Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jingle blog (Finally, a post you can sing along with!)

Earlier this month there was an interesting -- and thought-provoking -- article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about bringing back to life "dead" brands. Which, of course, brought to life memories of not only the dead brands mentioned in the article (Fill it to the rim with the great taste of Brim! It's decaffeinated!) and in the comments (Bosco! Sanka!) but other dead or moribund brands, many of which featured catchy and/or memorable taglines or and/or jingles. Which, of course, got me mentally singing or humming said jingles. Which led to this post.

Herewith, my life (and probably a lot of yours' too) as defined by jingles:

I drank Dr. Pepper, and I was proud. (Before that, I felt alone in a crowd.) Us Peppers were an interesting breed. And an original taste was what we needed. But if you look around these days... Well, there no longer seems to be a Dr. Pepper craze.

My beer (at least according to the jingle) was Rheingold the dry beer. I thought of Rheingold whenever I'd buy beer. It was refreshing not sweet. It was the extra dry treat. Only problem is I've never bought Rheingold beer. (But it has a way better jingle than Bass and Otter Creek.)

Of course, if I was having more than one, it would have had to have been Schaefer, the one beer to have when you were having more than one. (Schaefer pleasure doesn't fade when your thirst is done!)

For jeans, workin'... playin'... day or night, Jordache had the fit that was right. (And this just in, Jordache is back -- and better than before, with Lycra (aka spandex)! Btw, if anyone knows where to find a clip of the SNL Jewess Jeans ad, send me the URL.)

My cats ate Meow Mix (meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow), the cat food cats ask for by name! (Though my mother will no doubt chime in that ours never did. Killjoy.)

And every morning, I'd have Chock full o'Nuts, that heavenly coffee. Heavenly coffee. Better coffee a millionaire's money can't buy. (As a matter of fact, I've got a can of their French roast right downstairs in the kitchen! An interesting aside: The jingle was created by Bernie Wayne and Bill Silbert, the dynamic duo that gave us, and Bert Parks, "There She Is, Miss America.")

Hold the pickles! Hold the lettuce! Special orders didn't upset the folks at Burger King -- except I really preferred to get my burgers from McDonald's, because, hey, you deserve a break today... and those two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun just tasted better (though I preferred their cheeseburgers -- with a small order of fries and a Coke).

And speaking of Coke, I'd like to buy the world a Coke, and keep it company, but the cost and the travel would kill me.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

How about, "I'm sorry"?

By now probably everybody reading this post has heard about Hillary Clinton's unfortunate reference to young, popular, charismatic Democratic presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy (RFK) being assassinated in June 1968 when giving reasons to newspaper editors in South Dakota as to why she hasn't dropped out of the Democratic race for President yet.

Hillary apologists and supporters aside, there was clearly a part of Hillary's brain (perhaps her subconscious) that thought (and no doubt has been thinking for a while, as she made this same comment to Time back in March), What if something happened to Barack Obama in June and I had bowed out before then? Then what would the Democratic National Committee/Party do? (Of course, they would come on bended knee, begging Hillary's -- and Bill's -- forgiveness, and after refusing the crown three times, she would finally, magnanimously, accept the nomination!)

While I think we can all agree the comment was inappropriate and in bad taste -- and just plain weird -- who of us hasn't had a momentary (or longer) dark thought about something bad happening to a rival or opponent or former lover, spouse, or boss? It's human nature. However, most of us are not running for public office or would be stupid enough to voice such a comment aloud. (Hire a hitman, possibly; talk about their feelings in public, no. And no, I am NOT suggesting Hillary would ever seriously contemplate the former, though there was that weird "Sopranos"-style ad, despite what the Rush Limbaughs and Matt Drudges of the world may think.)

So here's my beef (apparently shared by the Editorial Board of The New York Times and many others): Why couldn't she just have come out and said "I'm sorry. I screwed up. What I said was stupid and inappropriate." Heck, I would have settled for just "I'm sorry." But no. Instead we get the non-apology, "I'm sorry if what I said offended anyone," which puts the onus or blame on everyone who found it offensive (i.e., everyone except Hillary).

