Borax #atozchallenge

Here’s Rosemary DeCamp for 20 Mule Team Borax.

This commercial is from the old syndicated TV series Death Valley Days, which ran from 1952 to 1975 (the last five years were “encore presentations” of the earlier shows). It was an anthology series which told true stories from the American West, and it was sponsored by the Pacific Coast Borax Company, which later became U. S. Borax after merging with U. S. Potash Company. Their primary product was “20 Mule Team Borax,” a laundry product that promised to make your clothes cleaner and smell nicer when added to your regular laundry products, kind of like what Rosemary was talking about.

(So, why “20 Mule Team”? Evidently, before there was a railroad to transport the mined borax from Death Valley, the borax was loaded into big wagons that were then pulled to civilization by 20 mules. The clip shows the end of the program and features an actual mule team pulling one of those wagons.)

The show itself started on radio in 1930 and ran there until 1945. The first host of the TV show (who you see at the end) was Stanley Andrews, “The Old Ranger,” who hosted it until 1964. The next host of the show, in his last acting role, was Ronald Reagan, who advertises Boraxo, a hand soap, in this clip. Also making an appearance is his daughter Patti.

Reagan was succeeded by Robert Taylor, who was then succeeded by Dale Robertson before five years of “encore,” and then it went to TV heaven after 450 episodes.

So, what is borax, anyway? Wikipedia (i.e. The Blogger’s Best Friend™) says that it’s an important source of the element boron and a salt of boric acid. Like boric acid, it’s used as a flame retardant, antiseptic, and insecticide. In small amounts, it’s no more toxic than table salt, and evidently has many health benefits, if Dierdre in this clip is to be believed…

And, of course, it’s an important ingredient in slime (or Flubber, if you prefer), although there’s some debate that either corn starch or contact lens solution might work better. This young lady compares slime made with borax with that made with contact lens solution.

I didn’t realize you could by Elmer’s Glue-All by the gallon…

Bouzouki #atozchallenge


The bouzouki is a string instrument that’s like a mandolin or a 12-string guitar in that its steel strings come in pairs, tuned either in unison or an octave apart. Like a lute, it also has a rounded back. There are two kinds, a trichordo, with three sets of strings, and a tetrachordo, with four. It’s the instrument that gives Greek music its familiar sound.

Trichordo bouzouki (source:Wikipedia, Public Domain)

The trichordo is the original bouzouki. It was introduced to Greece from Turkey around 1900. The pair closest to the player (on top) are tuned an octave apart, the other two pairs are tuned in unison. Here are Lakis Karnezis and Kostas Papadopoulos on trichordos, playing a familiar tune.

The tetrachordo was developed in the 1950’s and was made popular by Manolis Chiotis, who tuned it like a guitar, much to the chagrin of purists. Here are Mr. Chiotis with singer Mary Linda with “Laos kai Kolonaki” and “Pare me sto tilefono,” from the 1959 movie Laos kai Kolonaki.

Kind of reminds me of Django Reinhardt…

In the mid-1960’s, Johnny Moynihan introduced the bouzouki to Irish music, and soon the Irish bouzouki evolved, with a flatter back, four pairs of strings, and tuned differently than the original instrument. Here is YouTube user TijnB42, who appears to be Dutch, with the reel “MacArthur Road.” You can see how different from the original instrument the Irish one is.

So we have a Dutch player of a Greek instrument playing an Irish reel. Quite a mashup of ethnicities…

There’s plenty more bouzouki music out on YouTube, if you’re interested.

Mel Blanc #atozchallenge

Continuing through our daily tour through the alphabet, today we discuss a man I’ve admired for years, and who we wouldn’t be talking about today if he hadn’t changed his name…


Mel Blanc, from 1959. Public Domain, from Wikipedia

Mel Blanc was “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” having supplied the voice for almost all the Warner Brothers cartoon characters, with the notable exception of Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q. Bryan provided Elmer’s voice until his death in 1959; Blanc took over for him afterwards). Later, he did voices for Hanna-Barbera (he provided Barney Rubble’s voice on The Flintstones and Mr. Spacely’s voice on The Jetsons), and supplied vocal effects for MGM’s Tom And Jerry, a cartoon created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. He also provided vocal effects on Jack Benny’s radio show and showed up on Jack’s TV show in the Fifties and Sixties.

