Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saving the World

One night in 1980 my friend John Steinmetz couldn't sleep. Instead, he drew pictures of blenders, those friendly, familiar kitchen companions. But these blenders came with unexpected labels on their buttons in place of the boring Whip, Frappe or Liquify.

Soon John shared his ideas with me and together we created The Blender Book, a xeroxed holiday greeting for our friends and families. The reactions ranged from baffled amusement to confused bemusement.

Push Poke Prod Press Blender Book - John Steinmetz and David Ocker
The back cover of The Blender Book showed a blender with four buttons marked Push, Poke, Prod and Press. We thought "What a good name for a publishing company." and so the imaginary Push Poke Prod Press was born. John and I hired each other as "Assistants to the President" and we awarded ourselves fictional startup grants from General Malaise, makers of the Electric Bowl, and the National Appliance Foundation.

Each holiday season for six years we produced a different book. The books, in order of publication, were:
  • THE BLENDER BOOK
  • Your Souvenir Guidebook to REALITY WORLD
  • HOW TO SAVE TIME (Special Condensed Version)
  • Amazing Stories of SIDEMAN
  • SAVING THE WORLD
  • SIDEMAN VS. SYNTH MAN
A magazine called Science Fiction Review even reviewed a couple titles. Here are quotes:
If you've ever wondered about the Metaphysics of Blenders, this is the booklet for you ..... I'm not sure it's worth $4.50. (The Blender Book, price $4.00)
Clever, often devastating satire on Disneyworld-type amusement parks and our absurd civilization. A 58-page half-size booklet, it may subjectively be worth $5, but not in 1957 money (inside joke --- see the Guidebook.) (Reality World, price $4.00)
Saving the World , billed as "A FULL LENGTH Push Poke Prod Press ADVENTURE, starring BENNY the BLENDER! and featuring The LITTLE SHIM", was a comic book.

cover page of Saving the World Push Poke Prod Press comic book John Steinmetz David Ocker
Our hero, Benny the Blender, is featured in the masthead of this very blog, look at the top on the right. He was a blender of few words but with a good heart and bad eyesight (notice the thick glasses) who should never have been given a license to drive an air car. The Little Shim, Benny's sidekick, was an early personal computer - some sort of sentient, mobile Apple III or Commodore 64 with two floppy disc drives for eyes and a penchant for getting into trouble he can't get out of.

Here's a sample page from Saving the World. Click on it (or any illustration) for enlargements.
Saving the World Push Poke Prod Press comic book page 10 John Steinmetz David OckerYou can download the entire Saving the World in PDF format here. Happy Holidays, everybody - even if is a bit late.

The two books which featured John's stories about Sideman, a mysterious super-hero L.A. studio musician, were the most popular. John wanted the stories published under the pseudonym T. Simpson Parker, ostensibly an old studio musician himself, now retired to Palm Desert where he raised succulents.

Imagine my surprise to discover T. Simpson Parker listed in an online library catalog. Click here to see that. Four of the six PPPP books made it into a certain university library under the category Nonsense Literature, American.

Finally, here's a clipping from a Los Angeles Weekly of February 1986, written by Jonathan Gold. Yes, the same Jonathan Gold who went on to win some very important journalism prize or other and will surely be mortified to read this bit of doggerel online. Marvel at just how deeply a tongue can push into a cheek; probably the sign of a good food critic, huh?

Sideman T Simpson Parker Jonathan Gold LA Weekly John Steinmetz David Ocker

2 comments:

John Steinmetz said...

Thanks for posting these, David. I think the world may finally be ready for a tale about a sentient blender. Certainly the world still needs saving.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

True brilliance is never appreciated. You should have been a contender with crab apple and blender boy. When I think of the glorious future that one eared rabbit was able to achieve...outrage

Mr JG, back in the day when he was critic at large. Now it's all about fine foods and private schools.