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Bullwinkle's mushrooms
August 17, 2010 - 3:00pm

OK, this one is going to take a little explaining.

Once upon a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth (starting in 1962), there was an animated TV series called "Rocky & His Friends". Rocky was a flying squirrel (you could tell by the leather aviator helmet and goggles), and his #1 friend was Bullwinkle J. Moose. (Indeed, reruns of the series were later titled "Rocky & Bullwinkle" and later "The Bullwinkle Show".

One of the regular features was something called "Bullwinkle's Corner", in which the moose of the same name would mangle a well-known poem (imagine, this was so long ago that there actually were well-known poems!). One of the episodes that sticks in my mind was based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's lyric "Excelsior". In the cartoon, the moose charges randomly (as moose are prone to do), with pennant in hand, crying "Excelsior" at regular intervals. When Rocky asks him (in verse) why he goes to such effort "just to make that silly cry" . . .

"Excelsior?" (that's the one)

"The answer came both bold and blunt
It's just an advertising stunt
I represent Smith, Jones and Jakes
A lumber company that makes

See, "excelsior" used to refer to a packaging material made of shredded wood -- an alternative to shredded newspaper, but with less dust. It quickly became obsolete with the advent of "plastic peanuts", the extruded/expanded polystyrene space-filler so familiar to all of us.

But now, plastic peanuts may themselves become obsolete. A company called Ecovative Design has created EcoCradle, a packaging material made from mushroom tissue and other organic wastes. In addition to being biodegradable (which polystyrene notoriously is not), this stuff is created at an energy savings of over 97%. (And we all know what direction energy prices are headed.)

Rocky and Bullwinkle, of course, left us no organic waste. (I could compare the timeless nature of Jay Ward's humor to the ecological half-life of plastic peanuts but that might be in bad taste, so I won't). But if they did, I can think of no better use for it than to grow mushrooms, which could then be used to create packing material, which might be used to ship DVDs. As in, of classic cartoons. Perhaps from the early 1960's. Or not.


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