Cecil B. Junior….Home Movies

Tiny, but a giant in capabilities.

Tiny, but a giant in capabilities.

A few weeks ago I began a project of epic proportions; I attempted to burn 30 years worth of old home movies onto DVD‘s. Well, I didn’t just attempt it, I did it.

After I’d completed the transfer to video, (a process that took several afternoons) I produced a copy for each of our children. Some ten days after the fact, our daughter Michele called to let me know that she had played her set of disks, and was happy with the result. What made me write this column, was that her husband Jeff, when watching the old films asked: “Where’s the sound?”. Michele, having been raised in a household where her father usually had a movie camera, or video camera either attached to an eye, or certainly close by, explained to her hubby what I’m going to tell you.

For those of you who may feel that “old home movies” were filmed using a video camera, (with sound) and transferred onto video tape, I have news. Home movies have been around since Thomas Edison’s time. The first movies were shaky, for they were filmed with hand cranked cameras. A strip of film passed through the gate of the camera, and was exposed at a hoped for 18 frames of film per second.

By my era, cameras were much smaller than Tom’s, used color film and were powered by a hand wound, spring motor. Each roll of 8mm film delivered 3½ minutes of movies; but still, no sound. Not that I wouldn’t have loved to have sound, but that was not available for the home movie maker.

The first home movies I made were produced during the first year my wife Sharon and I were dating. I continued to film any occasion I deemed noteworthy.

I’m in hog heaven now, because I can make HD color movies with sound, and, without worrying about a 3½ minute time limit. And, I can take the raw video, and edit it in my computer. How great is that?

My latest camcorder (shown above) is a tiny Samsung that set me back less than $150, and takes amazing video. I also have a larger Canon, that cost 10 times as much, but isn’t 10 times better . I always have a couple of batteries charged and ready; for most other camcorder owners in our family rarely have a fully charged battery within a mile of their camera. Not Pop, no, my gear is always ready for any recordable event—not that it’s always been that way, for until I started buying a spare battery or two for my current camera, I was left up the dead battery creek many times.

I think the most frequently heard phrase when I drag out the camera, is: ”Don’t video me, my hair’s a mess!” Or, the victim throws a hand in front of the lens or, over their face, leaving me with little of the retreating subject matter to film.

I take what I can get.

Over the years I have “filmed” many hundreds of hours of video; video that sometimes is actually viewed by the family. I’ve discovered is that there is a certain reluctance on the part of family members to return to those days already lived, unless there is truly something worthwhile to view. Quite often, I find an audience consisting of just myself, pretending that what I am viewing is interesting.

Possibly after I’m ancient history, one of my ancestors will find a dusty box of old DVD’s, search for a similarly antique DVD player, and watch what passed for “home movies” way back when.

Yep, Jeff, my antecedents, and possibly yours, will see those images, and say: “Where’s the 3-D?”.

Seems like the more things change, the more they seem the same.

Posted in Hobbies, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cyberspace Travel

I visited Bangladesh or even possibly Katmandu, the other day. I’m not sure which.

I love to travel, and, in fact, to visit such an exotic place as Katmandu, could be very exciting, since many of the mountaineering stories I enjoy get their start in Katmandu.

However, I wasn’t readying myself for a high altitude adventure, no, I was merely attempting to contact a company’s customer service department. A year or so ago, when I had occasion to call to the same department, I was quickly routed to a human of obvious Midwestern USA origins.

My questions were quickly and efficiently answered, a solution to my problem soon found. I ended the call and I moved on to other tasks. So this time, when I sat down to make my call, I assumed that within a few minutes I’d have the problem resolved, and could head for the dinner table—since my wife had advised me that: “Dinner is ready!” (The exclamation mark is hers.) I foolishly answered that I’d “be there in a minute.” I didn’t know of my pending visit to the other side of the world.

This has nothing to do with this post, but I wanted you to see I can  catch fish

This has nothing to do with this post, but I wanted you to see I can catch fish

The first change I discovered when I dialed the almost familiar number was, that the first “person” to take my call wasn’t. It was some recording of another Mid-westerner, a gentleman who decided that this would be a good time for me to tell my life story, and answer few hundred pointless questions; in order for him to: “direct your call to the proper department.” He also electronically informed me that: “Your call is very important to us, so please be patient.” What he didn’t say was, and should have said, is: “I’m not a real person, I don’t sleep, drink, drive, or eat dinner, so honestly, I don’t care how long this takes.”

