Pops, Pies, and Humor

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October 19, 2018 by libroshombre

Reading and ice cream are delightful summer pursuits, although only the former’s good for you. Summer reading’s typically light and escapist, but summer vacations are good for tackling challenging books, too. And some books are both, managing to amuse readers while stretching them intellectually, such as Thi Bui’s acclaimed autobiographical graphic novel, “The Best We Could Do,” which our acclaimed library owns. It substantially raised my consciousness about Vietnam and Vietnamese-Americans while entrancing me with excellent and evocative artwork.

My lighter summer reading includes Funny Times magazine, a monthly collection of topical cartoons, comic strips, and essays by humorists. The art and writing’s grouped under subjects, and under July’s issue’s was “Summer’s Licks,” an essay by Lenore Skenazy about the history of American ice cream novelties, where I learned how 11-year-old Frank Epperson left a glass of fruit juice with a spoon in it one cold night in 1905 and discovered an amusing treat. Years later he replicated it for his children, calling it an “Epsicles,” but his kids preferred “Pop’s Icles. Epperson opened Coney Island stand to vend them – with a wooden stick – in 1923, and sold 8,000 Popsicles daily, and quickly patented it. Sadly debts overwhelmed him and a few months later sold it to Joe Lowe.

Meanwhile, in 1922Iowa schoolteacher Christian Nelson patented the Eskimo pie – vanilla ice cream “enrobed in a chocolate shell” – and so did Harry Burt. However, Burt’s patent addressed Eskimo pies’ messiness by placing sticks in his chocolate-covered slabs of vanilla ice cream called “Good Humor Bars.” Then Burt suedLowe and Popsicle, which also utilized sticks, for copyright infringement, but they settled out of court, agreeing that Lowe’s territory was ice-based treats on sticks while Burt’s was cream-based treats. 2,000 Good Humor trucksonce roamed our streets, but no more, lending poignancy to a recent captionless New Yorker cartoon showing a man in a truck selling “Books About Ice Cream.”

A cartoon’s a single panel of art, while comic strips are multiple panels showing sequential actions. A relevant example is a 2014 NYTimes Book Review cover titled “Summer Reading.” It’s a take-off on the old Charles Atlas comic book ads where a beach bully picks on a weakling until said wimp buffs up with Atlas’ dynamic tension device. In panel one of “Summer Reading,” the weakling said, “Hey! That bully is reading his e-book right in front of us!” “The glare is blinding,” his date exclaimed. “How can I compete against his new technology with mere paper?” the weakling asked in panel two, and while reading “Sense and Sensibility” his girlfriend responded, “It’s a philosophical quandary.” The “Later” panel shows the weakling beefing up with stacks of books while noting, “Boy! I’m getting stronger and stronger just by lifting these volumes of Plato. What muscles!” In the final panel he wallops the bully with a copy of Proust, growling “You again? Try a hardcover!”

Studies of “The Reading Habits of Ultra Successful People” show regular reading’s a common touchstone. They read as a pastime, and often choose intellectually challenging books over lighter fare. For example, Warren Buffet claims to read 80% of his waking hours, but mostly to learn rather than recreate. Thus it’s ever been; back in 1300 BCE Egyptian King Tut’s main general was Horemheb, who succeeded him as pharaoh. Politically and militarily successful, Horemheb was among the elite 1% who could read and write, for he began as a scribe, the forerunner to librarians. I learned about him from my “serious” summer reading, Joann Fletcher’s “The Story of Egypt.” It wasn’t light reading, but so well told, with enough surprising and sometimes salacious information to keep me on my toes, that it was captivating rather than laborious.

The ancient Egyptians called their land “Kemet,” with the late-coming Greeks naming it Aigyptus.   “Obelisk” is Greek for the kebab skewers the Egyptians’ tall, enscribed stone towers resembled. And check out the more intimate rites and duties of the royal couples. Fun, fascinating, and edifying. As Khety II, another literate scribal-king, wrote around 2000 BCE, “copy your ancestors, their words endure in books. Open them! Read them! Copy their knowledge. He who is taught will become skilled.”


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