To quote Hillary supporter Sir Elton John, "sorry seems to be the hardest word."*

Why is that, you think? Do you have a hard time saying "I'm sorry" when you've done something wrong? Do you think "I'm sorry" is overused and has lost its meaning? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts. You won't be sorry.

*Actually, that whole song seems to have Hillary's name written all over it, though it was written (by Elton and Bernie Taupin) over 20 years ago:

What do I do to make you want me?
What have I got to do to be heard?
What do I say when it's all over
And sorry seems to be the hardest word?

It's sad, so sad,
It's a sad, sad situation,
And it's getting more and more absurd.

It's sad, so sad,
Why can't we talk it over?
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Talking Heads

I really should be writing landing page copy (and I will, Carlos, soon... like later this morning, not that you really care, but it's on my agenda, really... as soon as I finish writing this blog post, grab a shower, start a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher, and get something to eat... really). But I keep hearing Talking Heads, both the political variety and the musical group (in particular the album "Stop Making Sense" and the song "Life During Wartime," which has been playing on my mental jukebox for weeks now).

Is it just me or does it seem like we've been in primary mode for, I don't know, FOREVER?

If I hear one more suggestion as to how to seat the Democratic delegates from Florida and Michigan (I say don't seat 'em -- those states broke the rules, and they knew the consequences; but if the DNC goes soft, which we all know it will, split 'em 50-50); or that sexism played a major role in preventing Hillary from being Queen of the Democrats (puh-lease; if you really want to know why and where she went wrong, check out this interesting article from the May 8 issue of New York Magazine); or if I have to hear John "Double-Talking, My-Wife-Stole-Money-from-a-Charity-to-Finance-Her-Drug-Habit-and-Got-Off-Scott-Free-but-Let's-Not-Talk-About-That" McCain launch into yet another tirade about how crazy it is for Barack Obama to even talk about possibly talking to Iran and Hamas and, God forbid!, Raoul Castro, at some point, which, btw, I think, like it or not, is a political reality -- or necessity -- if we want to remain a so-called Super Power, I am going to scream.


Ahhhh. I feel a bit better now.

Now I can devote some time to looking up whatever happened to Charlie the StarKist tuna... (Googling... ah, it appears he is still around and now has his own interactive recipe book) and to following the controversy over current Mets manager Willie Randolph and whether he should be replaced, by, say, former Mets manager Bobby Valentine or Lee Mazzilli, both of whom I like and think would do a good job -- though I also do not think Willie is to blame for the Mets uninspired play since last summer... and to... oh wait, the dishwasher started beeping. Gotta go.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A funny thing happened on my way out of Wal-Mart

So after weeks of hearing and reading about the potential dangers of giving your kids plastic bottles and containers containing bisphenol A (BPA)*, you know, plastic items labeled with a little "5" [CORRECTION: It is actually "7"]* in that triangle at the bottom (which apparently means "carcinogenic, proceed with caution"), that you can barely see, especially if you are getting old and decrepit like me and think you may need reading glasses, I finally did a check of our plastic bottles and containers and was dismayed to find that nearly all of them bore the dreaded No. 5.

I wasn't quite prepared to get rid of the small, snack-size containers I heavily rely upon to pack snacks for my daughter for school, but I did toss all of our "5"-bearing water bottles.

It was a painful process as the reason I had acquired all of these bottles and containers, years ago, was to help preserve the environment by not dumping plastic all over it. Now I felt torn between harming the environment and harming my daughter. Of course, I chose protecting the latter. (Btw, I know at least one person -- JJV? -- is going to tell me that the FDA says BPA is perfectly safe. But I'm not buying it. Too many scientists say it isn't. And why take the chance? Are you willing to risk your child's health, especially if there are alternatives?)

The only probably now was, I didn't have a water bottle to send my daughter to school with. So I ran (okay, I drove, sue me) over to Wal-Mart, figuring they would have tossed anything and everything containing a "5" on it and still have a pretty decent selection of water bottles and containers. WRONG.

