Friday, October 31, 2008

Say the bells of St. Clement's

Clearly, Yellow and Orange are the most hated of all the Starburst flavors.

Note: I'm refusing to refer to them as "Lemon and Orange," because they're pretty far removed from any genuine fruit heritage. I wish Orange didn't have it's little "my color is my name" thing, so I could properly denigrate its candy stand-in.

How did "Orange" even manage that deal? The color and fruit have the same name in almost every language. If there's a Discworldian god of oranges, I'll bet he's got a lot of political savvy.

I may be getting off topic.

The candy jar dynamics of Starburst seem to be pretty consistent in this country. Red-gone. Pink-gone*. Orange and Yellow, still around!

In France, though, it's the red and orange that go first, and they see our love for pink Starburst as a mark of unrefined taste (this is probably something I made up).

Why do they make orange and yellow at all? Since they're so frequently passed over, shouldn't the whole package be made up of red and pink? Is there some powerful citrus lobby I'm not aware of?

Perhaps, like the peanuts of the "mixed nut" industry, orange and yellow are simply cheaper to produce, and thus get used as filler. Or maybe those flavors are designed to be palate cleanser, enhancing the red and pink flavors as you make you way through a package.

Or maybe it's a weird sociological thing, where no one would buy a product with only two flavors, because that wouldn't be enough variety. People want choices, even if a good half of those choices are crappy.

*I love how pink is everyone's favorite, but no one can tell you what the hell flavor that's supposed to be. According to the people at Starburst, that's supposed to be strawberry . . . I find that somehow terrifying.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Yep, Cary Grant, you guessed it.

Halloween makes me nervous for two reasons:

1. If a zombie-virus ever breaks out during Halloween, we're doomed. Our culture's zombie-preparedness is critically low all year long, but at least people are capable of recognizing a shambling, animated corpse when it walks down the street. But during Halloween, there's no telling how long the infected would move through our streets, slowed only by dozens of "best costume" awards.

2. People expect me to dress up, and I don't want to.

And you can't just NOT wear a costume, not if you want to be out in the world with other human beings*. Go out in regular clothes and you'll be forced into this conversation over and over again:

"So . . . what are you dressed up as?" (said ever so condescendingly)

"*sigh* I'm-not-dressed-up."

"Psshhht . . . LAME!"

Yes! People will use the word "lame" in conversation! To make fun of another person's choices! This is a thing that happens!

It's as though the costumes drag people toward childhood without letting them quite reach it, and they wind up in high school again. (Ironically, a period when they probably didn't dress up for Halloween.) Suspended for the night in those teenage years, normal adults are compelled to interrogate their social world again.

Fortunately I've found the solution to the whole problem, and I'm glad to share it with the world: Just wear a hat. Get an unusual hat, a fedora will do, and wear it with some normal clothes. And just like that, no one will bother you. Even though they can't immediately tell what you're dressed as, the mere presence of this single unusual item will throw you off their "dork" radar.

The only conversation you'll have to deal with is:

"As you dressed as *person's guess here*?"

"Yes, yes I am."

*At least you'd better HOPE those are human beings, and not dangerous zombies!

Friday, October 17, 2008


I guess, in some respects, I've come back around on restaurant punch cards.

I think Subway started it years ago with their stamp cards, and now you can't run a coffee shop, ice cream store, or smoothie place without them. I'm sure Red Lobster would be all over it if they could just figure out how to make a hole punch that looked like a crustacean. I would love it if the trend continued it's way up the retail ladder, and somewhere a guy was getting a free car because he had a little card in his wallet with enough stamps: "Are you sure you want to use this now? Because if you started a new card and got it half full you could get a van!"

Or maybe there's a company that sells exotic animals: "Hey, that's number 10 for you! I'll go get your monkey!" I can just see him there, holding a little yellow card with monkey-face stamps.*

Only it would never happen. There's a cap to where the punch-model will work. Why? Because the only things given away for free are ones that are nearly valueless.

