Stay Tuned/8 June 1997

From Eccentric Flower


stay tuned

8 June 1997
(Sunday Papers)

A slow week. Not even a good cereal item to tide me over, unless you count the continuing excesses of General Mills' tie-ins to a certain dinosaur film. (See also.) Speaking of which, I'm happy to see the movie's take falling off rapidly - it's looking like a boffo first weekend and then a rapid death. But that has nothing to do with ads - does it?

Department Of Euphemism

I'm not sure about the tag line above. I alternate between liking its gentle humor and feeling that something is really seriously wrong with this analogy.

But never mind that. What, exactly, is "bath tissue?" I know, I know, you've seen this euphemism a thousand times. In fact, you've seen it so many times that you long since stopped noticing it. Well, notice it for a second, would you? Take it out of the back of your brain and look at it.

"Bath tissue," if you were a visitor from Mars unfamiliar with the idiom, would obviously imply tissue to be used in the bathtub. Ridiculous. Someone would have to take you to one side and explain what it really was; the labelling would be no help.

I've been reading a book on foreign customs for American businessfolk, so that they won't make asses of themselves when they go abroad (something that happens all too often because of our Americentrism). One of the items concerns the toilet. If you need the toilet, say "toilet"; if you say "bathroom," they'll wonder why you want to take a bath during the middle of the meeting.

This holds true everywhere - except for England, whose squeamish tics are even more Byzantine than ours. Even in Japan, where some of the oddest (to our ears) subjects suddenly become "sensitive," a toilet is a very matter-of-fact thing.

Why do we have this fixation, that a toilet is still so taboo that we Cannot Speak Its Name? I think that this is indicative of other, more profound problems with our society. I'm just not sure what they are yet.

Marshmallow Things

"Oh, those look good!" said the same hapless person who was heard from last week.

"Have you forgotten the Captain Crunch bars already?" I replied.

"But these look better," she said. "More like S'Mores."

"They're going to be just as bad," I said. "But don't take my word for it. Try them. I can always say 'I told you so' later."

"Not Butter - Better!"

Introducing, ladies and gentlemen, new Olivio spread, made with "Golden Extra Light Olive Oil." Rather than have a romance novelist with a silly name hawk margarines, this time we're going to give the margarine a silly name first. Then hopefully some nice romance novelist with big pectorals will come along and name himself after the margarine ....

No, no, I'm just being mean. This spread is not made by the people who make I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! It has nothing to do with them at all. In actual fact, it's made by ... Lee Iacocca.

I'm only half kidding. The lid of the little tub shown in the ad has the text "Lee Iacocca Presents" above the Olivio logo. No, I don't know what Lee's connection with this goo is (you know it's real grease when they can't even call it "margarine" legally on the label - this stuff is 60% vegetable oil). But the whole thing was too good to pass up.

By the by, I'm not entirely sure what "golden extra light" means when applied to olive oil, but you know, you can often cook directly with olive oil in recipes where you'd use goo like this ... it'll taste better, and will be somewhat better for you to boot.

Misty Water Colored McMemories

We've been keeping close track of the McMemories series of porcelain figures, here at our secret research labs, and I am both happy and sad to say that none of the subsequent models carries the sheer depth of bad taste as Eric, the french-fry-eating tyke I mention from time to time.

The latest model is "Kate," who is proudly displaying her perfect report card, complete with gold star. Promotional tie-in: she's wearing a McKids knapsack. As I say, not exactly bad taste - mostly just insipid. These ads have acquired something of a small cult here at our HQ - the copy is unbelievable. Sort of the same appeal as watching bad movies, I think.

Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys

What do you say about packaged refrigerated sugar cookie dough from Pillsbury with millefiore-like red dough imbedded in it, so that when you slice it, it reveals an American flag in cross-section?

Not much else. It is its own parody.

More Numismatist Flimflammery

I noticed a few more coin collecting ads this week. I have decided that all of these coin ads follow the "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is" rule. One of them is for a set of 78 pennies - one for each year of issue 1959 to present - for five bucks.

The ad, to its credit, does say the pennies are "uncirculated" - I'm not sure if there's a loophole in there; why not say "mint" if you mean "mint"? - but even so, what's the value of a mint 1959 penny? Still a lot of those around - I get a wheat penny (pre-1959) in my change about once a month or so.

If we take as an assumption that, one, all these coins have a market value of roughly one cent, not much more, and two, they're not going to increase much in value for a long time to come - the magnitude of the rip-off becomes apparent.

I also have here "Own a genuine Morgan Silver Dollar for only $9.95!" Same deal. Even taking into account that the coin is "guaranteed to be a minimum of 100 years old or older" (by the by, the last two words in that phrase are redundant - sorry, just being snide), the net value of the coin you receive is sure to be substantially less than the ten bucks you paid for it.

Yes, that's an old coin by your standards (the coin was designed in 1878, the ad says, so that seems to mean your coin was minted between 1878 and 1897 if we can believe the 100 years claim), but people are unearthing coins that were minted in eras so ancient your mind would reel, and the fact of the matter is, there aren't very many single American coins valuable enough to command huge money by themselves, especially if they're in bad condition (the condition of these coins is not mentioned anywhere in the ad - but I'll bet you they're not mint).

Adding insult to injury, the ad notes at the bottom that you can "receive this Bicentennial Eisenhower Dollar - minted for one year only - YOURS FREE (plus $1.90 postage and handling) when you order by phone!" First, the dollar shown is a 1971 - oops - and second ... well, you know the drill by now. You might as well pocket the excess ninety cents in "postage," and go walk down to the bank and see if they have any 1976 dollars to sell you.

Thus endeth the lecture for today.

If you try the strange cereal bars, send me your comments. If they actually turn out to be good, I think I may have to pay off a bet.

Hindsight: 23 February 2007

I'm told that the Golden Grahams bars were rather more edible than the Cap'n Crunch bars. I have still not personally tasted either, and as of this late date I am not sure either is on the market.

The flag cookies were apparently a success; they've done several other kinds (Christmas, Valentine's Day) since then.

Two side articles came into being around this time, both scavenged from the ashes of the URL Watch. One is about drug companies and doctors and won me a fair amount of argument, which is all summarized at the end of the column itself. The other is about the pyramid of corporate ownership, and how hard it is to find out who owns whom.

and now back to our program

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