Saturday, April 22, 2006

Kiss me, I'm Black and Tan

On April 6, I wrote extolling the virtues of the latest concoction from Ben & Jerry's, called Black and Tan. Sadly, the present state of society has prohibited some people from grasping the obvious, and ignorant of that seemingly elementary trait, have laid into Ben & Jerry's for having the nerve to name an ice cream after a group of soldiers.
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ice cream makers Ben & Jerry's have apologized for causing offence by calling a new flavor "Black & Tan" -- the nickname of a notoriously violent British militia that operated during Ireland's war of independence. "Any reference on our part to the British Army unit was absolutely unintentional and no ill-will was ever intended," said a Ben & Jerry's spokesman. "I can't believe that Ben & Jerry's would be so insensitive to call an ice cream such a name and to launch it as a celebration of Irishness ... it's an insult!" wrote one blogger on a junk food blog site.
It's not an insult - not even close. It's ice cream that is named after beer, and even tastes a little like beer. There is no mention of your famous militia. I looked, and could not find a single reference to violence on the entire carton, and I even looked under the lid.
Allow me to cloud the issue with facts. The term Black and Tan, relating to beer, dates back to 1889, though an earlier origin of an 18th century blend of porter and pale ale has been conjectured. As for the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force (known as the Black and Tan's), their use of the term dates to 1920. The beer pre-dates the militia by about thirty years.
It is sad that Ben & Jerry's (and their huge corporate father, Unilever) felt the need to apologize for what really amounts to nothing. What amazes me is that the corporate hierarchy felt the need to address this nonsense, rather than allow it to pass into the blogosphere where it belongs.
I cannot imagine a single person, other than an Irish historian, thinking even remotely that this ice cream is some sort of tribute to an obscure British militia that existed almost a hundred years ago.
Perhaps we should launch our own campaign against other products with seemingly offensive names. They are everywhere, and my sensibilities as a consumer may have been irreparably damaged by having to use and ingest products with objectionable labels.
There is a Swedish ice cream called Nogger Black, Vergina Beer, Cock soup, Mini Dickmann's chocolates, Homo sausage and Jussipussi bread.
All of these products are made outside the United States, and one would presume, were meant to be marketed, consumed and sold there as well. Obviously, their names have a different meaning to English ears, and language differences exist. If we allow vagaries in the language to dictate names of products, films and even people, we will be limited to names like 'it', 'that' and 'thing'. I suspect that we would run out of names quickly.
So, lighten up gang. It's ice cream.

Friday, April 21, 2006

This Old Head

News Item:
An Oregon man who went to a hospital complaining of a headache was found to have 12 nails embedded in his skull from a suicide attempt with a nail gun, doctors say. The unidentified 33-year-old man was suicidal and high on methamphetamine last year when he fired the nails into his head one by one. Doctors were surprised when X-rays revealed six nails clustered between his right eye and ear, two below his right ear and four on the left side of his head.
This is yet another example of someone who lacked the ability to conceive a plan and carry it through to its conclusion. The problem here is not the nail gun or the methamphetamine, it is incompetence.
How many times have you had to take your car to a mechanic with what you thought was a routine problem - say, your turn signals appeared to click when they weren't on - and the guy at the service station either could not find the problem, or believed he found it, when in fact, he did not. The car was returned to you, and thinking that the problem was solved, you drove away happy, with your thumb up your ass thinking that the two-hundred dollars you spent to fix it was spent wisely. What you actually paid for was a day without your vehicle and a day of health coverage for your neighborhood mechanic.
Wouldn't you think that a guy with a nail gun, even if he was stoked on meth, should be able to fire a dozen nails into his skull and fulfill his intended mission? Apparently not.
So, don't feel so badly if your mechanic can't find your clicking noise, or your dry cleaner can't get the stain out of your favorite jacket, or Chemlawn can't get rid of your dandelions, or the Phillies can't score a runner from third with less than two out.
If a guy with a nail gun can't finish his job, what chance does anyone have?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Do you want it slow, fast or half-fast?

