Monday, November 15, 2004

Defrosted dinner

“Swanson didn’t actually invent the frozen dinner. That can be credited to (or blamed on) Clarence Birdseye. …

“But it was that packaging — the compartments for individual servings — that put Swanson on the frozen-food map.

“‘The segmented plate was enormously powerful, and remains so,’ says Betty Fussell, food historian. …

“It was 50 years ago that Swanson contributed to an American food revolution by selling its first TV dinner … for 98 cents. It let customers feast on turkey with cornbread stuffing, buttered peas, and sweet potatoes — right in front of their television screens. …

“It came, it thawed, it conquered. …

“As Americans mark the 50th anniversary of the sale of the first TV dinner, the concept of a convenient frozen meal has become ingrained in the culture. For 66 percent of families, the act of eating in front of the TV screen, which Swanson was the first to capitalize on, has been syndicated and is rerun nightly.”

Mary Dixon Lebeau, writing on “At 50, TV dinner is still cookin,’” in the Nov. 10 issue of the Christian Science Monitor

‘Deformed mind’

“To salvage their self-esteem, liberals are pushing the idea that they have lost the country, but retained their reason. It hasn’t yet dawned on them that they lost the country because they lost their reason. Their irrational anger and tired theories weren’t persuasive. …

“‘The Day the Enlightenment Went Out’ was the post-election sob of Garry Wills in the New York Times, and captures the rationalists-versus-religious-boobs analysis liberals are using to pep up their spirits. …

“In the place of anything even remotely resembling reasoned argumentation is bald bigotry. … ‘Can a people that believes more fervently in the virgin birth than in evolution still be called an enlightened nation?’ he writes.

“It is a window on Wills’ deformed mind that the idea of Jesus Christ coming from a virgin mother is more abhorrent to him than that man came haphazardly from orangutans. Wills takes as his measure of enlightenment a Darwinian theory that most scientists don’t even bother to defend anymore. Complexity through chance — random selection — requires more faith than the virgin birth.”

George Neumayr, writing on “Intellectuals Without Intellect,” Nov. 10 in the American Spectator Online at

The cruelest joke

“Over the years, Yasser Arafat was the subject of some pretty bad jokes. When he returned to the Gaza Strip in triumph in 1994 after the [Palestine Liberation Organization] signed the Oslo peace accords with Israel, Palestinians talked about an honor guard drilling to welcome the chairman back to Palestinian soil with a 21-gun salute. One eager cadet raised his hand. ‘What happens,’ he asked, ‘if we hit him on the first shot?’

“The Israeli jokes were even meaner. One had Arafat visiting a fortune teller, who carefully traced his lifeline. ‘I have strange news,’ she says. ‘You will die on a major Jewish holiday.’ Arafat muses on the vagaries of fate that would, after the life he’d lived, have him dying on a Jewish festival. ‘Mr. Chairman,’ the fortune teller replies, ‘any day you die is a major Jewish holiday.’ …

“In fact, the worst and cruelest Arafat joke is the state he has left his people in — or, to be precise, the absence of a state. …

“In a sense, Arafat’s legacy is simple: He lived for a Palestinian state. If he’d been a different type of leader, he could have died in one.”

Warren Bass, writing on “Yasser Arafat” Nov. 4 in Slate at

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