Archive for April, 2011

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Army of Sugar


The Culture Vulture used to look forward to Peeps Season (or,as some people refer to it: Easter). Once a year, those squishy yellow chicks made their appearance. For the select population of Peeps afficionados, it was an annual ritual of sugary bliss. And the days following the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection were even better. Peeps at  ten cents a box!

Somewhere along the path toward mass profits, the Peeps people figured out how to capitalize on a good idea. Instead of just manufacturing Peeps once a year, why not make Peeps year round? Except they’re not called Peeps at Christmas. They’re frosty white Santas. At Halloween, they’re orange pumpkins. Come Valentine’s Day, red hearts. Wow! Peeps all the time! What could be better?

Unfortunately, the availability of Peeps at all times has diminished my craving. I no longer need to stock up. I don’t salivate when I see them piled on the clearance rack at the supermarket. Peeps, like Britney Spears and Donald Trump, suffer from overexposure. My taste buds are a little disappointed. The thrill of seeing the first Peep on the shelf in March is no longer. My children’s children will never know that thrill. Peeps aren’t special anymore.

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I’m happy to present Quirky Cookies, a guest post by Bill Davis of BillDavisWords.

Spoiler Alert: There are no fortune cookies in China. No, those crisp, lightly-sweet desserts with the catchy phrases tucked inside are pretty much an American phenomenon. Something to make our chow mein, kung pao chicken and pot stickers a little more fun.

But truly Chinese or not, fortune cookies are a tradition. We expect them, and we look forward to sharing our “fortunes” with each other around the table, getting a good laugh from a completely anomalous fortune (telling sourpuss Uncle Charlie he will “bring joy to those he meets”) or a fortune which is a good pun or a joke (“ignore previous cookie”). And a married man will elicit a scowl from his wife if he dares to smile at the prediction that he will “meet an attractive lady soon.” Once, everyone in our family’s fortunes seemed to be referring to our year-old grandson (“you are full of energy” “you will make people smile today.”)

Fortunes. Nothing to base your life plans on, but it’s all in good fun (as if cookies weren’t fun enough)!

So imagine our surprise the other night while enjoying Chinese take-out with our daughter and son-in-law, when my fortune read:
American Airlines now serves 10 new destinations from LAX, including Shanghai, non-stop.

Huh?! An airline ad instead of a fortune? No way! I looked on the back, thinking the “real” fortune would be found there.

But no, the flip side of the paper strip was equally sold out to marketing:
Visit http://www.aa.com/fortunr for a chance to win one of 10 trips and lots of miles. Your lucky code: [8B45]

As if that wasn’t bad enough, each and every fortune was an ad. Not only were the fortunes nothing more than capitalistic come-ons, but they were all EXACTLY THE SAME! So not only were they disappointing, but boring, as well. Thanks a lot, American Airlines. Oh, and thanks to the restaurant for taking corporate money (and I’m sure we’re talking big bucks here) to make our meal a little less special. It was a nice touch.

At least the offending cookies made the meal memorable, albeit in a negative way. But I want my money back. Or at least the part that I assumed was going to pay for fortunes and a little post-dining entertainment. It’s an outrage! Imagine paying Madame Zora to tell your fortune and she intoned, “I see travel in your future” as you opened your eyes to see her slipping you an airline travel brochure.

Do these ever-abundant ads in our lives even work? I wish American companies would get a clue as to how much their ads actually annoy us. Any of you actually like the constant ads on Facebook? Raise your hand. Hmmm, didn’t think so. How about the motion-sensing boxes at the grocery store that tell you to buy cereal… or worse, the ones that sing to you? (Anyone else think they sound suspiciously like Barney?) Every time I look up the lyrics to a song I have to clear away the same unwanted ad for downloadable ring tones. Yesterday I went to Doonesbury.com to read a thoughtful cartoon to find it framed by not-so-soft porn ads by American Apparel.

Our culture isn’t just quirky. It’s gone mad.