*5/20/08 CORRECTION: I screwed up. Apparently we are to avoid plastic labeled "3," "6" and "7," particularly "7" as that is the most likely to contain BPA, though I swear I read that it was "5" that was bad for us. AAARGH. I am know kicking myself (at least mentally, as I don't think I am that flexible) for throwing out all those "5" water bottles -- though they are not recyclable. Sigh.

I guess Wal-Mart figures it shoppers don't read or listen to the news or don't care, which is probably true. (Go ahead, call me a snob or an elitist. I won't deny it. But I still shop at Wal-Mart, though I prefer Target.)

Anyway... After cruising the aisles like a restless big cat in a zoo, I finally decided to purchase a couple of bottles with a "4" stamped on their colorful bottoms, figuring a "4" had to be better than a "5," at least this week. (I was really hoping for bottles with "2"s but Wal-Mart didn't have any.)

Then I figured, while I'm there, I might as well pick up a few other things. You know how that is.

A seeming eternity later... (Why is it nothing is where it is supposed to be at Wal-Mart?)

I get the last item on my mental list, which I shall refer to as a box of "feminine product." Of course, having come to Wal-Mart short on time and not planning on purchasing much, I had decided against getting a cart or a basket on my way in, so instead had to juggle everything in my arms, which was a bit tricky.

So, looking like one of those pathetic guys in some credit card commercial, you know, the one schlepping a bunch of packages after his spouse, there I was, with an armful of stuff, on top of which rested, prominently, a medium-sized box of "feminine product," gingerly making my way to the checkout area, when a pleasant-looking woman about my age, maybe a little younger, in running garb, stopped me. "Excuse me," she said. "May I ask you a question?"

As if I had nothing better to do I stopped and said "Sure!"

"Have you ever used those?" she asked, pointing to my box of private store brand "feminine product." "No," I replied. "Don't," she said, with the kind of authority that makes you know she means business. "They're no good. They crumple up. You can't use them. I know. I still have most of the box I bought."

Ya know, over the years I've been asked by strangers for directions and for my opinion on clothing ("Do you think this makes me look fat?" Why yes, it does!), many times, but being questioned about "feminine product" in an aisle at Wal-Mart was a first.

The funny thing was, I had really been leaning towards another more expensive brand, which I liked. But the store brand, which looked the same on the box, was much less expensive, so I figured "What the heck?" But after being so emphatically warned against it, I meekly went back down the aisle and switched boxes. (Clearly the feminine hygiene gods are keeping a watchful eye on me, and you don't want to make them angry.)

Of course, I couldn't get to the register without passing the woman again, who smiled as I passed by and again engaged me in conversation. She told me I had made the right decision (phew!), though she mentioned she preferred another brand to the one I had chosen (which they didn't have). She then (jokingly, I assumed) offered to give me her barely used box of the store product (which I politely declined). We exchanged a few more pleasantries and then I resumed my course to checkout.

The phrase "the kindness of strangers" has now taken on new meaning.

(As to whether my mystery shopper was right, the world may never know. I limit myself to one blog post a year with the words "feminine product.")

*IMPORTANT BPA UPDATE! Check out this New York Times editorial, dated May 20, 2008, about BPA! Among the many nuggets/info contained in the article is this: "Until the F.D.A. rules, which it should do quickly, consumers would be wise to avoid BPA for babies and young children and use those alternatives, whether glass bottles, bottles with disposable liners or BPA-free plastic bottles. Playtex has already announced that it will stop using BPA in baby items. Wal-Mart has promised to remove all bottles made with BPA from stores in this country by early next year. Toys “R” Us has plans to phase out any baby products containing BPA by the end of 2008." And again, it is apparently plastics with a "7" in the triangle that we are to avoid, not plastics with a "5." Oy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Not a former "Gossip Girl"... Why you need to check out Duffy... And why Boomer Esiason is a class act

Wow. I just found out that Cecily von Ziegesar, the author of the popular Gossip Girl books, went to my high school. Scary.