He was born Mel Blank in San Francisco, and later moved to Portland, Oregon, where he graduated from Lincoln High school. As I said, had he not changed his name to Blanc when he started out in the industry, I wouldn’t be talking about him, because he wouldn’t fit my theme.

At one time, I had given some thought (not too serious) about becoming a voice actor like Mel, but I gave it up when all my characters sounded the same. When I listen to him now, I realize that all he did was to change his voice slightly for each character, and that they all sounded similar. What was amazing was the way he could play two different characters in the same cartoon and give each one a slightly different personality. An example is between Foghorn Leghorn and his nemesis, Henery the Chicken Hawk…

Or Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam…

Here’s Mel in a commercial for American Express.

Mel died in 1989 of heart disease and emphysema, but leaves behind a legacy for countless other voice actors to emulate.

Tomorrow, we start with “C” and end with “D.” See you then!

I must be crazy… #socs #atozchallenge

Today’s portmanteau word for the A to Z Challenge is here.


It seems I created a bit of confusion here yesterday…

I posted my portmanteau word for the A to Z Challenge, “advertainment,” at 6:00 AM EDT yesterday. I then added a post for the Battle of the Bands (Battle “Moonlight in Vermont,” The Johnny Smith Quintet vs. Jo Stafford) and my usual Friday Five post, for which I chose the theme “songs whose titles start with the letter ‘A’,” in celebration of the start of A to Z. The problem was, I had led everyone who showed up after about 2:00 PM EDT that my theme for the Challenge was “five songs that have something to do with the letter of the day.”

My reaction? “Oh, fiddlesticks [or words to that effect]! I’ve managed to confuse everyone!”

Then I got to thinking: You know, everyone seems to enjoy the music posts; maybe I should start another blog and use it for my secondary theme… Problem is, that throws the whole simulcast idea out of sync, and that wouldn’t be nice to those of you who read and comment over there. So I thought I might just apologize for my faux pas, explain what happened and promise it would never ever happen again, and be done with it.

Then, I said, “hey, wait a second; why can’t I have two themes? You know, portmanteaus and songs?” I started to brush off the idea, thinkinhg I must be crazy, but something just told me, “No! It’s a great idea! Do both on the one blog.” Since Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt for today was “be,” it all worked out,at least for now.

So here we go, five songs with “be” in the title in some form. And, since several folks have trouble with the playlists, I’ll just run them in-stream, one after the other.

“Let It Be” – The Beatles: The single version. With Billy Preston on Hammond organ.

“Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy” – The Tams

“Beginnings” – Chicago: The album version, with the Latin percussion at the end.

“Let It Be Me” – The Everly Brothers

“Be Bop A Lula” – Cliff Richard

A2Z-BADGE [2016]


#AtoZChallenge: Beefalo

beefalo =
beef + buffalo


Wikipedia tells us a beefalo is a fertile offspring of a domestic cattle (usually a male) and the American buffalo (or bison, usually a female), created to take advantage of the qualities of both animals. Buffalo meat is naturally lower in fat and cholesterol, higher in protein, and more tender and tastier than that of steers, and the animals are better able to tolerate the cold and have an easier time calving than domestic cattle.

A beefalo’s DNA is 3/8 bison; those animals with a higher percentage are considered cattalo. Conservation groups are critical of the practice of interbreeding cattle with bison, claiming that interbred animals are polluting the gene pool. Which might be true, although “Dr. Dirk Van Vuren, formerly of the University of Kansas… points out that ‘The bison today that carry cattle DNA look exactly like bison, function exactly like bison and in fact are bison.'”

How do you feel about this? It sounds as though the beefalo is a response to a need for meat that’s healthier and tastier, and that crossbreeding cattle and bison results in an animal that has certain desirable qualities. I can understand the concerns of conservation groups, who want to preserve the bison as it was, but it also sounds as though interbreeding is somewhat unavoidable, especially where cattle and bison share the same grazing fields.