Something else I noticed, was that the outfit who had recorded this electronic waste of time, included special little tricks and phrases, like: “Okay, I get that.”, or “ Just a minute while I jot this down.” That would have been quite an achievement for our robotic whiz. Minutes later, (after receiving several other ignored dinner reminders) I was transferred to a real person. In Katmandu. Or Bangladesh. “What is your name?” he asked, adding: “Mine is Bob.” At least I think he said Bob.

“What is the nature of your problem?” I could have told him that at that very moment, I had just had my dinner dumped in my lap, but I knew he wasn’t interested in a difficulty of that sort. I attempted to explain to “Bob“, just what the reason for my far-reaching call was, but I quickly realized that frankly, he didn’t grasp my problem anymore than I understood his solution.

My wife was threatening another food delivery, so I finished my call by asking Bob, “How’s the weather there in Katmandu?” There was a pause. “I am sorry sir, I am unable to give that information.”

So, I hung up, realizing that the only question that I asked that he could have possibly answered in a way that I could understand, was off limits. So was my trip to Katmandu.

I later noticed the company had a website, and a customer service link. I wonder, do you suppose Bob will be the one to man the website as well?

And by the way, tell me if you can, just what is this little gizmo?

Okay friends, whazzit?

Okay friends, whazzit?

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Be Mine

About a week before Valentine’s Day, each of us in Mrs. Zenino’s 4th grade class began to think about constructing our personal Valentine boxes. The box that she deemed most spectacular would receive a special prize.

I liked prizes.

Valentine boxes as far as we boys were concerned, pushed the envelope of masculinity. Certainly, we could never let any of our friends (or non-friends) think that we were even remotely interested in the opposite sex. Occasionally that was put to the test, when we were in a mixed group, and one of the girls wanted to play “Post Office”, or “Spin the Bottle”.

Both of these games usually meant that someone was going to have to kiss someone else—someone else like a girl.

Valentines wouldn't hold up my pants

Valentines wouldn’t hold up my pants

Anyway, the prize was the thing, and even though I liked to find a few Valentine cards in my carefully crafted receptacles, what I really wanted that year was the prize. It was a “pencil box“, made from brightly colored cardboard, and contained a trove of school supplies. The fancier boxes (as the prize was) usually had several little drawers holding their treasures.

So, drawing upon my vast experience as a Valentine box creator, and adding a little input from my older brother who was gifted with an artistic bent, and a bit from my mom, who could provide the feminine touch, I planned my box.

My creation was not to be just a shoe box wrapped in crepe paper, no, in my mind’s eye, it would be irresistible to both the card giver, and, hopefully, Mrs. Zenino, who incidentally happened to be one of the few teachers who may have actually had some affection for me.

So, using the tools at hand, the construction began. I used my share of crepe paper, construction paper, and paper paste, and the box began to take shape. I worked, and my pit crew assisted. Ignoring the bits of paper and paste stuck to my various limbs, within a few hours, I felt I had the ultimate Valentine box.

The day before Valentine’s Day, I trundled my creation to the classroom, and placed it where Mrs. Zenino indicated. There were many favorable comments from my classmates, and best of all, she liked it too. Now I awaited the judging. When the dust settled, I didn’t win the pencil box, however I did collect a few Valentine cards, and best of all, I didn’t have to kiss any girls.

That revulsion was short lived, for within just a few years, I came to like kissing girls.

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Papa Mike’s Spaghetti Recipe

Alright spaghetti fans, for those who haven’t partaken, according to my family, my spaghetti recipe is their favorite. It doesn’t require you to sit at the stove for hours, nor does it have to simmer for days on end. It will be ready to serve in an hour.

The ingredients are:
Olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 Large can tomato sauce
1 Large onion diced
1 small can sliced mushrooms (if you like)
1 cup red wine
Italian seasonings (Basil etc.) or use an Italian spice mix
1 rnded tsp Chopped garlic
1 tsp sugar

Pour a generous amount of olive oil in a large skillet or electric frying pan, when hot, dump in diced onions, and allow them to brown nicely. Then drain the mushrooms and add to onions. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, then crumble your ground beef into the pan, stirring until it is nicely browned. Add the garlic, black pepper (we like lots of pepper) and salt to taste. Next add the Italian spices and the cup of wine, cover, and let simmer for 10 or 15 minutes. Lastly, add the tomato sauce, recover the pan, and let it simmer until you want to serve it.