For the record, none of the girls in my class (several years ahead of Ms. von Ziegasar) were like those characters on the CW show of the same name, at least as far as I knew, though, full disclosure, I have never watched a full episode of the show (only a few minutes here and there, which quickly led me to change the channel), and I did not have full knowledge of the 24/7 goings-on of my 30 classmates.

Yeah, a few of my friends (we were a pretty tight knit bunch) may have been a bit on the wild side (almost all of us had gone to Studio 54, Danceteria, Limelight, and one club or another during high school, and occasionally had a drop of alcohol), but trust me, none of it would have made for great reading or good TV. Von Ziegasar clearly must have been writing about some other, gossip-worthy girls. ; )

Just about the only Gossip Girl-ish thing about me is, possibly, my taste in music.

As many of you who regularly read my blog know, I stumbled across new artist Duffy, a 23-year-old soulful rock singer out of Wales, a few weeks ago. Her single, Mercy, which I listen to all the time, ROCKS. And Duffy's album, Rockferry (which is featured on the Gossip Girl book site, which I link to above), just went on sale here in the States. (I am reserving judgement of and waiting to purchase the entire album until I've heard more tracks.)

And on a totally unrelated topic... Here's why I love Norman Julius "Boomer" Esiason (hey, with a name like "Norman Julius," especially if you play football, you'd have a way cooler nickname too), co-host of the morning "Boomer and Carton" show on WFAN (660 AM, New York's flagship radio station for sports) and former NFL great: So a few weeks ago, Craig Carton, Boomer's co-host, is telling the story of a man and a woman who locked themselves in a convenience store and totally pig out on crap -- that is FOOD, you dirty-minded people. So Craig asks Boomer, "If you were locked in a convenience store overnight, what would be the first thing you'd do?" Boomer's response: "I would get some Purell."

How can you not love a guy who is more concerned about personal hygiene than pigging out on Twinkies and cola -- and who has raised over $60 million for charities?!

Lastly, a big "Thank You" to Peggy at BuzzFeed for recommending my post on the green puppies. Thanks Peggy!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Polygamists Give Polygamy a Bad Name... Another Congressman Gets Screwed... CBS Shows It Can "Swing"

You just can't make this stuff up. (I know. I've tried.)

So as most of you probably know, last month authorities raided a polygamist sect in Eldorado, Texas, which has been making front-page news for weeks, for a variety of reasons. (One person I know is fascinated by the prairie-style dresses the women and children were wearing.) Now it comes out there are a number of other religious sects practicing polygamy, and they are nervous. Ya think?

Isn't polygamy illegal? And, perhaps, more importantly, where do these men (it's always men) find the time and energy for 21 wives? (Forget about the three dozen children some of these guys have.) Most men, or at least the ones I know or read about, have trouble keeping one wife and one mistress or "girlfriend" happy and/or satisfied. (And no, they are not the same thing.)

Speaking of which... I was sure that New York Congressman Vito Fossella (R), who was recently arrested for drunk driving (with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit) after running a red light in Alexandria, VA, would be resigning day (though technically the day is not over). Not because he violated the law, which he did, but because Rep. Fossella, a "family man" with a wife and three kiddies back in Staten Island, had been living in sin and fathered an illegitimate child, now three years of age, in Virginia -- a relationship that while abhorrent to many (though apparently not to his fellow Republicans) was not illegal as he was not married to the other woman. (That would have been bigamy, which supposedly is illegal, though it makes for good TV. Just ask the producers of "Big Love.")

For an amusing take on this story, I highly recommend Gail Collins' column on the subject -- great post-Mother's Day reading.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this Sturm und Drang, CBS, in its infinite wisdom, announces its new show entitled "Swingtown," a "drama" that aims "to combine the raucous abandon of 'Boogie Nights,'... [a] tongue-in-cheek take on the 1970s porn industry, and the sweetness of 'The Wonder Years,'" according to the New York Times's Jacques Steinberg. Apparently, it is okay to make television shows about polygamy (see above) and wife-swapping and ménage à trois and orgies (especially if set in the long-ago, freewheeling, pre-AIDS 1970s, in suburban Chicago). Just remember, kids, it's only make believe!