We pay Billabong for the privilege of advertising their line of t-shirts. Suddenly the sandwich-sign guys in old movies aren’t so funny anymore. Everything today is plastered with some kind of ad. Our country and its citizens are like walking Nascar cars with their STP, Penzoil and Marlboro stickers. I’m surprised that doctors don’t tattoo their name on babies they deliver. It might just increase business a little. In my home town, two of the concert venues have been renamed after Native American gambling casinos. The “San Diego Sports Arena” where I once saw Zappa, The Who and Led Zeppelin is now the Valley View Casino Center. What a mouthful. Coors Amphitheater is now the Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre. At least beer and rock and roll go together. Somehow Bruce Springsteen doesn’t quite jibe with prepaid texting and quasi-European spellings like theatre. My solidly American spell checkre just rejected “amphitheatre” altogethre.

And our major sports teams fare no better: The San Diego Padres play at Petco Park. Petco? Now, I’m not a big sports fan, but when I think of the American pastime of baseball, I don’t think of puppies and kitty litter. Honestly. And somehow all this corporate sponsorship isn’t making those tickets any cheaper, is it?

But it’s not just in America. Where I work overseas, every little family-owned convenience store gets their sign provided for free by a liquor company (and guess which letters are bigger… the name of the store, or the brand of gin.) And it kills me to see the signs which point to local police stations and schools (yes, even schools) “proudly” sponsored by the local chain of by-the-hour adultery motels.

It seems that every value has bowed to the almighty dollar (or peso, as the case may be).

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I long for the old days, simpler times of peace and prosperity, when neighbors cared for one another, when food was healthier and was shared freely…

…and when fortune cookies actually contained a proper fortune.

So what bugs YOU about corporate advertising these days?

      -Bill Davis

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A typical Bluetooth mobile phone headset.

Fashionista or Fool?

Just had another encounter with one of those people. You know the ones. They’re walking along, talking really loud. At first, you think they’re talking to you. Sometimes you start to respond, but you soon realize that they have a faraway look in their eyes. That’s when you realize they are talking to….no one. Isn’t that an indication of insanity? Hearing voices in your head? Having entire conversations with imaginary friends? No, not anymore. Supposedly sane people walk around, talking to themselves. But, wait. There’s that little device hooked around their ear. Aha! They aren’t crazy, after all. They’re just using a Bluetooth! But here is my question: how many crazy people have adopted the Bluetooth as a fashion accessory to hide their insanity? Think about it. What a wonderful way to disguise your psychosis. What an ingenius method of continuing your inappropriate behavior in public. I am seriously considering buying a Bluetooth, just so I can rant and rave in public. How liberating! I’m not hallucinating, I’m just taking care of business.

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Don't Mess with the U.S.!

After a recent trip to Europe, a friend asked about the difference between Americans and Europeans. One of the first things that came to mind is how we perceive time and history. Europeans have an historical frame of reference that dates back thousands of years. Kings and revolutionaries have come and gone, leaving only a legacy of battle-scarred ramparts. Castles have been built and defended, only to be replaced by Ikea. Territories have been won and lost, as well as ideologies and systems of government. They’ve seen it all. No wonder they are a bit cynical, a tad jaded. Europeans are surrounded by the past. Their daily lives are cloaked in memories of failed city-states and martyred ideologues. Ancient remnants of past civilizations are unavoidable. Cafes and markets and yes, even Starbucks, are housed in buildings that are older than the great

Hmm, what should I wear today? I know! I'll wear my flag shirt!

monuments of Washington, D.C. America is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, compared to Europe. We have the passion and optimism of teenagers in matters of  justice and the political process. We really believe we can make the world a better place. The bloom is not yet off the rose.

Another observation is that patriotism is a virtue for Americans.For many Europeans, patriotism is dangerous. They’ve seen the consequences of nationalistic fervor. Hitler could not have succeeded without the hot blood of zealous patriotism flowing through the veins of the German people. It’s hard to fault western Europeans for their reluctance to wave the flag.  Only in America, would entrepreneurs dream up the idea of selling the American flag as an article of clothing. Only in America do people not only wave the flag. They wear it.

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So this is the state of banking today. Use your debit card and you could win a prize! Lottery and banking, what a great mix! I wonder why

Bank of Fun & Games

our economy is in such trouble with brilliant ideas like this one floating around out there.

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