Detroit Free Press from ,  on September 8, 1991 · Page 193
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Detroit Free Press from , · Page 193

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Sunday, September 8, 1991
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time into the salty brevity of the term 'down east'" THE MAILBAG Sue L of San Diego is one of the winners of our fabulous send-a-question contest, asking, Why doesn't yeast, which is a living organism, die when it gets dried out and packaged and put on grocery store shelves? Sue, we find it easiest to think of yeast as a form of baking soda, and not even contend with the perplexing concept that ifs actually alive. But lef s proceed. After what seemed like nine million phone calls in search of a yeast expert, we reached Bill McKeown, quality assurance manager for Fleis-chmann's Yeast in San Ramon, Calif., and he said, in that way that quality assurance man Q Why don't characters on TV say good-bye when they hang up the phone? A Once you notice this phenomenon, it will drive you crazy the rest of your life. TV characters don't say good-bye! Theyjust...hangup. There are other things you might notice, too, particularly on half-hour situation comedies. No one ever fumbles for a front door key, because the front doors are always unlocked. Neighbors barge in without knocking. Until a few years ago TV heroes never buckled their seat belts. Since then the Buckle Up America campaign has tried to change that. Frankly we can't picture Kojak Duckling up. Kojak wouldn't even close his door, he'd let the G-forces slam it shut as he accelerated away. (The verb - w " ,-r:-.- f . --3 agers have of talking, The packages are nitrogen-flushed." Of course! Nitrogen-flushed packages. Everyone knows that One minor question though: What in tarnation is a YEAST, anyway? Is it a bug? A germ? A virus? No, ifs a form of mold, part of the fungi kingdom, which means ifs a living organism that doesn't fit into the category of "animal" or "vegetable" or "bacteria." It replicates when fed a nice rnixture of sugar and molasses, and McKeown can take a single yeast spore on Monday and grow 60,000 pounds by Saturday. They have big vats of it The yeast is dried to a precise moisture level, then tightly sealed in nitrogen-filled, oxygen-free packages. Without oxygen and with little water, the yeast can't metabolize much. They'll last at least a year in this slowed-down but not entirely suspended animation. They're like seeds, alive but amazingly mellow. Do you have questions? Arguments? Newly unearthed religious scrolls? Write JOEL ACHENBACH, co Detroit Free Press Magazine, 321 W. Lafayette, Detroit 48226. for this is "to Kojak.") "Personally, when people don't say goodbye on the telephone it annoys me," says Jennie Ayers, a Hollywood script writer now working on a new NBC show called "The Torkelsons." But she adds, "I think most people don't notice it I think writers notice." One possible reason that TV characters don't say good-bye on the phone, and so on, is that there's no time for it A sitcom lasts 22 minutes. Every line is supposed to set up a joke, be a joke or advance the narrative. The more important reason, though, is that jangling house keys or insipid telephone prattle would be a distraction from the story that s being told, not to mention boring. "All that television is is a series of stories being told," says Ayers' writing partner, Susan Sebastian. "What s most important is what the characters are feeling." In other words, these shows are not meant to be realistic, and the audience knows that intuitively. In real life, people dont face one direction all the time (away from the backdrop of the set) and speak with long enough pauses to allow for gales of canned laughter. Though, come to think of it, that would be a great experiment for a week or two. Q Why do people cal Maine "Down East," when ifc clearly up north? A Our colleague Blake de Pastino asked this question and then, rather than whimper and whine like most people whose questions we totally ignore, he went out and discovered the answer himself. He reports that there's a perfectly neat little explanation: The coastline from Boston to Maine runs more east-west than north-south. So people say Maine is east of Boston. The "down" part is the result of the sailing tradition of those parts. People spend a lot of time on the water, and the prevailing wind blows toward the east Thus to go to Boston is to go "up," meaning upwind, and to go to Maine is to go "down." As Down East magazine wrote in their first issue in 1954, " 'downwind to Maine' became a manner of speaking, slipping with m v "P h p i in "mm; m ILLUSTRATION CLAIRE INNES

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