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WTF Friday: NOOOOOOOO!!!!!! March 10, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
6 comments

I saw a headline this week that drove an icy dagger of fear into my heart.  My bowels clutched, my hands shook, and felt my sanity start to unravel a wee bit.

"Cap'n Crunch Sails Into Obscurity"

I know what you’re thinking:  HOLY SHIT, THEY’RE GETTING RID OF CAP’N CRUNCH CEREAL!  IT’S THE FIRST SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE!

No, it’s more sensational journalism at work.  Knowing it won’t get reads if they titled the article “PepsiCo to Change Cereal Advertising,” they went with a heading that purposely led you to think that they were planning on getting rid of what is arguably one of the best breakfast cereals ever invented.

*deep breath*

If you click the image of the smiling Cap’n, you can read the whole article.   The upshot of it is that the folks at PepsiCo, under pressure from the White House and health activists, will no longer be using the Cap’n as their spokestoon.  There’s been a push on in recent years in trying to get the makers of sugary cereals to stop putting cartoon characters on the boxes and running ads during cartoons.  We must stop making these sugary delights so appealing to kids!

What the fuck, grownups?

Um, we’re talking about a foodstuff that is crunchy and sweet.  You can get rid of Tony the Tiger, you can pull all the advertising for Cookie Crisp entirely, and kids are still going to want to eat it.   Go ahead and try it.  You mark my words on this one.  You can make sugary cereals as unappealing as you want.  My kids don’t want Cap’n Crunch because they’ve seen the commercials.  They don’t pick out Cocoa Puffs because they’re charmed by Sonny going cuckoo for them.  You can take away the cartoons and the characters and the catch-phrases and it won’t matter.  Kids are still going to choose those sugary cereals over Kix and Cheerios, or any other boring breakfast cereal the grownups want them to eat every single time, and I’ll tell you why.

They want them–nay, WE want them–because they are deeeeefuckinglicious.

My favorites are the Monster Cereals (Boo Berry, Franken Berry, and Count Chocula) and Lucky Charms.  Whoever thought of putting marshmallows into cereal should have won a Nobel Prize.  Genius, man.

I’m kind of tired of “health activists” blaming the obesity epidemic on things like cereal and soda and anything that isn’t fucking steamed broccoli.  Here’s a hint: kids don’t get fat because they eat the occasional bowl of Cap’n Crunch for breakfast.  They’re not chunky because they have a half-pint of chocolate milk with their tuna sandwich at lunch instead of plain skim milk.  They’re fat because they have four bowls of Cap’n Crunch and a half-gallon of chocolate milk while playing X-Box for three hours after school instead of being outside riding a damn bike or throwing a ball around.  Having the occasional Happy Meal with fries and playing with the little plastic toy inside didn’t make your kid fat.  Visiting McDonald’s so often that the girl at the drive-through window knows you on a first-name basis did.

At the end of the day, the marketing might be aimed at the kids, but the parents are the ones buying the groceries.  PespiCo isn’t making kids fat.  Parents are making their kids fat.  You want to know how to stop the childhood obesity epidemic?  You can’t.  End of story.  You can blame marketing, you can blame manufacturers, but the blame lies squarely at the feet of the parents who don’t know how to say no.   No, you can’t have a bowl of cereal.  We’re going to eat dinner in an hour.  Have a banana if you’re starving.  And go outside and play.

I know they’re still going to make Cap’n Crunch, they’re just going redesign the packaging and pretend it’s not appealing to children anymore.  That’s fine.  And hey, I think if they were smart they’d spend their advertising money appealing to the Adult Swim audience, but that’s just me.

And maybe there is a chance that the parents that are too stupid to understand that Doritos aren’t a food group have kids that are in turn too stupid to realize that the really good cereal is hiding inside a cartoon-free box.  Maybe they’ll be so confused by the staggering decline in good cereal choices they’ll just have a box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies for breakfast instead.  (Methinks the equally confused stoners will choose the Cosmic Brownies.  Call it a hunch.)

What concerns me is that this feels a lot like a slippery slope.  What’s next? Where does it end?  What happens when they find out that even if you take the toy out of the Happy Meal, parents are still feeding fast food to their kids?  What are they going to do when they realize that you could (to paraphrase Denis Leary) put sugary cereal in a black box, call it Crunchy Lardass Turdnuggets, and hide it in the darkest, most spider-infested corner of the market, and kids (and stoners) are still going to line up around the block to get it?

It’s the pursuit of fucking happiness, man.

