Friday, May 25, 2007

The Conversion of Edwin

I'm mad at the Hershey company. I have been for several years.

The Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar was once packaged in a foil wrapper with a paper slip cover over it. The design was simple, but classic. And when I say classic, I mean that it was the same basic packaging they'd been using since 1912.

As a fan of the product, I was impressed. Hershey stuck to it's guns even when all the other candy bars were coming out with gaudy, glossy wrappers. Twix, for instance, used to come in a dull, tan wrapper that had this weird "soft" way of tearing open. But then Mars changed it to the shiny, gold wrapper that's used today.

That was in 1997.

I know that because I remember the first shiny one I bought.

I got it from a vending machine in my building. I didn't notice the change until after I picked it up from behind the magic trap door, ever valiant defender of the vending machine industry. I was let down, somehow so hurt at this unnecessary alteration. On the way back to my room, a girl held the elevator for me.

"Is that some special kind of Twix?!"

"No . . . no it's a regular Twix. They . . . they just changed the wrapper."

" . . . oh"

She was let down too! I felt so bad for her. One moment excited about a limited-time variation on her favorite cookie bars. The next deflated, defeated. And I had to be the one to tell her.

But it wasn't like that with Hershey's. Oh no. Foil. Paper slip cover. Done.

I like to imagine that there was once a big board meeting in Hershey, PA, at a 50 foot table in front of a chocolate waterfall, where some young snot suggested they change the Milk Chocolate Bar wrapper.

"It's so boring! And why is it brown! Let's talk to the ad guys, see if they can come up with something that will appeal more to kids! Like a bright, glossy red, and 'Hershey's' written so it looks like it's breaking through a sheet of glass!"

Then there was a long silence. And the president, an older gentleman who I'm choosing to believe was named Edwin Hershey, looked down past the whole table of executives to the security guard by the door. The security guard was the same age as President Hershey, in fact they started work on the same day and still played golf together, and he quietly put his newspaper under his chair. All the execs looked down at the table and fiddled with their pens while the guard's footsteps echoed past the first 25 feet of table.

"Sir, I'm going to need you to come with me."

And no one at the company ever saw that guy again. He probably works for Hydrox now.

But it didn't last. In 2003, Hershey's finally changed to a plastic wrapper. I was very disappointed in them. Still am.

Isn't that strange, though? How much we resist even the smallest changes? Or, at least, the changes we have no control over. That's the catch. No one buys a new car and starts yelling "I can't believe I'm driving this new car! The old one was a classic! What was wrong with the old one?!"

We don't fear change. We fear not being relevant. Realizing that difference gives you a new perspective on every old person, some of whom are as young as 18, who rant about how things are changing for the worse.

- "That song remake just isn't right" (Even though the original is still available.)

- "Movies aren't as good as they used to be" (Conveniently, they only remember the good old movies and forget about 'Monster A Go-Go')

- "Robots are everywhere, and someday they're going to take over" (This one is actually true, I humbly welcome our positronic masters.)

I think about these things whenever I catch myself maligning some trivial passage. If I can rid myself of "the way things ought to be", maybe I won't get old. Not really.*

*This does not excuse the Hershey company.

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Stone"-forged indeed

I imagine that somewhere in the internet there's a small, clandestine organization, one who's sole purpose is to combine popular brand names with curse words and drug references. It's the creative powerhouse that turned Microsoft into Microsux or, better yet Micro$ux.

But the organization's best work has always been in the video game field: Playstation - Gaystation, Xbox360 - Xsux Three-sh*tty, etc. Now, Nintendo tried to undercut these renamers, figuring that these flame-war arms dealers would by stumped by a crazy word like "Wii". It was a fine effort on Nintendo's part, but "Wii-tarded" was coined mere hours later.

If this group does exist, I have to believe that they have an entire division dedicated to adding the word "crack" into the name of every persistent online game. Everquest? Evercrack. Asheron's Call? Asheron's Crack. World of Warcraft? World of Warcrack. And so on.

The idea behind these combinations is solid enough. People seem to get "addicted" to online role-playing, so why not blend the games with a horrible, life-destroying drug for comedy magic?

But I've come to realize that this crack association is entirely wrong. Massively Multiplayer Online games are NOT CRACK.

They are pot.

And I can prove it.

Consider the following, plugging either "pot" or "World of Warcraft" into the blanks.

1. Your friends who are involved with ___ swear that it's non-addictive, even though it's the only thing they seem to want to do or talk about.

2. Every normal activity now has to include ___ in some way, whether it's a party, trip, dinner, funeral, etc.

3. Once someone starts with ___, he quickly gains a new group of friends that you aren't a part of. You are constantly encouraged to try ___, even if it's just so you can socialize with the group.

4. These new circles have their own set of lingo regarding ___ which no one else understands. And nothing is funnier to them than if you, God forbid, misuse some trivial piece of their dumbass terminology.

5. After some real exposure to ___ "enthusiasts", you realize that the danger of ___ is not that it's directly destructive, but that it makes people ok with the idea of sitting around all day.

6. Certain ___ people are constantly surprised that you aren't into ___, especially if you "seem like the kind of person who would be into ___".

7. Those same people always want to know your reasons for not trying ___. Your reasons are somehow never valid, and "if you'd just try ___ you'd understand."

