New Hampshire is Fantasy Camp For Political Junkies

Ben and Jerry for Bernie Sanders

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream founders Ben Cohen (left) and Jerry Greenfield prepare to dish out samples and voting advice at a Bernie Sanders campaign event in late 2019. (Photo by Darren Garnick)

There are two kinds of people in New Hampshire: those who love our first-in-the-nation primary tradition and those who cannot wait until next Wednesday, when presidential campaigns will stop emailing, texting, calling, ringing their doorbell, and stuffing their physical mailbox with political propaganda. Although I’m no fan of the marketing harassment either, I anxiously look forward to this moment every four years.

The primary purpose of the New Hampshire primary, of course, is to vote. But beyond that, it’s a free fantasy camp for political junkies who live anywhere. Unlike at the Democratic or Republican national conventions, where the speakers look like ants from the nosebleed seats, you’re sometimes close enough here to see the candidates perspire. During the 2012 primary, I saw Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry become a sweaty Rorschach test as the shape of the state of New Hampshire “miraculously” soaked through his shirt: Continue reading

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An Ominous Sign The Red Sox Can’t Keep All Their Young Stars

Storm clouds gather around Fenway Park. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts shines through like a ray of hope.

I snapped this pic from the bleachers during the early innings of the Red Sox-Tigers game on June 5, 2018. It looks like a foreshadowing scene in a low-budget apocalypse movie!

In the immortal words of President Trump, this storm turned out to be “meek and mild.” Just a light rain for two innings. But this shot remains one of my favorite baseball pics – and one of my favorite nature pics!

My baseball-crazed friend Chuck sent me this suggested photo caption: “Red Sox Locking Up Young Stars Looking Bleak.”

That’s what the baseball agents are thinking, too.

 

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Pathetic: How NOT to Remember Pearl Harbor

This offer for a free commemorative “75th anniversary” Pearl Harbor coin was in my Sunday Boston Globe today, mixed in with the toothpaste and laundry detergent coupons.  On first glance, I can think of only one person who’d want to collect this coin: Emperor Hirohito.

A few immediate thoughts:

* What American would want to display “dramatic artwork of Japanese dive bombers attacking U.S. ships,” which gives the screaming “PEARL HARBOR ATTACKED!” a gloating context?

* Does one display this next to their “TWIN TOWERS ATTACKED!” commemorative dinner plate?

* 2018 is actually the 77th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, which indicates that this company has a warehouse filled with unsold commemorative coins.

* Trivializing one of the worst days in American history even further, the free Pearl Harbor offer runs above the “Owl Always Love You” figurine by artist Kayomi Harai, best known for painting “nature’s cutest creatures… made even cuter with their big, expressive eyes!”

Whooooo can’t resist buying both?!?

 

 

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Maybe Hanley Ramirez had a better season last year than we thought…

More fake news in packs of 2018 Topps baseball cards?

On the heels of finding out that Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez might not really be BFFs, I found this other Topps Heritage card crediting Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez for finishing fourth in the American League batting title last year.

Although I love Hanley, I remember his season being rather streaky and lackluster. So I looked up his 2017 stats: He hit .242.

Turns out that it was Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez (.318) – the Ramirez with less interesting hair – who finished fourth in the AL batting race. The Ramirezes look absolutely nothing alike.

I hope Topps corrects the error and gives Jose his due. Even more so, I hope Hanley hits .318 this year!

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Are These Yankees “Pinstriped Pals” or Just “Awesome Acquaintances?”

Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez: BFFs 4-eva!

I love when baseball cards feature multiple players together and celebrate or fabricate what they have in common – i.e. putting Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays (1962) on a card and calling them the “Managers’ Dream” or grouping Jim Rice, Kirby Puckett and Jose Canseco (1987) as “The A.L. Pitcher’s Nightmare.”

So I was amused to see this 2018 Topps Heritage pairing of young Yankees stars Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, who are being billed as “PINSTRIPED PALS.”

Really? I’m not sure who looks more disinterested in friendship: Judge or Sanchez.

And although the back of the card notes that the pair set a Major League record for most homers by teammates under age 26, there is no mention of this alleged friendship. Just baseball stats and talk of future potential (not for a relationship).

I did some in-depth research (Googling “Are Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez friends?“) and the results are inconclusive.

However, there is strong evidence that Aaron Judge recently formed “an instant friendship” with Giancarlo Stanton.

So what’s the deal, Topps? If these guys really are “Pinstriped Pals,” why not include an anecdote or fun fact to back up your headline? And if they’re not really friends, what would’ve been the harm in labeling them “Awesome Acquaintances?”

Using alliteration for the sake of alliteration is inexcusable.

 

 

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Savvy Writing Like This Could Save Baseball Cards From Extinction

Candidly, I never heard of Jett Bandy before opening this pack of Topps Heritage Baseball Cards (with the cool 1968 retro design), but I am now a fan. Based solely on the Brewers catcher’s connection to the Tom Cruise movie, “Cocktail.” Here’s a closer look so you don’t have to squint:

Where was this kind of trivia on baseball cards when I was a kid? I do remember being enthralled by the journalism in annual Red Sox yearbooks, which usually documented every player’s favorite movie and TV show. This stuff matters just as much as the stolen bases and RBIs (for that matter, why do so many baseball cards ignore stolen bases and saves in the career statistics?).

