Stay Tuned/13 July 1997

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13 July 1997
(Sunday Papers)


Post cereals are celebrating their hundredth anniversary by giving a lot of cereal to the Second Harvest hunger-project people, sponsoring all sorts of events where people are encouraged to donate groceries, and putting up a well-designed and informative web site with lots of information about Second Harvest. I'm looking - looking hard - but I haven't found anything to be cynical about here yet. See for yourself at www.post100.com and let me know if I missed anything.


Sharing a McMemory

Those who have read more than a few of these columns are aware that I have a bee in my bonnet about the ongoing collection of kitscherie known as the McMemories series. These dolls, plates, and pictures all feature some commercial aspect of McDonaldism, but even better than the crass commercialism is the schlock value in the execution of some of these pieces - on an artistic level with velvet paintings and Kewpie dolls.

I have a personal motivation for following this sordid series. The True Horror, the first of the series, Eric's First Fries (yes, I am going to keep linking to this image over and over until someone screams in pain), is still way beyond the rest of the lot - as if, having achieved new levels of frightfulness on their very first try, they are finding it a hard act to follow. But I keep hoping and watching.

Now that his birthday has passed, I can safely reveal in public that we actually purchased Eric as a surprise present (for a friend who also happens to be named Eric, and had admired the original ad). The response was as good as one could expect - his first words were, "You guys are sick." Sixty bucks is an expensive joke, but a worthwhile one.

Eric is no longer being sold, which means we have to face the disturbing fact that at some point in the future he may actually be worth more than we paid for him.

Image:McBrat.jpg

Meanwhile, we have to content ourselves with the likes of this little brat, who does not have a name that I can discern, but is hugging a very identifiable Grimace doll. (By the by, I've always felt that Grimace was an excellent name for a furry monster.)

I note that Ashton-Drake, makers of fine knick-knacks, are still the people who actually produce these things, but in successive ads for the series, their name keeps getting smaller and smaller. I wonder if this implies that they actually have a sense of shame?


A Few Sharp Words

Here we have an ad for Schick Personal Touch razors for women with the caption

           curved
            handle
          made
        for
      the
       curves
        of a
         woman's
          body

running like that down the side of a woman's bare leg.

What on earth has one got to do with the other?

To refresh your memory, those are the tortoise-shell looking ones which are built with a one-piece plastic handle exactly like a men's razor, except that the handle has a fancy design on it.

When shaving one's legs, one holds a razor differently (than when shaving one's face). Ergo, a woman's razor with a men's-style handle is no more effective for shaving one's legs than a man's razor.

And the few razors which are actually built to exploit the different way of using them cost twice as much. I think it's a plot.

If you believe in this religion, you can try the Gillette Sensor for Women razor (the green and white one with the broad flat handle), which seems to be the closest design to the way I actually grip a razor when shaving my legs.

But the truth in the matter is, after shaving them with a variety of different razors, including an old men's Gillette which cranked open and used double-edged blades, I'm thinking it doesn't really make that much difference what kind of razor you use at all, and I'm growing fed up with the exploitation of a gender gap in order to practice line extension at the consumer's expense.

Of course, I also don't shave my legs much anymore, so maybe I shouldn't be casting the first stone here.


Bringing Home the Bacon
Image:Bacon.jpg

"You know, they have individually wrapped sausages, but they don't have individually wrapped bacon."

"Well, can you blame them?"

"Well, yeah!"

-- Barenaked Ladies

It's only a matter of time now before it happens.


Microsoft Tops Themselves

This is not a technology column, so I try to not rant about Microsoft here, but Microsoft intruded into my weekend in a number of subtle and unpleasant ways - most notably an outdoor concert at Faneuil Hall sponsored in part by sidewalk.com, Microsoft's ill-begotten attempt to destroy the Boston alternative press (not that the Phoenix couldn't use the scare). Thank you, Bill, we already have boston.com, written by people who know the material better and who didn't sell their soul to write it.

This probably explains why I'm including this rather more trivial event here: petty retaliation.

"Create and Celebrate with Microsoft," says the ad.

If you buy Smucker's toppings and a package of "your favorite ice cream" (it says here), you get Microsoft's Greetings Workshop for a mere $9.99.

Microsoft, as you know, is attempting for one hundred percent market saturation, penetrating markets far beyond the reach of either decorum or sanity. With any other company, a tie-in this bizarre would be considered outrageous, blatant, crass, and perhaps even a little bit insulting.

With Microsoft I can only work up the energy to shrug: Typical.


If Junior Acts Up, I Downsize Him

Enter the 1997 Suave Family Manager of the year contest!

Send your family management tips and techniques in an essay of 150 words or less ....

Sigh. Corporate-speak penetrates the land of suburbia. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

The fine print is worse: "Your essay must include at least two tips which help you find value for your family, without sacrificing quality."

Me, I leverage quality by maintaining good relationship values and personal synergy.

I'm not sure whether this is cluelessness or misplaced good intentions or both. Nor do I especially care.


Spreading the News
Image:CrockTrain.jpg

Isn't this lovely? It's a choo-choo made out of parts of Shedd's Spread containers. (The thing in the blue inset is a bird feeder, also made from the same unusual medium.)

Put aside, if you will, my stock lecture about the food value of a substance which is legally forced to bill itself as a "spread," and contemplate entering this contest.

All you have to do is "make your very own original 'Creation' from Country Crock packages." The winner gets a $5000 travel prize and another five grand in cash.

The only thing I ask, in sending this divine opportunity your way, is that you send me a photo of your "Creation" so I can marvel at its full glory and grandeur.

'Cause if it looks anything like this, it'll be something to see.


I dunno, maybe I'm not giving old Bill a fair shake. Have you looked at sidewalk.com for any other city besides Boston? How is it? Give me the word and maybe I'll reconsider.

The bands were lousy too.



Hindsight: 26 February 2007

The Post 100 promotion is of course long since over; that link just goes to the Post subsite of Kraft Foods. Second Harvest is alive and well, though, and I've added an appropriate link to the copy.

I have also added a link to Ashton-Drake, although that may count as intolerable cruelty. I'm happy to say that eventually I got rid of the last of my McMemories agita, by writing a full-length column about an entire catalog of the stuff I received. I'm also happy to say that, as of this date, the McMemories merchandise is nowhere to be found on their site.

By March 1998, I had added here that "even some folks at Microsoft consider sidewalk.com a failure at this point, and the project has basically become Trotskyized over in Redmond."

Unclear on the reference? According to the official (pre-breakup) Soviet accounts of the great revolution, Trotsky wasn't there. The man never existed. His image has been erased from photos, his presence in history expunged from their books. Microsoft has a tendency to do this with failed projects.

No comparison between Microsoft and a communist state is intended. The workers get paid better at Microsoft, but the hours are longer.


and now back to our program


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