Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An Ode To My Favorite Gadget

It's that time again! Judith Heartsong's Artsey Essay is wrapping up for this month and I am sneaking in under the deadline with but one full day left to compete.  Here is this months challenge:

An Ode to Your Favorite Gadget

Weave a story about your favorite gadget.... something from the kitchen, the car, the garage, the living room, tool shed or your favorite styling tool. Who knows? It could be anything. Surprise us! Be creative and show us in words or pictures just why your stupendous gadget is the very best. Make sure you spell-check, use colorful and descriptive language, and tell your tale in an engaging way!

You have until the very last minute of the last hour of the last day of this month to spin a yarn to share about your favorite gadget. 

It's not too late for any of you out there to enter, here's the link:  Artsey Essay Contest, and here's my latest effort:

Favorite gadgets, you ask?  I’ve had more than a few over the years and I really had to think long and hard as to which one I’d pick and call my favorite. 

My current camera would have to be given consideration.  It has a dark, black, and mysterious finish to it.  The body is curvaceous and snuggles neatly into my hands as I caress it and coax out its secrets.  I can push buttons and turn knobs for an endless- seeming array of options and settings.  I can make this gadget seem brand new with the simple purchase of a myriad assortment of accessories.  That’s right, put this baby in your hands and feel its sleek design and enticing curves.  Try not to fall for it, go ahead, I dare you!

What really is a gadget, though?  The North America English Edition of the Encarta Dictionary defines gadget as:

1.        Ingenious device

A small device that performs or aids a simple task

2.       trivial device

A small device that appears useful but is often unnecessary or superfluous


Now, my camera is an ingenious device, however, taking a good picture is no simple task, and if one is going to take a picture, a camera is certainly necessary and not superfluous.  I think something along the lines of the 3 foot long thingy with the claw grabber that opens when you push the button on the end of it may qualify as a gadget.  One uses it to reach behind or underneath something to retrieve an object.  It is very useful but, if you move the object that you are reaching behind or underneath, it becomes unnecessary or superfluous.  I really enjoyed getting one of these years ago, but needed to use it only rarely.

Now, when I think of gadgets, one name comes to mind.  That name would be Popeil, as in Ron Popeil who, according to Wikipedia, is the master salesman who won the Nobel Prize in 1993 for Consumer Engineering.  He was described by the awards committee as the “incessant inventor and perpetual pitchman of late night television.”  The only problem with that statement is that there is no such thing as a Nobel Prize for Consumer Engineering.  The IG people named their fun prize awards the IG Nobel Prizes and that is what Ron Popeil actually won.  I thought it was a hoot that someone had written that on Wikipedia and thought I’d let you know it just wasn’t so.  Ron Popeil was, however, honored for all posterity with a display in the Smithsonian Museum.  

I never knew his name until I was an adult, but Ron Popeil had me at a very early age.  I’ll never forget the Pocket Fisherman my Mother gave me as a present one time.  At first, I thought it was cute but unpractical.  I still owned it when I started riding motorcycles with my friend Ken in St. Petersburg, Fl. in 1978.  We loved riding around Tampa Bay and exploring off-the-beaten-road beaches and coves.  We’d stop and admirethe water and wish we had a fishing pole with which to try our luck.  I had never used it before, but remembered this gadget was stored in the closet in a box.  One time, before one of our rides, I took it out and threw it on the bike.

The Pocket Fisherman was only about nine or ten inches long and was a complete spin casting system in one handy unit.  It featured a hinged rod that folded up, a smooth reel with anti-reverse and adjustable drag and a mini-tackle box in the handle.  The best part of all was that Ken had no idea I had it with me.   We found one of the best spots on the water yet and, as Ken and I were admiring the view, I was just waiting for him to say, “Boy, I wish we had a rod and reel with us.”    I didn’t have to wait long.