You know what’s going to happen next.  And you better figure out, as one commenter on the article put it, how many cases of Cap’n Crunch you’re going to need to buy now to guarantee that you can have a bowl everyday forever.

First they came for the Happy Meal toys, and I said nothing because the McNuggets are just as tasty without them.

Then they came for my Cap’n Crunch, and I said nothing because the Crunch Berries tear up the roof of my mouth something awful and anyway, I prefer Lucky Charms.

But then they came for my Ben and Jerry’s and replaced it with lowfat organic yogurt.

Oh, the humanity.

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Revisionist History March 9, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
1 comment so far

Salve Regina College, class of 1991. That's me, second row, third from the left.

I took an American history class as an undergraduate student at Salve Regina College, which is unremarkable because history is required study at a liberal arts school.  Truth be told, history has always been right in the middle of the pack of the hierarchy of things I was interested in and wanted to learn about.  I liked learning about the past, but history is one of those subjects that it must be easy to make painfully dull because it so often is, and I planned to just get it out of the way.

Br. John Buckley was a colorful character to begin with, but he has the distinction of being the first teacher to make history come to life for me.  I thought he was a great storyteller.  He was a hell of a lecturer, and he’d go on for an entire class period on some aspect of history or other, but he’d do it in such a way that you’d swear he was talking about something that just happened.  If you were to eavesdrop on a lecture and you didn’t realize he was teaching history, you might have assumed he was gossiping about something going on in the here and now, and I just found his ability to make events long past feel immediate endlessly entertaining.

Br. John taught me to view history from the inside out.  He showed me how it’s not enough to look back and say “this happened, and isn’t that awful/great/amazing” without putting yourself in the shoes of the folks that lived at the time.  It’s easy to look at the past and make judgments because we know what’s coming next, don’t we?   We’ve seen the outcomes.  Every day we learn more stuff that makes the things we did as a species last week look stupid, and the things we did centuries in the past seem infantile and barbaric.  Where we screw up is when we fail to go back even further and see what set the stage before it.  What conditions were in place that paved the way for what came next, and how did those results set up the next chain of events?

This is Poops' brain on history. Any questions?

Well, hot damn and hallelujah.  History exploded from a dry, neatly sequenced time-line into a wide-reaching web with threads that crossed back and forth and up and back, and suddenly the trip through history was much more exciting.  I’ve certainly never looked at it the same way again.  As it turns out, I’m not much for the linear thinking.  Who knew?

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, it has made it impossible for me to even attempt to point fingers and place blame with perfect hindsight.  I mean, it always seems easy enough to look back and say to yourself that you’d never have believed something that ridiculous, or that you’re too good a person to be taken in by such rhetoric, or that the “important” parts have all been left out or glossed over by the writers of history.   But I have to wonder how would I have felt, how would I have reacted, and what would I have done if I was a product of a time not my own.  Take out all my accumulated knowledge and things aren’t as clear as they were.

Br. John definitely taught a technicolor history.  Nothing was as simple as black or white, but he wasn’t so much a de-bunker as he was a color-inner.  The details that we already knew by heart were still there; he added other bits that were not central to the story but served to give a greater, wider understanding of the situation as it was back when it actually happened.  He cautioned us to not re-write history but to re-think our position on it.  There are not two sides to every story but many sides, and it’s far too facile to say only one view is ever correct.  If you would delete, gloss over or whitewash the details, you’re missing some of the stuff from the past that can lead to a better understanding of our present.  But then by the same token, if you would focus on only the parts you accuse History of deleting or glossing over or whitewashing, you’re not fixing the problem either.

I think that class stands out because I believe it was the first time in my life I was actually challenged to understand things that defy understanding.  Br. John did it in an interesting, gossipy-style of storytelling which was, even if it had been nothing else, entertaining on its own and a way to engage his students in the subject.  But what he did for me was to put human faces on our heroes and human hearts in our villains.   In the end, history is about humanity and all our feats and foibles, and he didn’t let us forget it.

Spit Your Gum Out March 7, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
8 comments

My mother, God bless her sweet heart, is a neurotic of the first order.  She’ll be the first one to admit it, and probably upon reading this will add to the list of things that make her want to snap off someone’s head and take a crap down his neck.

I mention Ma’s neuroses because today is my inaugural People’s Choice Monday, and Jenn from R.I. was wondering about the likelihood of passing on our own wackadoo tendencies to our children.  I’m sad to report that it’s probably pretty likely that some of your OCD is going to rub off on them, Jenn.  Then you’ll spend hours trying to wipe it off using exactly nine wipes, and if you mess up you’ll have to start over.  Trust me though, it could be worse.

