32: Smörgåsbord

A selection of tasty leftovers

The other night for dinner I served my seven-year-old a little food from each of several leftover dishes we had in the fridge. None of them had quite enough for a full meal, but together it would be enough. I told him that when you make a meal out of a bunch of different foods it’s called a smörgåsbord.

My ten-year-old piped up. “Actually, it’s pronounced shmörgåsbord.”

In my house we call this kidsplaining. And we’ve let the kids know that every time you start a sentence with “actually,” a butterfly dies.

So I turned to Paul Lynde for an answer, as one does in situations like this or when you need the center square on Hollywood Squares. And he indeed pronounces it shmörgåsbord:

So anyway, this week’s newsletter is a smörgåsbord of content, however you want to pronounce it.

Composing On The Fly

A few weeks ago, a video made the rounds from a 1997 special where Elton John improvised an impromptu song based on an oven manual that Richard E. Grant had in his pocket for some reason. It’s a fun little video with cameos from lots of 90s celebrities in the audience:

But a harder trick would be composing a piece for a full orchestra on the spot. That’s what Ben Folds did in 2017 at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Like a highbrow version of Who’s Line Is It Anyway, audience members suggested a key and a mood, and a random line from an article in the program to serve as inspiration. So here is Ben Folds composing “These New Spaces Are All Designed To Be Flexible” for full orchestra in 10 minutes:

I Took A Poll

Last month I took a poll on Twitter:

As you can see, most people got the answer wrong. Of course, that was always going to be the case, but I enjoy the head game involved in thinking about which one to vote for. It’s a much more difficult question than “Which of these do you think the most people will choose?” because answering the question with your honest guess increases your chances of being wrong. So maybe there’s an incentive to vote for the answer you don’t think is the right answer.

Most people thought that the fewest people would pick Choice 3. Did they also think that nobody else would think that? Did anyone change their vote because they thought too many people would think along similar lines?

An Accidental Fidget Toy

I’ve never been one to use a fidget toy. But I discovered one that has kept my fingers occupied for months now. And it’s not something that’s actually sold as a fidget toy.

I got some free silicone joystick covers that supposedly make video game controller joysticks more comfortable. Here’s what I’m talking about:

I mean, I guess it was more comfortable? I dunno. But it did help the kids know who was using which controller, since only one had these covers. But they kept falling off. So I bought a few more cheap on Amazon.

When those kept falling off, too, I gave up on them for the controllers. And so they were just sitting on my desk for a while. One day, I picked them up.

Let me tell you. They are so satisfying to play with. They are squishy with just the right amount of grippy nubs on them to feel good in your fingers. I like to put them butt-to-butt and squeeze the air out of them so they stick together like little suction cups. They make a tiny little whooshing noise. Then I separate them with a little pop. Way better than playing with bubble-wrap.

If we’re ever on a Zoom call, there’s a high probability that I’m doing this out of frame.

You can get four for $6 on Amazon. You might be able to find them for even less. I kind of suspect that the cheaper they are, the better they squish. One of my sets is a little bit thinner than the other, and definitely has better Squishfeel™.

Idea: A Tiny Statue of Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg is an artist known for giant sculptures of everyday objects. You’ve probably seen some of his work before. Here’s a Google Image search result sample:

I want to make a tiny sculpture of Claes Oldenburg. It would look something like this:

Anyone want to 3D print a tiny Claes Oldenburg for me?


You need another podcast to listen to? I’ve been enjoying Tagline, a podcast “about great ads and the people who make them,“ like the Got Milk campaign, or the Most Interesting Man in the World ads. The podcast is produced by Muse by Clio, which is the content division of the Clio Awards, which recognizes great advertising.

I noticed that Muse by Clio’s About Page says “Muse is editorially independent from the Clio Awards—our coverage is not connected in any way to our parent company's award programs.” And yet the same person is both the editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the editor of Muse by Clio. I’m not trying to stir the pot, but that seems like a connection between the two. Just sayin’.

Eyes of a Generation

I recently discovered a website called Eyes of a Generation, where people who worked in television during its early days share photos, stories, documents, and video from the early days of broadcast.

Pick a random page and you might find photos from the first televised Academy Awards, or the scanned manual for a 1963 color TV camera, or never before seen photos from within 30 Rock.

Do a Google search for “[any tv show] +site:eyesofageneration.com” and you’re bound to find something interesting.

Here, to pick a random example, is a literally-behind-the-scenes photo of the Hollywood Squares set with Paul Lynde in the center square:

And here’s an “ultra-rare” photo showing a different angle (with Buddy Hackett in the center square, alas):

The accompanying post explains what makes it rare:

Although I have looked high and low, this is the only backstage shot I have ever seen that shows the cameras… I’m sure the show started with RCA TK41s and would love to find a picture of that, but till one turns up, here are RCA TK44s on the set.

The comments on every post are filled with crew remembrances of being there.

And here’s an absolutely amazing post that starts out as a look at one piece of equipment and turns into a history of Studio 8H where Saturday Night Live is taped.

The site is quite a treasure trove. I hope it’s all being archived someplace.

And that brings us to the conclusion of this week’s newsletter. Wow, we really covered quite a range in that smörgåsbord. And I have a whole metaphorical fridge full of leftovers, so we’ll do this again some time.

Thanks for reading. And until next week, remember that every time you share this newsletter, a butterfly is born. As kind of an ugly little larva, but still.