has a nice article on the upcoming reincarnation of the classic Looney Tunes on CN. It includes a nice history of other attempts, including Tiny Toons (which was somewhat successful), “The Loonatics Unleashed” (which was horrid), and “Baby Looney Tunes” (the mind just boggles). No mention of “Duck Dodgers”, tho. It will be interesting to see how the new incarnation fares.
  • From the “A Force for Good” Department: That’s how McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner characterized Ronald McDonald, who isn’t going anywhere despite protests calling for his abolition. What is going away is the McDonalds physical look, as the chain is introducing an updated look that is significantly more modern. Out will go the iconic red mansard roof and cafeteria-style lighting, and in will come a stone or brick exterior and more modern furniture. There will be zone-seating areas, so the customer has the opportunity to use the restaurant in the manner that fits their lifestyle best, and playlands may disappear from some stores.
  • From the “Yet Another Reason To Drink” Department: The Jewish Journal has an interesting column on the changing Jewish relationship with wine, and how single-malt scotch is now the drink of choice. Why is this happening? The poor quality of Kosher wine, combined with the higher quality with no kashrut issues (except during Pesach) of single-malt.

Sheriff John and other History

Item The First. As you have probably figured out by now, I have fond memories of Sheriff John, a childrens television host here in Los Angeles. So, you can imagine how pleased I was to see an update regarding the Sheriff (who’s real name is John Rovick) in Gary Lycan’s Radio column:

Yes, the name “Sheriff John” carries many of us back to our childhood, or if you are younger, maybe your parents who grew up here spoke of the popular local TV personality in the ’50s and ’60s who entertained us daily with his Lunch Brigade show on channel 11.

John Rovick got his start in Toledo radio, so he qualifies for a shout-out here, and I’ve heard from many of you over the years you love knowing whatever happened to your favorites of yesteryear.

So, thanks to David Grudt, who was in Idaho recently and got to visit with “Sheriff John” in Boise. He sent this note to

“He turned 90 last October and is in an assisted living facility. John’s mind is still sharp. My friend and I were there for 90 minutes chatting about his years in the business….John still has that great smile” Grudt had two Imperial Records for “Sheriff John” to sign. One was a blue label 45, “Laugh and Be Happy.”

Item The Second. You may also know that another area of interest of mine is grocery stores, specifically the history thereof. Therefore, I was quite interested when I read in Curbed LA that the historic “Marina” style ex-Safeway (now a Vons) at Santa Monica and Barrington is being torn down to be replaced with a Pavilions. Even more interesting was paragraph:

With this new one, the Pavilions just up the street at Wilshire and Stoner will likely close in the next few years, according to officials. The Pavilions project on Santa Monica Boulevard comes on the heels of two recent mixed-use projects in this area, so it looks like gentrification is rearing its head even during the Great Recession.

Now, I remember when that Pavilions went in. It was during the reconstruction at Wilshire and Stoner that replaced a Ralphs with the new store; that Ralphs was previously a Market Basket (I know all this because my parent’s office was at Wilshire and Barrington, right above Diamond Jims). At the time they built that store, it was to serve the senior community at the Barrington Plaza. I guess those seniors have up and died, because no senior is going to be able to walk the hill past Uni Hi to Santa Monica.


I Remember When…

Today’s lunchtime news chum all seems to come from the “I Remember When” era….

  • From the “I Remember When Bozo Meant Something More Than an Insult” Department: One of the earliest children’s TV performers was Bozo the Clown. Originally devised by Capitol Records for children’s records, he moved first to children’s TV on KTTV in Los Angeles, then later many local copies and syndication through Larry Harmon productions. One of the most famous and longest running Bozos was the Chicago production, and the Chicago Tribune has a nice piece on where Bozo and his props are today. Many are still at the station, or awaiting the new home of the Museum of Broadcasting in that area. But Bozo, even today, still seems to hold a fond place in people’s hearts.

    In other children’s TV news, Freight Train Wayne from the Engineer Bill show has died.