For instance, it occurred to me while compiling an abridged list of my mother’s neuroses, I realize that most of them involve repetitive sound or movement.  I believe, once you see this list, you’ll understand why I’m able to sit quiet and still for long stretches of time.  I’ve been conditioned to.  There were things in our house that, God help you, you just didn’t do unless you felt like seeing her go insane with rage.  It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point to know that I’d been known to poke Teh Crazy from time to time.  Yes, I was that kind of kid.

The French Resistance of candy.

There were things that weren’t ever going to happen in her house that, for some reason, we felt compelled to try to get away with.  I’d be a rich woman if I had a gold ingot for every time I attempted to enjoy a nice stick of Juicy Fruit and was told, “Spit your gum out.”  I don’t know what preternatural senses she possesses that allow her to know when we had gum in our mouths, but she always knew.  Swear to God, we could have one tiny contraband Chicklet tucked way away up behind a back molar in the nether reaches of our mouths, and she’d still tell us to spit our gum out the second we walked in the door.  Without looking up, even.   It’s not like we popped it or snapped it or made any noise with it at all.  Lips firmly clamped, jaws moving slowly…”spit your gum out.”

“What was I doing wrong?  I had my mouth closed!  I didn’t make any noise!”

“I don’t care.  Spit it out.”

It was uncanny.  And that is the tip of the insanity iceberg.  (We’re not going to get anywhere near the icy depths today.  You have to acclimate.)

Should you decide to have dinner with the madre, for the love of Aretha and all the Motown saints, don’t hit your fork to your teeth.  And I mean, ever.  One of us would do it by accident at the dinner table and we’d both freeze, waiting for the admonishment that was certain to follow.  Mealtimes were absolutely fraught with ways to raise Ma’s hackles.  Don’t smack your lips.  Don’t chew with your mouth open.  Don’t slurp your soup or gulp your drink.

It’s not exactly a bad thing.  I mean, we grew up with good enough table manners.  To her credit, she could take us anywhere without embarrassment, and while forgetting to put your napkin in your lap or resting your elbows on the table was corrected in a sort of off-handed way, making any kind of noise would call down her wrath.  “Don’t make me tell you to close your mouth one more time,” she’d hiss through clenched teeth, and when she hissed at you through clenched teeth, you knew you were a cocaine heartbeat away from disaster.

The worst times were when we’d have friends over to dinner.   We’d be sitting there “enjoying” some nice Shake-n-Baked chicken parts or American chop suey and every minute that ticked by would add to our agony.  You see, we knew that inevitably our unsuspecting friend would hit her fork to her teeth, and Sistah and I were just on pins and needles waiting for it to happen.  Nothing made our bowels turn to water faster than realizing a couple of bites in that we’d invited the kind of person who uses his teeth to scrape the food off the fork home to sup.  We actually feared for the lives of people like that.  We were sure that if we ever used our teeth to remove food from a fork that she’d use that fork to open our jugular and leave us to bleed while she finished her meal in blessed silence.

We had lip-smackers eat with us, and open-mouth-chewers, but it wasn’t very often.  Not because we only hung out with kids with really, really good table manners but because I just don’t remember having friends for dinner a lot.  I don’t think the stress was worth it.  It was also mostly unwarranted as well.  I want the record to show that my mother never EVER said one word to a friend to embarrass us.  Ever.  I don’t believe it even crossed her mind to correct someone that wasn’t family at the dinner table, but we didn’t know that, and that uncertainty was enough to put us off our canned peas and London broil.

Now, if we found ourselves wondering what it looked like to see a grown woman’s head spin all the way around, and we were feeling like living dangerously that day, all we had to do was bite a chip.  You know how the potato chips at the top of the bag are really big?  And your first instinct is to put the chip in your mouth and bite off a piece of it?

Oh HELL no.  Not in our house.  You could unhinge your jaw like a python and shove the whole chip in at once, or you could break the chip and put the pieces in your gob, but you did.  not.  bite.  a.  chip.

What’s more, when eating popcorn, you must put the kernel in your mouth, close your lips and then your teeth.  Most of you probably close your teeth and lips together, or even close your teeth and bite that corn before your lips have fully connected.  I think it goes without saying that we learned to eat popcorn silently lest we wind up having to figure out how to dislodge a popcorn bowl from our throats.

Do you see the level of crazy I was dealing with here?