Son Patrick and I in our spaghetti cooking garb, with a special tool of the trade.

Son Patrick and I in our spaghetti cooking garb, with a special tool of the trade.

The secret is to add a teaspoon of sugar or sweetener to cut the sour taste of the tomato sauce. Double check for seasoning, and whatever you deem necessary i.e. more salt, pepper, sweetener, etc.

Let it simmer away until your pasta is ready, and serve to your spaghetti lovers.

Call me when it’s ready

Posted in Cooking, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Christmas Miracle

In the spring of 1946, when the girl of my dreams was a skinny, knobby kneed little girl with a head full of dark ringlets, she and her family moved from urban Salt Lake City, to rural Orem, Utah.

Her parents, Al and Isabelle Lupus, purchased a run-down 10 acre farm, that included an old house. It wasn’t much of a house, it was a ramshackle place that needed lots of work.

Al was a carpenter by trade, and immediately set to work to make the place habitable. Before he began, he erected a tent for the family to live in while he gutted the house. So, that summer, the family of five, lived a rather Spartan life. Meals were picnics, and baths were taken in the tent, in an old wash tub.

LaWana, Isabelle, Al, and in his lap, Sharon. (The year before the move to Orem)

LaWana, Isabelle, Al, and in his lap, Sharon. (The year before the move to Orem)

By the time the leaves began to change color, and as the nights grew colder, the campout lost it’s fun factor. Thankfully, before the first snow fell, Al moved the family into an improvised, (but heated) combination bedroom and living area in the basement. The bathroom was finished, so bathing was more civilized, and the kitchen was completed too. They almost had a home.

When Thanksgiving rolled around, Sharon and her sister LaWana thought about Christmas. “Where in the world will Mom and Dad put the Christmas tree?” they wondered. They knew there wasn’t room in the basement, and the rest of the house was a construction zone. “Not in the living room, that‘s for sure.” They both agreed, for it was blocked off, while Al continued to work on it.

The week before Christmas, their parents made furtive trips into the blockaded living room. Sharon and LaWana, pestered them about a Christmas tree, and wondered: “How will Santa find us? He doesn’t know we live in the basement.”. The girls hadn’t seen any mysterious packages enter the house either, as they had in the years before the move. “Maybe Mom and Dad have forgotten about Christmas.” The worried little girls whispered to one another, as they snuggled in their bed.

Christmas Eve arrived, and still no tree, and apparently no gifts. They went to bed that night, not knowing what to expect the next morning. Both girls had asked for dolls and velvet dresses. Gifts they had hoped they would find under the tree….but, they knew there was no tree. They drifted off to sleep.

Early Christmas morning, Al and Isabelle woke the girls, and Al gathered both of them in his arms, and took them upstairs to the renovated living room. “Surprise!” Both parents exclaimed. There in the middle of the room was the most beautiful Christmas tree the girls had ever seen. “Santa did find us! Santa did find us!”, they squealed, as they danced around the glowing tree. Displayed underneath were those beautiful dolls and the velvet dresses they had dreamt about. “It’s a miracle!” they said, “It‘s a miracle!”.

I hope there’s a miracle in the offing for your family this year.

Merry Christmas!

(This story was published in Reminisce Magazine’s current Christmas Book.)

Posted in Christmas, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

If the shoe fits

I recall a time many years ago, when I must have been about 10 years old, and sorely lacking in the shoe department. My step-dad was a painter, and in Alaska, the winter season created more rest days for him than work days, and as a result, the cash flow was sometimes minimal; and sometimes ceased. Possibly it was during one of those times of reduced family income, that I was gifted with a pair of used shoes. A pair of men’s shoes, that were even at first glance, not what you’d find on the hooves of a ten year old. The worst of it was that they fit. So, here I was, with a ten year old pair of feet, clad in a matched set of shoes more “fitting” of a seasoned citizen.