  • From the “I Remember When Schools Had Chalkboards” Department: The Sacramento Bee has a nice piece on what may be the last school in Sacramento County to have a chalkboard. It appears that chalkboards, and even whiteboards, are disappearing from schools, being replaced with electronic whiteboards with touchable computerized screens. Some teachers don’t care. Some prefer the old fashioned chalk that permitted you to combine colors (something a whiteboard doesn’t do well), and can produce shading, and can be done without requiring power.
  • From the “I Remember When Leykis was political talk on KFI” Department: Radio in Los Angeles is ever shifting, and it appears another shift is happening Friday, when at the end of Tom Leykis’ program at 5pm, KLSX 97.1 will drop talk radio and become Top 40. Evidently, all host contracts have been cancelled, and the talk is going. Some, like Adam Carolla, will be moving to podcasts. I don’t know what is happening to Leykis (may be NSFW) — Westwood One has already dropped his syndication, but when I caught a bit the other day, he seemed to be promoting his show. No great loss, really, as his show had become a parody of itself. I miss his KFI days, though, when he actually did political talk quite well. As for what KLSX is becoming: The format, described as playing “all the hits,” will also be online at (don’t visit if flashing does you in). Artists will include Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Rihanna, T.I., Kanye West, Usher, Britney, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, and Katy Perry, among others. Needless to say, I won’t be listening to it.
  • From the “I Remember When The Mets Played at Shea” Department: They did, but they can’t anymore. The last piece of Shea Stadium came down yesterday. Now what will the pilots use as a reference?

Friday News Chum

With everything going on this week, and the financial gloom-and-doom, there hasn’t been much interesting chum out there on the newswires. But I do have a little for you:

  • From the “Insert Your Hillary Clinton Joke Here” Department: We’ve all heard about stem cells, and their potential benefit to curing diseases. We’ve also all heard about how research on them has been stymied because their primary source was human embryos, and we all know how the current administration feels about that. Well, according to the LA Times, a new source has been found: Testicles. Specifically, using the testicular cells of adult men, researchers have grown muscle, nerve and other kinds of tissue. Scientists have also derived flexible adult stem cells from skin, amniotic fluid and menstrual blood.They are theoretically superior to traditional embryonic stem cells because they can be obtained directly from male patients and used to grow replacement tissue that their bodies won’t reject. However, they do result in a lot of wincing.
  • From the “You Know the Economy is Bad When…” Department: The New York Times is reporting that as the economy has been tanking, sales of safes have gone up. The metal vaults are so popular in some parts of the country that shoppers are depleting store supplies. True, safes don’t pay interest, but they also don’t lose major value overnight. Unless, of course, someone breaks into them.
  • From the “That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles” Department: I’m sorry to report another casualty of the economy: Mother’s Cookies is going bankrupt after 92 years (the filing also includes Archway Cookies). As mark_evanier notes, Mothers was best known for its Sugar Cookies, Double Fudge Cookies, Oatmeal Cookies, Flakey Flix and a childhood fave of mine, Circus Animal cookies. Circus Animal Cookies were animal crackers with a layer of magenta or vanilla frosting plus a sprinkling of rainbow sugar nonpareils. Children will sorely miss them.
  • From the “And Another One Takes the Cake” Department: Older children also have something to miss. Chucko, the Birthday Clown, has died. Now this is one icon of LA Children’s TV that I don’t remember, but I have read about. Chucko was on KABC-TV Channel 7 from 1955 to 1963 and on KTTV Channel 11 from 1963 to 1964 (translation: I was 4 when he went off the air). Chucko was known for a spinning merry-go-round hat with his name on it, a half red and half red-and-white-striped clown suit with a fluffy Elizabethan-style collar and cuffs, and white gloves; and he had arching blue eyebrows on a white face with a rhinestone-tipped nose and an upturned red smile. In this outfit, he walked the streets of San Francisco unnoticed. (crickets). His primary sponsors were Barbara Ann bread and Flex Straws–and I have a vague memory of Chucko on packages of those straws. Yes, just like the Sheriff, he had a birthday song: “Here’s a hap, hap, happy birthday from me (that’s me), to you (that’s you). . . .” Now, you’re probably asking yourself: Why a Birthday Clown? Isn’t it obvious? The idea behind Chucko, as his wife Millie once put it, was “if Christmas has Santa Claus, and Halloween has a witch, and Easter a bunny, why shouldn’t kids’ birthdays have a clown?”
  • From the “Baby, Remember my Name” Department: Casting has been announced for the upcoming remake of the movie “Fame”. The MGM film, according to the Hollywood Reporter, will feature Kristy Flores as a dancer named Rosie, Paul Iacono as filmmaker Neil, Paul McGill a gay dancer named Kevin, Naturi Naughton as a classical pianist named Denise, Kay Panabaker as actress Jenny, Kherington Payne as ballerina Alice, Collins Pennie as an artist named Malik, Walter Perez as a musician named Victor and Anna Maria Perez de Tagle as Joy Moy. Thomas Dekker is currently in negotiations to play Marco, a singer, and Debbie Allen, who played strict dance teacher Lydia in the original Alan Parker film, may have a cameo in the remake. The adult roles have yet to be cast. I, for one, am hoping they do the clever thing, and get some of kids who were in the original movie and TV series to show up as teachers in the remake. The new “Fame” is scheduled for release in September 2009.