The hypocrisy of our times is breathtaking, though sad to say, none of this surprises me.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sinkhole de Mayo... Green puppies... Blog or chocolate?

It is always entertaining (well, mostly entertaining) watching MSNBC. You just never know what the cable news network will feature as "news." This morning, I got an unexpected two-fer. Apparently, down in Daisetta, Texas, there is a 260-foot-deep sinkhole that grew to the length of three football fields over just two days -- literally swallowing (or attempting to swallow) the town of Daisetta. (No mention of any giant worms.)

While I am sure this is no laughing matter to the good citizens of Daisetta, it is pretty awe inspiring. The funny part? Due to the fact that the sinkhole occurred in May, the locals refer to it as... wait for it... Sinkhole de Mayo. Get it?! Sinkhole de Mayo?!

Moving right along...

Also in the news (and I'm not talking "News of the World" or "The Star" but once again MSNBC), last week a golden retriever gave birth to a bright green puppy in New Orleans. Animal experts do not believe the pup, named Wasabi, will grow up to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Dog, but you never know.

UPDATE: According to sharp-eyed blog reader and blogger Betty Cracker, there were TWO green puppies born last week. Shocking but true. I apparently conflated the stories. The New Orleans green puppy, which I link to, was born to a boxer or boxer mix; the golden retriever and its green pup -- the one named Wasabi -- hail from California. Btw, if the owners of the other green pup have not come up with a name yet, I propose Quiche Lorraine.

Finally, a colleague of mine sent me this fascinating bit of research regarding women and blogging. (Thanks Dan!) According to the research brief, titled "Women Would Sacrifice Almost Anything But Chocolate For Blogging," which is based on a survey of more than 6,000 women conducted by BlogHer and Compass Partners, "36.2 million women actively participate in the blogosphere every week, with 15.1 million publishing and 21.1 million reading and commenting." And I'm one of them! Fascinating.

Even more interesting, according to the survey women are so passionate about blogging that they would be willing to give up something near and dear to them in order to keep blogging. Among the items included:

- 55% would give up alcohol
- 50% would give up their PDAs
- 42% would give up their i-Pod
- 43% would give up reading the newspaper or magazines
- But only 20% would give up chocolate

I find it interesting that sex was not included among the choices (though will keep my snarky comments to myself).

For the record, you can have my chocolate; just keep your paws off my blog.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

O the things you can learn at Mohegan Sun

Like why men are better at blackjack, aka 21. "It's because they have 10 fingers, 10 toes, and a hoohoo," as our dealer, Joe, explained. Women, on the other hand, continued Joe, don't fare as well, because they are prone to count to 22. (I will leave it to you to intuit Joe's explanation.) Somehow, though, in spite of our inherent disadvantage as women, and Joe's stupid, sexist comments, my buddy, G., and I made out quite nicely, thank you very much, at the blackjack table today.

Not nice enough to pick up some baubles at Tiffany or drive home in the cute Shelby near the Summer Garage entrance, but enough to pay for martinis at Leffingwells, paninis at the food court, and a Krispy Kreme donut (chocolate with sprinkles), and still have some spare change -- or as G. pointed out, about the same as I'd make doing a short article, but a hell of a lot more fun.
The real excitement, however, was not at the blackjack table, though we had a lot of fun and continue to sharpen our blackjack skills. (Who knew you should hit on 16? Well, depending on what the dealer has showing. Or that it was good to double down on an 8? Again, depending on what the dealer has showing. Now, we know.)

No, my friends, if you really want to learn something, and have a good time doing it, go to Leffingwells in the Casino of the Sky at Mohegan Sun, walk up to the upper level, which is a working planetarium, and pull up a bar stool.

The first time G. and I visited Lefingwells (which opens at 11 a.m., because it's always 5 o'clock somewhere) we met Adam, who was a DJ, Jets fan, and about to get married. It was football season, and Adam and I had a lengthy discussion about the Jets and the Giants and matters pertaining to football and marriage, with G. (a big Jets fan) chiming in, while G. and I sipped martinis and gnawed on pretzel sticks.