I made the best of it, and endured the stares and stones of my peers. It wasn’t a happy time.

Maybe twenty-five years ago, I bought a pair of navy blue shoes — they were almost black. Almost. It was the almost factor that created the problem; “Mike, are my eyes fooling me, or are those shoes, BLUE?” But, because the shoes were made of kangaroo leather, (very soft and comfortable) and I bought them for a great price, I loved them. Yet, I reluctantly moved them to the back of the closet, and instead wore black.

But just recently, another shoe issue popped up. Again, it was fashion. It seems good friend, Jim Lutz and I were to attend an affair where formalwear was required, and Jim queried me as to my choice in shoes for the soiree. I explained that I had a nifty pair of black shoes; dress shoes, that just needed a good polishing.

My oh my, would I be caught dead in these? I would hope not.

My oh my, would I be caught dead in these? I would hope not.

“I don’t know, Mike, I’ve got some patent leather jobs that I plan to wear.” The issue, it seems, was finish. I’m thinking that a patent leather shod Mike Foley, isn’t the image I usually portray.

We made a stop on the way, at a formal wear shop, hoping I might find suitably shiny shoes, but, the only pair on the premises that might fit, would have required a major pruning of my pedal digits, so, it was the semi-shiny, not too comfortable dress shoes for me.

As we neared the event, still, the thought that I may be under-shod, was in my mind. “What if,” I thought, “what if everyone but me, is wearing patent leather?” Well, as it turned out, when we arrived, I found that I was in the majority; most of the attendees were dressed in anything but patent leather pumps. There were black sneakers, black work shoes, and ordinary black shoes.

I looked at Jim‘s sparkly shoes, and thought to myself: ”You know, if I’d worn that wonderful old pair of blue shoes, I‘d still be in style; and comfortable.”

Posted in Clothing, Fashion, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Flowery Food

My life partner and I had dinner a while back in a nice restaurant. When I picked up the menu….after the shock of the price had somewhat worn off, I was taken by the descriptions of the food offered.

It seems they couldn’t simply depict their offerings in real terms; for example, rather than tout their mashed potatoes as “mashed potatoes”, their spud offering was shown instead, as something akin to: “our creamy, fluffy clouds of Idaho‘s finest potatoes.”. Gag me with a spoon. Let me be the judge, I’ll be the first to tell you if I’ve just enjoyed a fluffy potato cloud, or if your fluffy cloud has lumps in it large enough to down a 747.

Flowery terms don’t guarantee one a great meal, I can promise you that. I would prefer just a straightforward menu entry, one that I can decipher, without having to summon a waitperson to translate. That said, I think that flowery portrayals seem to, well, really bloom, when it comes to wine.

I’m not a wine drinker, although I have in the past, consumed my share of the beverage. However, I was more concerned with the quantity rather than the quality…or at least what wine critics determine to be quality. For instance, at another restaurant, when dining with friends, our dinner partners ordered some kind of wine buffet. They were each served three small glasses of three different wines. To someone of my unsophisticated tastes, it appeared that two were red, one white. Resting around the stem of each glass, was a small paper disk.

Each disk identified the wine to the imbiber, so the sipper would know what qualities they should be able to detect; providing they were wine savy. One disk declared that it was a “Pinot Noir” I comprehend enough French to figure out that Noir means “dark”. Don’t expect me to tell you what “Pinot” means. Anyway, the label went on to tell the imbiber that the wine was: “Light bodied and exhibits black cherry, raspberry, cranberry,” and get this, “Vanilla.” This was delivered with a “light, earthy aroma and a smooth finish.”

I took a sniff from the glass, attempting to avoid depositing any stray fragments of moustache, or H1N1, lest our dining partners be afflicted, and after giving it much thought, it seemed to me, to have much the same qualities as the Gallo Burgundy I used to decant in much more generous servings. I definitely didn’t sense any raspberries or cranberries in the bouquet, and not even the most meager hint of vanilla.

As far as the “smooth finish”, well, I’m afraid that the term would be more appropriate describing the varnish on a dining room table, than a glass of red wine.

Guess I’m just old fashioned, so if you decide to invite me out, for a fancy dinner, no need to attach a descriptive tag to the diet cola, I don’t need to know that it is “light bodied, and exhibits hints of coal tar, and household bleach”, I’ll just down it without a thought, and pray for a “smooth finish”.