You should have seen the look on Ken’s face when I pulled out my Pocket Fisherman.  He had seen these advertised on television but could not believe I had one with me that day.  I fished a lure out of the handle and tied it on the line.  I got a strike on my first cast and actually landed a fish on my second one.  We were hooked and carried that gadget with us until we finally wore it slap out.  I’m here to tell you folks, it really worked as advertised!  Reminiscing about the Pocket Fisherman brings me closer to what would have to be my all time favorite gadget.

 First I have to comment on another one of Popeil’s inventions my family owned.  It was the Chop-O-Matic.  Yes,theChop-O-Matic was a little jar with a screw-on lid.  The lid had a hole in the center with a set of blades attached to a shaft going through the lid.  Outside the jar, above the lid, a small round ball-like handle was attached.  Underneath the lid, between the lid and the blade, was a spring system.  You would fill the jar with nuts or an onion or anything else you wanted to chop, screw the lid on, and start pumping the handled up and down thus chopping up whatever might be in the jar.  It was cute, quick to use, but it was superfluous and unnecessary when you considered the time you took to load it, chop, empty, and wash.  I could dice a whole onion with a sharp knife in the amount of time I would spend just cleaning up and washing this little contraption.   Fortunately I did not go out and purchase it, my mother had one and I could use it anytime I wanted to.

I came by my love of gadgets honestly; I inherited this trait from my father.  Dad couldn’t pass up a gadget he took a fancy to, and believe me; he fancied a lot of them in his day.  Every other year my mother would have to completely clean out and reorganize the drawers in the kitchen because of all the gadgets my father would drag home.  There were peelers, scrapers, and corers.  You could find slicers and dicers and knifes.  He had pickers, clippers and chippers.  I’d see pitters, and presses, and all kinds of things that made messes.  I sure do miss him and all of his gadgets!

My all-time favorite gadget was owned by my father and I was not allowed to touch it.  The problem was that when he purchased it I was still but a boy and into everything at the time.  This gadget had sharp blades and I was liable to cut one of my fingers off if I wasn’t careful, so I was just plain old forbidden to use it.  Of course, forbidding me to use it added greatly to the mystique!  You see, this product could slice it and dice it and cut a tomato paper thin with all the seeds still intact.  This product could cut a whole potato into French fries in one second flat, and it is so easy to clean.  But wait, there’s more!  Yes, my favorite gadget of all time is the Veg-O-Matic, invented by Samuel Popeil, and sold and marketed by his famous son, Ron Popeil. 

All of America remembers those incessant TV commercials of the sixties and seventies describing the magic of the Veg-O-Matic and how this gadget would make your life easier.  We would wake up to see Ron Popeil on TV with his Veg-O-Matic and, if you stayed up to watch late night TV, then you were continually bombarded with this sales pitch.  Popeil was the first to buy an extra minute of time for his pitches and his two minute commercials are the forerunner of the modern infomercials.

Dad purchased one of the early models and demonstrated it at home one night when he decided to make hamburgers and French fries.  This contraption had a plastic base that consisted of four legs supporting a center that was high enough off the counter to leave room for the finished product beneath it.  The midsection was square with a round hole in the center.  Different slicing and dicing blades that were round in shape could be fitted into the round center to cutthe desired shape.  I really should saythat the blade holders were round, the blades themselves crossed or crisscrossed the round holder allowing thick slices or thin slices, with the crisscrossed blades producing French fries or diced produce.  The top of the gadget was raised above the circular cutting hole and the supports for the top were fed through holes in the base that kept it perfectly lined up with the cutting area.  Dad would put the potato between the top and the center of the base, aligned directly over the cutting area, and push down on the top, which pushed the produce directly through the circular cutting hole in the midsection.  I was amazed to watch a whole potato be pushed through and come out as French fries.  The tomato slices were so thin as to be impossible.  His diced onions were, like the potatoes, instant and efficient.  I was enthralled by this gadget and was promptly forbidden not to touch it.  Ever!  There are pictures of the Veg-O-Matic on the Internet, but I didn’t have permission to use any of them, so I did not insert one here.