8. There are friends that you used to have who are now too busy with ___ to ever hang out. These friends are always saying how they miss you, and wish you'd come be a part of their ___ friends so they could see you again, as though you should feel guilty that THEY chose the game over YOU.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The one with the awkward moment

The thing is, it has to happen.

You can't just fly around all the time catching airplanes and stopping giant meteors and lifting overturned cars without it happening. Even if the only thing he did was walk around Metropolis all day, it would still happen every once in a while.

So what does the guy do, zip home to Mom every time so she can take care of it? He doesn't have time for that. And it's not like he can go to a dry cleaner: "Hi, I need to umm . . . get this cleaned. Yeah. No, it's not mine, I uh . . . I ran into Superman outside and he, you know, he asked me if I could just drop it off for him. So I figured, since I was coming by here ANYway . . . I mean he's the 'Man of Steel', he saved like thirty people last week, seems like the least I could . . . look just put it under 'Kent', okay?"

See what I mean? He simply has to be doing it himself. There's no other way. It must be part of his routine, just like stopping runaway trains or catching missiles in mid-air.

But how weird would it be to catch him at it? To walk in on Superman ironing his cape? Just standing there in his living room, wearing the suit. Probably with a rerun of "Friends" on in the background. And he looks up at you with this expressionless face, because it's totally normal to him. You'd be staring blankly, trying to reconcile the superhero who burned a hole though a bank vault yesterday using only his eyes with this dude in front of you who hadn't sorted the pile of socks on his couch yet.

What do you think he would he say? What would you say? I imagine there'd be this weird, awkward silence for a minute. Then finally Superman would yell "WHAT, it gets wrinkled!?", just like he'd practiced it in his head every time he got out the spray starch. And almost immediately you'd come back with "noIknow! I'msureitdoes!". Then it'd be quiet again for a second while you tried to think of a segue out.

"Aaaaaanyway, sooooo good luck with that I guess. And uhhh, don't use too much starch! Heh. Uh." *crickets* "And yeah, I'm gonna go . . . take care of some things. I guess I'll see you, ya know, FLYIN' around up there*. Ok. Bye."

*while waving your fingers around a little

Friday, May 4, 2007


Armageddon came, but not the way we expected.

There was no nuclear war, no vast volcanic upheaval, not even so much as the courtesy of an alien invasion. It was a simple anomaly. A little glitch in the system that, because of just the right conditions, corrupted the whole of human civilization. Everything we'd built, everything we'd accomplished, everything we'd worked for, all of it. All of it lost. For nothing . . .

. . . just because Dave was trying trying to turn left out of a parking lot during rush hour.

People who turn left are a sort of innate problem to a right-laned society. The nature of a stop light is to manage straight-moving traffic from 2 different roads. People turning right have no problem in this setup, and in fact it's even easier for them since right turns can be made on red. Even though the stoplight system is really designed around straight-goers, the rightys have a sort of null effect and are allowed to work around the system. But left turners are another matter. Since they're trying to turn through the oncoming flow, a single lefty has to block everyone behind him until the conditions just happen to meet his needs. The only alternative to this is creating left-turn lanes, left-turn signals, and other such "special exceptions." People who turn left aren't a part of the system, they're jury-rigged into it.

When you try to turn left out of a parking lot where there's not even a stoplight to help, well, you're just taking humanity into your own hands.

You'd think that Dave would have figured it out after the first fifteen minutes. The stoplights on the road in front of him were releasing so much traffic that most of the street was constantly blocked. And when it did clear a little on one side or the other, he still had to deal with the occasional right-turner who came through either light. Then there was the parking lot across from him, just offset enough that he couldn't negotiate a simul-turn with the cars leaving it. If Dave had just realized how much time he was wasting, that he could have gotten home faster if he'd just been willing to take the slightly longer route, everything would have been fine.

But that's a thing with people. They can't deal with traveling ten feet to reach something that's only one foot in front of them, even if there's a brick wall in the way. They'd rather spend days trying to figure out a way through the wall.

So Dave sat there, and soon half the parking lot was full of cars waiting behind him. Even people who wanted to use the lot's other exit were out of luck, since many of them were blocked into their parking spaces by the waiting cars. The first fender accident didn't help things, and by 5:30 the lot was a hungry, honking mess.

No one was getting out of the lot, so no one was getting into it either. Unfortunately this didn't get noticed until one car was already half turned in, unable to move forward but still blocking the street. I suppose the blocked street wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't rush hour, and if the final game of the World Series wasn't scheduled for that night, 5 blocks away. From there it was pure snowball effect toward the End. One blocked road under those conditions meant a dozen more were frozen. The problem grew exponentially, until the entire city was shut down along with both of the major interstates that passed through it. And since the city was the major aeronautical hub for a whole section of the country, the airport was soon backed up with travelers who couldn't get cab rides. We were nearly saved from total destruction when the president ordered the planes to simply take all those people home and make them return later, but no one wanted to do it. Again, that "one foot away, ten feet of wall" problem.

The airlines were stressed from the loss of a major port, the roadways were crippled by the then-epic traffic jam, and no one was particularly happy about the World Series being called off. The snowball was rolling. A year later, somewhere in the rubble, Dave's blinker was still on.