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I’ll Do It Myself

Those fatal words. “I’ll do it myself.” Words usually uttered after what you perceive to be a ridiculous quote from a tradesman for a project around the house…..after you are given the price for the job, and the initial shock wears off. You feign a devil may care attitude, and you tell him: “We’ll talk it over and give you a call.” Let’s face it, there won’t be any call, you’ve already made up your mind…..you’ll do it yourself.

Your spouse isn’t quite so sure that your decision is the right one, she probably remembers a few earlier attempts to tackle projects better left to the professionals….and after making a mess of things, she called a pro to undo your mistakes.

Forget the past; it‘s a new day, and a new project. “It’ll be a snap, honey, all I need is a couple of things from the hardware store, and I’ll have it done in no time.” I admire positive thinking, but, I’ve found myself in similar situations, and my children learned many expressive words from my DIY projects. And, they learned that there was never a project, that required only one trip to the hardware store.

I recall a time when popcorn ceilings were all the rage, and I was re-doing our basement recreation room. We wanted such a ceiling. I had a quote from a pro for the job, but, as you can guess; I opted to do the work. “It’ll be a snap, honey.” I said to an already skeptical spouse. What I can tell you is this: It was a job straight from hell. Never in my life, have I created such a mess. Nowhere in the instructions did it say I had to eliminate all of the lumps in the plaster mixture….at least when I read them the first time.

A fine mess...of fish, but just wait until I begin to apply the popcorn ceiling...

A fine mess…of fish, but just wait until I begin to apply the popcorn ceiling…

I mixed the gunk up in a garbage can, and from that, loaded the hopper on the application gun. When I tipped the gun back to spray the ceiling, several quarts of popcorn plaster poured out of the open top, and all over the applier, (me) and the rest on the floor. The lumps in the gunk, continually clogged the gun, and I had to stop every couple of minutes to clear it. By the time I finished the job. I had exhausted my cuss word lexicon, and had ruined the floor, my watch, clothes, and almost ruined the rented equipment.

When the gear was returned, the garbage can cleaned, and the popcorn ceiling had dried, the finished project looked okay, however, we had to have carpeting installed, because we were unable to remove the residue from the tile floor.

The folks who bought the home from us a few years later, probably took one look at that popcorn, and said in unison: “That’s got to go!”. And, they may have decided to get an estimate from a pro, and, subsequently, studying their options, the man of the house no doubt turned to his wife and said: “Don’t worry honey, I’ll do it myself……..it’ll be a snap”.

Take a guess if you please: What is it?

It's no antique

It’s no antique

Posted in Do-it-yourself, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Coward of the county

Several years back, Kenny Rogers, a musician/singer/composer of note, wrote and performed a song entitled, “Coward Of The County”—-color me him (the coward). I have been a renowned fraidy-cat for most of my life, since way back when. The first cowardly instance I recall, was when my brother Lowell attempted to teach me to swim. I was six years old and proceeded to terrify me with the much magnified details of the drowning death of a little neighbor girl. Afterwards, there wasn’t any way, save rendering me unconscious, that he’d ever get me near any body of water larger than a bathtub.

I only looked like I wasn't afraid..

I only looked like I wasn’t afraid..

Next, was the fear of fisticuffs (other than sibling walloping) with the school bullies. Yes, folks, sad to say; I was wimpish. Rather than stick around and take it like a man, I relied on speed. The fact that I lived just a half-block from school was a lifesaving convenience.

Let me tell you of one instance, when I opted to fight, rather than flee. Briefly, it was “Pee-the-pants” with whom I skirmished. He was one of the smallest kids in our 5th grade class, and I was soon to discover, he was also one of the most adept in the art of self defense. After a brief verbal exchange, “PTP” quickly demonstrated what fists were for.

The next hurdle was in the form of two-wheeled transportation. I was even petrified of bicycles—–especially if I imagined myself astride one. Our corner of Alaska wasn’t prime bike country, Douglas had only one paved street the rest being dirt, or, most typically, mud. Not to be deterred by mud streets, my seemingly fearless brother bought a second-hand bike for a few dollars. To me, it seemed much too daunting to learn to ride, especially after I was bucked off a time or two. Several years later, we moved to Utah, I at twelve, finally accumulated enough nerve to master bike riding

After the move, I found several new challenges facing me: First was a school initiation for incoming 7th graders. It was then, that I made myself scarce until all the hoopla had settled down, thereby avoiding the paddle and other tortures upper classmen inflicted on skinny, pre-teen bodies.