It's a pretty distressing thought. Not only do I regularly buy (or in the case of smoothies, put a down payment on) things that have no real value, but knowing that they have no value I will continue to buy them. I'm aware that fruit, yogurt, orange juice, and whatever roofing compound they sell as "enhancers" and "boosts" doesn't cost that much, and apparently I'm ok with it.

Their promotional endeavors have brought the nature of their business model into stark relief. They sell, for %75 of a full meal's cost, the service of hitting a blender's "On" button. But that doesn't change the fact that there's a solid hour between when I'm done running at the track and when Karate starts, and I need something in my stomach that won't turn to cement while I'm kicking a pad.

So do I want a Strawberry Extreme? Or a Banana-berry treat?

*Gary Larson, my stuff is copyright Sam Cook. So I had better not see this pop up in anybody's one-a-day calendar.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Nuking the fridge

Art is, at its root, a collaborative effort between artist and audience. Creators extend a work into the world, and other people reach out to grab onto some part of it. Some of the audience will grasp it with both hands. Others will catch a single rung and hang on for the ride. A few will look at the work quizzically and conclude that it's a large plate of spaghetti, and thus it isn't fit to be used as a handhold. Every viewer re-authors the work for his own mind, finding a place for it (if there's room) in his own point of view.

And this is why appreciating creative works is a skill unto itself, with its own hurdles and pitfalls that have to be dealt with.

1. There is a difference between something that's "bad" and something that you, personally, don't like. Realizing that is difficult enough, learning to tell the difference is even harder. And it's made more difficult by . . .

2. You don't have to defend your likes/dislikes. People will want you to defend your preferences because many of them don't understand #1. They assume that, if you don't like something that they enjoy, then you think it is "bad" and that they are therefor "stupid" for liking it. (Mind you, these people are often stupid, just not for that reason.) All this being said: No, I don't like Homestar Runner. I don't think it's funny. And I'm tired of getting crap about it.

3. If you don't like something, walk away from it. You'd think this would be easy, but it really isn't. Sometimes you've heard so much about a book being good that you keep reading it long after you've lost interest. Or you'll watch the rest of a movie that you find boring simply because it seems like the kind of thing you usually enjoy.

Or, as was the case with Metal Gear Solid 2, I'd spent so much time following the game's development that my mind simply wouldn't accept that it wasn't awesome. This delusion persisted even after I was tasked with defeating a very large man on rollerblades who threw sticks of dynamite at me. (That is NOT a joke, it is literally something from the game.)*

Grinding your way through a work that you don't like is terrible for you. It makes you disenchanted with the medium, and is generally a waste of your lesiure time.

*This also explains why I walked out of every Star Wars Episode 1-3 movie thinking that it was "alright," and didn't realize it was bad until I woke up the next morning in a cloudy, sickened haze. You know, they should have really put a fat guy on rollerblades IN Star Wars Episode 1. I mean if you're going to screw it up that bad, you might as well go crazy!

Friday, October 3, 2008

To say nothing of caramel

Consider for a moment the candied apple.

Delicious. Healthy as far as desserts go. Fun to eat.

So how come you haven't had one in like ten years?

Why is this concoction limited to fair grounds and Six Flags when it's a nutritious alternative for your snacking needs? What has brought about such a culinary typecast?

Is it the stick? The candied apple is easy to carry, so therefore you can only eat it at places where you do a lot of walking around? Has the dessert been hamstrung by its own portability? 

But that doesn't make sense, because corn dogs are a staple of school cafeterias, but I don't remember even one time that I walked into the lunch room and saw a row of candied apples.

I think the root of it is this strange thing people have about associations. Order a cup of hot chocolate in July and see how long it takes someone to ask, "Eww, how can you drink that? It's so hot outside!"*

What difference does that make? Are you outside? It's not like the local Starbucks is an open-air street vendor. You're making a decision based on what the temperature is somewhere else. If we're going that far, why not eat based on what the weather is like in other countries? 

"Well it's winter in Japan right now, let's make some soup."

*They say this, of course, while holding a boiling hot cup of coffee.