Finally – Some Help for White People

In this digital age there is little chance of going off on a racist rant or other stupid behavior without someone recording it with a smart phone and causing embarrassment or even loss of employment. Niecy Nash decided it was time to help. Now white folks have a hotline to call when they observe African-Americans doing things that don’t seem to be right for persons of color to be doing.

Creeping Memory Loss

Bob Dylan purportedly gave this advice to young songwriters: Don’t write songs with a lot of words; it’s hard to remember ‘em when you get old.

Aaron Neville has been touring, just himself with only piano accompaniment, performing mostly soulful ballads. A music stand close to Neville held a book of song lyrics which he referenced a few times.

Performing solo, John Hiatt stopped in the middle of a song, trying to remember the next lyric. Someone in the audience called out, “Just go ahead with it.” Hiatt responded that a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder couldn’t do that; he has to sing the song from beginning to end. After a few more beats, he smiled, nodded, then re-started the song from the beginning.

Even a much younger singer needs a little help remembering the words… or maybe it was just part of the act.

Preview of Coming Attractions from Michael Lewis

Even if you don’t know Michael Lewis, you probably are familiar with movies based on his non-fiction books: “Moneyball,” “The Big Short,” “Flashboys,” “The Blind Side,” and others. Lewis is very good at explaining financial esoterica in terms that even I can understand. Lewis’s latest offering, “The Fifth Risk,” an account of the dismantling of the government by the current occupant of the White House. The English newspaper, The Guardian, has published an excerpt focused on Chris Christie and the president-elect’s transition team. Fun anecdote from the book:

Christie had made sure that Trump knew the protocol for his discussions with foreign leaders. The transition team had prepared a document to let him know how these were meant to go. The first few calls were easy – the very first was always with the prime minister of Great Britain – but two dozen calls in you were talking to some kleptocrat and tiptoeing around sensitive security issues. Before any of the calls could be made, however, the president of Egypt called in to the switchboard at Trump Tower and somehow got the operator to put him straight through to Trump. “Trump was like … I love the Bangles! You know that song Walk Like an Egyptian?” recalled one of his advisers on the scene.

Potato Scraps

I first saw them on a menu at a McMenamins outpost somewhere in Portland. I thought, Wow, just like Mom used to make heat up in the oven. And they were offered with the option of ranch dressing, not just ketchup. How sophisticated. “Tater Tots,” with capital “T”s, a registered trademark, has become almost a generic term, like “kleenex” or “coke.” Now they’re everywhere. Food writers in cities around the country write up their “10 Best Tots” lists. It’s now hip to eat oldsters’ childhood memories.

Like me, Tater Tots were born in Oregon. Ore-Ida foods, a processor of frozen corn and potatoes in eastern Oregon, hated sending the potato detritus resulting from slicing French fries out for livestock feed. They came up with the idea of chopping the scraps, mixing in a little flour and seasoning, then pushing the mush through an extruder and cutting into bite-sized pieces. Deep fried, then frozen, they arrived in grocery store freezers in 1956.

Tater Tots was a poor seller. Ore-Ida implemented the marketing strategy later employed by Starbucks and others. They raised the price. Consumers decided if they cost that much, they must be good. Sales took off.

H. J. Heinz purchased Ore-Ida in 1965. Americans ate nearly 4 billion of the potato gems in 2017; that’s 70 million pounds.