Next on the list was a fear of things equine. Horses in Alaska were seen only in the Saturday movie matinees, not lolling their heads over the neighbors corral fence. But, soon after our move, my step-dad bought an antique mare, “Blanca”. The horse knew I was terrified, for she, in just one brief ride, convinced me that I’d make a lousy cowboy, cowgirl, bronc rider or fox hunter. I’ve never attempted it again. Once was good enough for me.

Carnivals were new to me as well, and a few months after Blanca’s departure I visited a traveling carnival’s midway, and was attracted to the rides. A friend encouraged me to accompany him on the “Hammer”—-a fiendish device, no doubt invented primarily as a mechanical method of curing constipation. It worked for me—-but again, only once.

These instances kept me in a constant state of unease, since I never knew when some one would blindside me with an invitation to bike, swim, take a horseback ride, or heaven forbid, visit a carnival. No, when you’re the coward of the county, you take a dim view of anything that might make you uncomfortable, or, fearful.

By the way, would you like to hear about my most terrifying airplane trip?

I didn’t think you would.

By the way, here’s a gadget for you to identify:

What ever could it be?

What ever could it be?

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A child could do it

My favorite wife and most reliable critic, suggested some time ago, that I write about “packaging“. It wasn’t until just last night, when Warren Krise, another frequent donor of dubious ideas, revealed that he also felt irritating packaging was column worthy.

Think back if you will, to those wonderful days of yesteryear, when the stuff you bought was provided in packages you could open without the aid of a can opener, machete, pliers, chainsaw, or dynamite. Remember those purchases of Elvis’ compilations on vinyl discs? There was a simple plastic wrap around the album that a fingernail could easily pierce. Possibly you may also recall, the days before some nut poisoned some Tylenol capsules, killing several folks, because prior to that, you opened the bottle with a twist of the wrist, and voila, there was your pain killer.

I hope you've got a good dentist

I hope you’ve got a good dentist

Nowadays when you buy a box of aspirin, you’ll no doubt find that the outer package is glued tighter than a miser’s billfold. But just because you opened the outer box doesn’t mean you’re home free, for there is still the pesky bit of plastic wrap around the lid, then the lid itself, (childproof it is) and once that hurdle is cleared, you have yet another obstacle, the seal under the lid. It peels off, and the container is finally open. Thinking the battle is won, your fingers feel the wad of cotton between you and pain relief.

But it’s not only aspirin that irks, how about CD’s and DVD’s? Now, there’s enough unwrapping fun for a family to share. Your favorite music seems to be at hand, almost ready to plop into the player, but, you have to get it out of the fiendishly designed package. The light plastic wrap is a snap, it’s those little seals that are generously applied to every edge that may be utilized to open the box. The manufacturer included little tabs with the words: “Pull to Open” tantalizingly printed upon them. Don’t let it fool you, it’s not that easy. Again, out comes the toolbox; and to think; all you wanted was to relax, and listen to Brahms’s Lullaby.

And then there are those items packaged up in “blister packs”. Here’s an entirely different diversion. A little prior training as a safecracker or demolition expert may come in handy. Most annoying is the fact that the item you’re trying to spring from prison, looks absolutely lovely in it’s crystal sarcophagus—all you need do is open the package.

Good luck.

If opening a package isn’t punishment enough, how about the food you buy bundled up in it’s plastic container, emblazoned with slogans such as: “In our convenient re-sealable package.” Yeah, sure, it looks like a typical Zip-lok bag, but just try and re-seal the left over cheese in it—it requires the patience of Job, and probably another bag from your cupboard, to lay it to rest.

But what if some nerd in a packaging company’s think tank, came up with a package that combined the irritants of difficult opening, with a “re-sealable package” that could not be resealed?

That would be packaging perfection.

What is it? I'll tell you what it's not....it's not a cast iron Praying Mantis

What is it? I’ll tell you what it’s not….it’s not a cast iron Praying Mantis

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