Anyhow, hats off to the Topps writer responsible for this card!

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5 New Hampshire Mascots We’d Love to See!

New Hampshire Magazine illustration by Marc Sutherland (October 2017)

Isn’t an “Old Man of the Mountain” character breakfast long overdue?
In the October issue of New Hampshire Magazine, I suggest some irresistible branding opportunities for local schools, government agencies and institutions sadly lacking their own mascots.
 
My free marketing advice includes proposed costumed characters for Franconia Notch State Park, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy (Manchester Campus), Currier Museum of Art, the Seabrook nuclear power plant and the NH Department of Transportation.
 
You can read the full article here.

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Wacky Presidential Candidate in a Wacky Package

How did Vermin Supreme wind up getting immortalized as an animal cracker?

Any journalist who’s covered the New Hampshire Primary over the past 25 years has had multiple encounters with Vermin Supreme, the protest presidential candidate best known for wearing a rubber boot on his head. I first met Vermin at a Bob Dole rally outside Milford Town Hall in 1996 and I’ve been writing about him ever since.

I bought my first pack of Topps Wacky Packages stickers when I was in elementary school and thought the idea of calling Crest toothpaste “Crust” toothpaste was absolutely brilliant. My locker and lunchbox were covered with “Wacky Packs,” as we liked to call them.

So imagine my shock when I opened a pack of commemorative 50th anniversary Wacky Packages and saw Vermin Supreme smiling back from a circus cage. How did it happen? How did the worlds of Wacky Packages and Wacky Presidential Candidates collide?

In an exclusive report for New Hampshire Magazine, I found the artist and got the scoop.

The 50th anniversary edition of Wacky Packages put a modern spin on the original 1967 spoofs of consumer products.

You can read the full story here.

By sheer coincidence, I also stumbled across another Vermin-themed Wacky Package from a few years ago:

What’s the woman on the package smelling?

A PULITZER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM, PERHAPS?

 

 

 

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Irrefutable Proof That Kids in the 1950s Were Smarter Than Kids Today

While hunting for baseball cards at my local flea market, I came across this unexpected relic:

How many 19th century French novelists are in YOUR baseball card collection?


Pretty wild that a French journalist who exposed an anti-Semitic plot to frame a Jewish army captain for treason in 1898 could compete for equal mindshare with Mickey Mantle. But in the 1952 Topps “Look ‘N See” trading card set, the infamous Alfred Dreyfus trial had a cameo.

For some perspective, take a look at who qualifies as a trading card hero for today’s kids: Hot dog eating champion Joey Chestnut.

Competitive glutton Joey Chestnut heroically gazes toward the future.

So how did Zola wind up achieving American cardboard immortality? Likely due to “The Life of Emile Zola” being the 1937 Oscar winner for Best Picture.

Might a movie on Chestnut’s performance in Deep-Fried Asparagus Eating Contests also be in the cards?

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WANTED: Your Halloween Candy For The Troops (Our Troops)

Your love for candy goes way beyond Halloween, you can sleep with these cuddly Hershey Bars and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups every night! (From Hershey Park)

If your love for candy goes way beyond Halloween, you can sleep with these cuddly Hershey Bars and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups every night! (From Hershey Park 2016)

Are you afraid you will eat 10 pounds of “mini” Snickers and Butterfingers the day after Halloween? Wondering what to do with all your surplus loot?

I will be collecting Halloween candy this week to send to U.S. troops serving overseas. For the past few years, my son and I have volunteered for Operation Care For Troops, a New Hampshire-based organization that sends care packages to the military a few times each year.
Here’s a snapshot of last November’s packing event:
Last year's holiday packing event with Operation Care For Troops

Founded by a retired Marine, Operation Care For Troops sends thousands of care packages to U.S. military bases each year.

Here are a few ways you can help:

 

1. If you know me and live nearby, bag up your leftover candy tonight and arrange for pickup later in the week.

 

2. If you believe that “the ends justifies the means,” then consider confiscating your children’s Halloween candy and donating it. When cute little Johnny and Susie ask where their candy is, tell them it is in Afghanistan and explain the modern marvels of air travel.

 

3. If stealing your children’s candy leaves a bad taste in your mouth, consider buying bags of Halloween candy tomorrow and Wednesday, when it is usually marked down to 50-75% off.

 

4. Volunteer at the next packing event in Nashua, NH on Nov. 9-12. Send an email to Volunteer@octnh.org or visit the Operation Care For Troops Facebook page.

 

5. Send a donation to: Operation Care For Troops, P.O. Box 1604
Nashua, NH 03061-1604.
Operation Care For Troops is a 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax deductible.

 

6. Write letters or holiday cards to the troops to be sent with the candy, toiletries and other items.
 I will be collecting candy through Thursday night and then I need to deliver it.
Thanks in advance for helping us spread cavities on U.S. military bases throughout the world!

UPDATE (Nov. 10) – Huge thanks to the sweet-toothed employees of Onshape and New Hampshire dentist Matt Leighton for donating 70 pounds of chocolate for the troops. Much appreciated!

donated-halloween-candy

 

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