Dad was a pilot in the Air Force and flew a lot.  That meant that he was away quite often during those years and I rarely got to see the gadget in action.  The mystique never died, though, and on those occasions when we was home and pulled it out, I’d hover around and Dad would have a captivated audience as he made short work of all those vegetables.  Because they were afraid I’d hurt myself if I tried to use it, Mom and Dad hid it pretty darn well when he was not using it.

Time passed and the Veg-O-Matic was used less and less.  Part of it was the out of sight, out of mind syndrome and part of it was a reluctance to have to clean up all the individual parts once Dad was finished with it.  I truly thought it had fallen out of the family inventory until either shortly before or shortly after my mother’s death many, many years later.  I was living on our boat at the time and did not have room for any more gadgets and let it out of my grasp. 

I did find a few Veg-O-Matics on sale at Ebay for a very reasonable price, so who knows, I may get to play with one yet.  Paulette is well aware of my proclivity for gadgets, though, and I doubt I would be allowed to consummate any deal on one.  That’s a shame.  Another gadget I would love to get my hands on is the Popeil Showtime Rotisserie.  I’ve been asking for one of those since they first came out and to this day Paulette says absolutely not!  But a man can dream, can’t he?  But wait, there’s more… (wink)!  Y’all have a great week!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Photo Challenge

The new year has been a busy one and I am ashamed I have not been back sooner.  I've been trying to keep current with everyone and have not always commented when I was in a hurry, but I've tried to let just about everyone know I was arround.  I hope the new year is being good to all of you.

I've decided to start doing the weekly photo challenge.  After the Blog Father departed AOL, Marie decided to keep the tradition of the weekly Photo Challenge alive and is graciously hosting this friendly competition. 

The theme for this week's challenge will be Hometown, suggested by Donna.

Select a photo that best represents "Hometown"
This could be something you love about where you live, either your hometown, home state, country....anything that shows your home.  It is your interpretation of "Hometown" or "Home"

Repeat from another post....

[Marie: "Examples; NYC, the city skyline at night.  or  Could be a seaside cottage, or country home.....  I recently was part of a photo challenge & was asked to suggest a theme.
This was mine "Home is where the Heart is"]

You may add something about why you chose this photo.
All entries must have a description of the photo, including when it was taken (the year) & where.   Anything that would be of interest to visitors checking out your image.

There are two catagories, beginner and advanced.  I wanted to enter in the beginner catagory, but I've posted enough pictures over the last three years that I fear I'd get booed out of J-Land.  I swear, this is true:  When I went out this afternoon to shoot the picture for this challenge, I had to read the manual all over again for my camera.  I decided to shoot in a file format I've never tried before and it has taken all afternoon and evening to get to the point of posting a final result.

So, My entry is in the advanced catagory and it is a waterfront scene on the Savannah River.

This is a picture of the Convention Center as seen from River Street on the waterfront of the Savannah River taken today, January 22, 2008 at approximately 3:30pm.  I wanted to take a shot of River Street, but the sun was at the wrong angle for a great shot and I suddenly realized that most of the visitors to our city go to River Street, not Hutchinson Island where the Convention Center is located.  That means that the view they take home of Savannah in their minds is of the Convention Center as seen from River Street.  The tall buliding to the right of the frame is the Westin Hotel.

There are some tugboats docked on a River Street warf in the lower left hand corner of the picture.  These belong to the Moran Company.  There are only two tugboat companies on this river so these boats are a very familiar sight to native residents.

Given my track record, I know you won't believe that I am going to post each and every week now to do this photo challenge.  You know, you may be wrong there.  It was fun getting out and shooting today.  I wanted to enter last week's challenge but events conspired against that happening.  I'm glad I put things aside today and got out there.  I had a blast.

I'll be posting again in a day or two because I have chosen a topic for Judy's Artsey Essay Contest and will be entering that this week as well.

Until then, take care and get out and have some fun with your camera if you have one.