I mention these things not because they are shortcomings of my mother’s, but because–you guessed it–I’m exactly the same way.  I hate noisy eaters.  I don’t care if my kids eat with their feet on the table.  Hell, I don’t give a shit if they use utensils at all, but if they insist on hitting their teeth with their forks, I will go apeshit eventually.

You think I’m exaggerating, but I swear to you I once asked Larry if I could get him a smaller fork since clearly the one he had didn’t fit between his teeth.  Yes, friends, not only do I have her neuroses, I’ve garnished them with a sweet coating of sarcasm that drips down the side and puddles in luscious, sticky pools on the plate.

Chips are the bane of my existence.  They are my Kryptonite.  A bag of fucking Doritos in the wrong hands can make my brain flop and twitch in my head.  Come to that, I can only imagine what it would be like to be hooked up to a blood pressure cuff and a heart monitor when seated next to a stranger eating popcorn in a movie theater.  I’m willing to bet by the end of the film I’m in stroke territory.

I have screamed at my kids for chewing chips with their mouth open.

“IF YOU DON’T STOP CHEWING THOSE CHIPS WITH YOUR GODDAMN MOUTHS OPEN, SO HELP ME GOD I’M GOING TO SHOVE THEM DOWN YOUR THROATS AND PULL THE BOWLS OUT OF YOUR ASSES.  AM I CLEAR?”

My kids aren’t afraid of me, though.  Not enough to chew those sunofabitching Doritos with their mouths closed, anyway.

And gum?  Fuck gum, okay?  If they never made another stick I’d throw a parade with my mother as Grand Marshal.  My eyes start to throb when I hear someone grinding away at it like a goddamn camel, and if they snap or pop it…just this…

Thanks to National Geographic for summing it up so neatly for me.

I have no idea how that particular set of neuroses settled into my psyche.  I don’t know if some of it’s just hard-wired and we’re just more sensitive to things than other people or if it’s simply a case of me thinking it’s annoying because I’ve spent my whole life being told it’s annoying.  I have no clue at all, so I can’t help you out with that.

And lest you think that Ma and I are walking around everyday wound up tighter than a couple of nine-day clocks, I assure you that we each have an extensive list of things that don’t bother us in the least.  In fact, we’re both fairly laid back much of the time and I’ve been led to believe that we can be quite a great deal of fun to be around.  Especially if we’ve had a couple of cocktails.

Just spit the gum out and no one gets hurt.

WTF Friday: When Bad Theology Meets Bad Tattoos March 3, 2011

Posted by J. in Genius.
2 comments

Yesterday morning, I was amusing myself with pictures of cats captioned with Charlie Sheen quotes, when I stumbled upon this picture.  And it being WTF Friday, I figured I’d share because it’s wrong on so many levels, besides the obvious one of just being an unforgivably ugly tattoo.

First of all, the fuckwad in this photo (not Charlie Sheen, by the way) was arrested for beating up another guy back in 2009.  Naturally, he claims the beatdown was justified.  What could justify beating another human being into the hospital, you ask? Did the other guy key his car?  Did he insult his mother?  Of course not.  Turns out the other dude was acting all gay and shit and that’s just not cool, man.  He’s got all the justification you need right here, man.

Under "abomination" in the dictionary you find this guy's picture.

His justification comes directly from God, man.  It’s in the Bible, man. 

Not surprisingly, this jackwagon clearly failed to continue his careful study of Torah.  If he’d read on, he would have very quickly come across the admonition, “Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves.  I am the Lord.”  That’s Leviticus too,  chapter 19, verse 28 this time.  Is that irony?  It’s certainly ignorance, not to mention sheer laziness.

Serious laziness at that.  In my Bible, I didn’t even have to turn the page to find it.  I could see it just by glancing.  It did not take an exhaustive search to locate the passage where God takes umbrage with tattoos.  Now, if he’d have had that passage tattooed on his arm, that would be irony, right?  I only ask because irony confuses me sometimes.

A somewhat blurry scan of Poops' Bible. The box on the left: his tattoo. The box on the right: "No tattoos." Oops.

I wonder why he singled out that bit of Leviticus to have permanently inked into his skin and not any of the other prohibitions outlined in that particular book.   “You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart,” just doesn’t have as much of a badass ring to it, I guess.  That’s from Leviticus 19:17, and I still didn’t have to turn the page to find it.

WTF, man.  You’re so stupid on so many levels that you make the Baby Jesus cry.

I have to go lie down now.  Between this guy and Charlie Sheen, I’m just exhausted.