One Ringee Dingee

Things I didn’t know my children didn’t know until we went to the Museum of Communications

  • How to dial a rotary phone.
  • How to listen for a dial tone.
  • What a switchhook was.
  • How to hold the switchhook down to hang up and then release to get a dial tone.
  • That you had to lift the receiver to dial.
  • What a busy signal sounded like.
  • Why a busy signal existed.

The Muskovian Candidate

My love of the remarkable film, The Manchurian Candidate, just intersected with the supposition about Donald Trump's strange love for and connection with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and the use of his daughter, Ivanka, to whitewash his personality at the RNC. May I introduce The Muskovian Candidate.

This movie is not suitable for children under 13, children 13 or over, or any audience. Rated R for he's really not Republican.

Stately Plump Jonathan Franzen Surveys Things of His Own Making

“I don’t like to hire people to do work that I can do,” [Jonathan Franzen] says. So that means he does his own dusting in the New York apartment he shares with his girlfriend? Franzen looks slightly shifty. “We do have a cleaner…

“I repainted our guest room this summer in our rather small house in Santa Cruz.…If I had hired someone, it would’ve been done better, and I was very sick of doing it by the end, and yet it seemed important. The first two coats I enjoyed and the third coat I was getting tired of it and the fourth coat was just sheer torture."

Financial Times, 9 October 2015

Franzen looked down into the terraced pit. It was now all his.

"You never did say what you wanted to buy an iron mine for, Mr. Franzen," said the weather-beaten manager.

"Never mind, Philip," Franzen said kindly, although from lofty heights, "I have my reasons."


Franzen felt the heat of the blast furnace as he shoveled in pig iron to create the steel he needed for printing plants and trucks, for his lumber mill saws and typewriters.

Hefting an axe over his shoulder, Franzen strode boldly into the forest, as if on seven-league boots. "These trees are worthy to form the pages of my books," he said to the birds and squirrels.

A knife clenched between his teeth, Franzen leapt from the deck of the ship, a ship he had built himself from the wood of his forest, the iron of his pit.

Down he swam, down past the limits of human endurance and of sanity, to find the squid that would surrender ink for his pages.


"Mr. Franzen, I know that many authors have owned bookstores or set up shops. Larry McMurtry, for instance. But I'm intrigued about the choices you made for yours."

"To build the shop with my own hands? To make all the shelves? To create a new form of currency? To program the cash register?"

"Yes, yes, all that. But also, selling just the one book. That one you wrote."

"My plan has come together."


Franzen looked around his shop and the awkward customers who tried to avoid eye contact. It was dusty. Perhaps he should hire someone to take care of that.

Power Shaving to the People!

“This shave is so smooth, comrade. How did you get such a decadent blade!?”

“Natasha, is not decadent—it is revolutionary!”

Chorus: “Byyyyyyy Lenin"

We liked the factory that makes the blades so much, we seized the means of production.

We send a handle, three blades, and a Molotov cocktail to your door.

The Lenin: such a sharp razor, it doesn’t leave marks.

That Simpsons Bit Wasn't a Joke

I always thought the bit where Mr. Burns briefly turns off the power plant to spite a strike among his workers was a joke ("Last Exit to Springfield"; script). You know, he and Smithers go through an array of high-security doors, including a facial recognition system that literally recognizes the shape of his face. Then they wind up in the control room, which has a faulty screen door and a dog has wandered in.

"Oh, for God's sake!  (slams door shut)  Good bye, Springfield. From Hell's heart, I stab at thee!"

"Oh, for God's sake! (slams door shut) Good bye, Springfield. From Hell's heart, I stab at thee!"

This has always been a favorite scene of mine, but in reading John McPhee's 1980 book The Curve of Binding Energy, about a former nuclear-bomb designing genius' concern about the ease of bomb making, I came across this amazing passage (in image) from a report by the Atomic Energy Commission—an agency since dissolved and its function moved elsewhere—about spot inspections of some private outfits handling nuclear fuel:

Now I'm wondering if the writers of this episode, Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky, read the book?!


The episode also has the great dialog:

HOMER
Who is it?

VOICE
Goons.

HOMER
Who?

VOICE
Hired Goons.

HOMER
(opening door) Hired Goons?

The goons grab Homer roughly and take him away.

A New Economy Discovered in My Own House: Derrick Dollars

Derrick dollars in production.

As a business reporter, I’m always looking for unique economic angles in the new economy. Recently, while walking through my house, I encountered a new economy worker producing a form of scrip for an economy I was unaware of, denominated in Derrick dollars. Here’s the interview, published with the subject’s consent.

Glenn: Who makes Derrick dollars?

Rex (age 8): Any valid Derrick dollar worker. You need a membership card to create valid Derrick dollars.

G: What is Derrick’s role in Derrick dollars?

R: First in command. There are commands. The reason people make Derrick dollars for him is to get higher in command. By the time I finish all of these I am absolutely certain he will rank me second in command

G: What do you get for being higher in command?

R: It means if Derrick is not at school, if you are second in command, you are in charge. If you’re lower rank, you’re trying to be higher, because a lot of people have to be out of school for you to be in charge.

G: Is there any limit to the number of Derrick dollars that can be created?

R: No, you’re trying to create as many as possible to go up higher in rank.

G: That would cause inflation. Each dollar would seem to be worth less if you create more of them.

R: Not really.

G: What can you use Derrick dollars for?

R: To buy anything that’s being sold for Derrick dollars.

G: What is being sold for Derrick dollars?

R: Dudeize cards, paper crafts, chompies (they’re those things that can chomp on things).

G: What are Dudeize cards?

R: They’re cards that have Dudeize members names on them, and pictures on them.

G: Who are Dudeize members?

R: Members of the Dudeize soccer team. It is a soccer team at school.

G: So you can create as many Derrick dollars as you want?

R: That’s true, but there is a limit to how many Derrick dollars members can spend from the Derrick dollars members they make. They have to turn all their Derrick dollars in. They get a paycheck from Derrick.

G: Derrick is the central bank?

R: He’s the first in command.

G: Does he ever destroy Derrick dollars?

R: Sometimes he says they are too big or too small. But that doesn’t matter to me, because I just put them in his desk and afterwards he doesn’t notice.

G: People are making Derrick dollars, giving Derrick the Derrick dollars, Derrick chooses how much to pay his workers in Derrick dollars, and the only thing Derrick dollars buy are paper crafts?

R: True, people are making Derrick dollars and giving them to Derrick. But anything that is going to be sold for Derrick dollars — most commonly they are paper crafts — but anything that is being sold for Derrick dollars can be paid for with Derrick dollars.

G: Who is making things for purchase with Derrick dollars?

R: Robert, the Dudeize team, and a lot of other people.

G: So you make Derrick dollars for rank?

R: Second in command gets the highest paycheck. You get the paycheck each day depending on how many you turn it. If you turn in 10 and you’re fourth in command, you get one for your paycheck; if you make 10 and you’re second in command, you get five in your check.

G: Is this a stable system?

R: As I said before, you do need a Derrick dollars membership to produce valid Derrick dollars.

G: How do you get Derrick dollars membership?

R: You just have to sign up on the Derrick dollars sign up sheet.

G: Does he turn anybody down?

R: No, unless they’ve been known to be opposed to Derrick dollars.

G: Why would someone opposed to Derrick dollars sign up?

R: To spy on Derrick.