The next time we visited Leffingwells we had Becky, the teetotaling bartender, and had an equally fascinating conversation about something, which I cannot recall, but I know it was fascinating. (The problem with drinking at 11 a.m. on a fairly empty stomach.)

Which brings us to Steve, whom I pretty sure wanted to push me off the top of Wombi Rock (where Leffingwells is located) for not acting like he was the most brilliant, erudite man I had ever met. Sorry Steve, but just because you had CNBC on both TVs doesn't make you a hedge fund manager -- or the smartest guy in the room. That would have been Spencer, except he wasn't there. (Ya know, I would have a lot more friends if I just learned to keep my big mouth shut and play dumb.)

But I did enjoy our 45-minute conversation about why gasoline costs so much, oil and oil futures, energy efficiency (in homes and cars, including why catalytic converters are inefficient), why foam is a better insulator than fiberglass, and why a window's U-value is important. Though I think Steve would have had a way better time if I hadn't correctly answered all of his questions. G., however, who is looking into getting new windows and insulation, was very happy to learn about U-values and foam. So it was time (and money) very well spent. And the tiramisu martinis were superb. Well done, Steve!

We also had an interesting conversation about the difference between girl children and boy children with the nice bartender-in-training (a woman) who was just coming on shift and Adam, our old football pal, who is now married and whose wife, who is a dealer at the Sun, is expecting their first child, a girl, in June.

All in all, it was a fascinating, entertaining, and profitable day, for both me and G. And as we left the casino, to retrieve our children, the sun was shining brightly upon us. Really, what more can you ask for (except the ability to not end a sentence with a preposition)?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Lint, the real enemy

There I was, all set to rant and rave about this ludicrous idea of a gas tax holiday. (Gas tax holiday? Are you kidding me?!) Then I got all fired up to write about the ridiculous notion of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, five years after the fact, after watching a bit of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" last night. But then, this morning, while doing laundry on a break between projects, I realized America faces an even greater threat: dryer lint.

While getting in a quick pre-work workout yesterday, I happened to catch a terrifying segment on "The Today Show" entitled "Five things you need to know about your home: Lou Manfredini offers advice on water heaters, toilets, filters and more." (You can read all about it by clicking here.) Among Mr. Manfredini's five pieces of advice was this tidbit about dryer cleaning:

    Dryer cleaning: .... According the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 12,000 fires occur due to dryer issues. And 70% of those can be directly attributed to non-cleaning of the units. This should be done at least twice a year by removing the hose from the rear of the dryer and using a brush and vacuum to remove any lint buildup. The hose should also be cleaned using a brush on a flexible line. On the outside, where the vent is, the brush and vacuum should be used as well. A cleaner dryer works better and costs less to run and is of course safer to run as well.

Ever since being told by the guy who cleans our ducts every few years that our dryer hose was a fire hazard (and paying him extra money to suck every speck of lint out of the system -- money well spent, IMHO), I have been borderline obsessive compulsive about cleaning the lint screen and must remember to do my breathing exercises when I open the lid to the washing machine and discover, to my horror, that a tissue (or worse, tissues) has somehow gone undetected and wreaked havoc with my nice clean clothing -- creating a five-alarm lint threat.

Faced, once again, this very morning, with that kind of potentially life-threatening situation (and the gloomy prospect of hours spent with a lint roller later on today), I just could not get up the strength to blog about the Bush Administration's short-sighted Iraq policy, or the Bush Administration's equally short-sighted energy policy -- and the majority of the American public's inability or unwillingness to grasp the true problem re energy consumption (namely, that we are a bunch of self-centered, SUV-driving, McMansion-loving fossil fuel junkies who are unwilling to acknowledge our addiction and/or do much about it, except whine about it and try to pin the blame on the Saudis and countries like India and China, which are quickly catching up to us in terms of fossil fuel consumption, even though we can't control what they do, much as we'd like to). Though I highly recommend this article on the subject by Tom Friedman of The New York Times.

Now please excuse me. The dryer buzzer just went off, and I have a war to wage against lint.