Type the phrase “quick and easy” into a Yahoo search, and you will get 21,500,000 results. Ironically, it is neither quick nor easy to sort through them all, but the point is that we have become a society that is Hell bent on getting things done quickly and easily. I hesitate to use the word accomplished, since I don’t think many things in life are accomplished quickly and easily. Things get done, but whether we actually accomplish anything is another matter.
We have fast food, microwave ovens, e-mail, instant coffee and instant oatmeal – which actually takes a minute and a half - but I suppose in the cosmic sense, it’s an instant. Quick and easy has become the mantra for almost everything: diet books, exercise, cooking, investing, cleaning and even education. But, as they say, it ain’t necessarily so.

I suppose it helps sell books, but “quick and easy” is a shallow promise, and we all know that no one would buy a diet book called Lose Weight the Slow and Gradual Way. Watch the ounces melt away in months while your cardio-vascular system slowly adjusts to the new, slimmer you! Not a chance, right?
How about, A More Muscular Body in Only 3 Years. You’ll have plenty of time to update your wardrobe with the gradual increases in size that you can achieve in less time than it takes to pay for a new car! Hmm … Maybe not.
I bet you’ll be lining up to buy my new cookbook, Meals for Your Family in Less Than a Day. Serve high-end restaurant-quality food to your happy campers that you can prepare while you nap and do your laundry!
Clean Your House in Two Weeks. Meticulously examine every crack and crevice of your home and have it sparkling clean in less than a fortnight. You’ll finish just in time to start over.

Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Ten Years. Earn a real degree from a qualified institution in the time it takes Jupiter to orbit the Sun! Think of the extra money you’ll earn when you are finished!

Turn a $1 into a $1.04. That’s right, in one short year, you can earn up to four percent on your money, while you watch inflation eat away almost all of your profits! Tell your friends.

It’s true, no one would buy books with titles that suggest that good things take time, but isn’t that the way it really is? Wouldn’t it be nice, for a change, to have someone tell you the truth about what it takes to accomplish things?

Just one more … a special offer for Philadelphia sports fans, Win a Championship in Only 23 Years. Painstakingly build up and tear down a franchise while win-starved fans pay through the nose. Nobody would buy that book, but they will pay to watch you write it. The sad part is, it isn’t finished yet, and we are adding chapters every day.

For the record, the Eagles won in 1960, the Flyers won in 1976, the Phillies won in 1980 and the Sixers won our last championship in 1983. In between, we have heard a lot of promises, and even an ill-conceived ad campaign from the 76ers – We Owe You One – that actually took two years to fulfill. The fans keep paying for tickets, and for the most part, the beginning of every season brings fresh hope and the end brings broken hearts.
Come to Philadelphia – feel our pain. If you do decide to come, let me know and I’ll show you the quickest way to get around the city.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Born Under a Bad Sign

One of the things I think about when I'm thinking about things is how each of us is seemingly relegated to our 'lot in life' not through any of our own doing, but by our birthright. If I was born a Kennedy, I'd be living in Massachusetts; suckling on the family teat.
However, if I were born to a family of alcoholic mental-defectives, it is likely that I would be sleeping on a grate at 15th and Chestnut Streets, carrying a sign begging for food. With only a tiny amount of good fortune, we fall somewhere in between the Kennedy's and the Streety's - God bless them all.
Once we realize that our lot in life is at least partially pre-determined, perhaps we can then begin to come to terms with who we are and what we have become. As adults, I think it is necessary to take stock in our lives at some point. Perhaps now is a good time for you, too.
Presumably, we all do the best we can with what we have, and it is up to each of us to determine whether or not that is the case. For some of us, the best we have has come a bit late in life, and for whatever reason, we have delayed the cream's rise until the latter half of our life's pour. If you are young enough, (and by young, I refer to those of you who still have the ability to change your life's path) you will be able to distinguish your life's intended path from the path you wish it to take. And, I wish you the best of fortunes as you attempt to redirect your path, if that is your decision. However, if you are happy in your pre-determined path, it is either because that path is right for you, or you have become so indolent that for you, it doesn't matter.
What got me to thinking about it, you may ask (I hope)? It stems from my basic belief that, as Lenny Bruce said, "We're all the same schmuck," and each of us is one 'but for the grace of God' away from being a Streety as much as we are from being a Kennedy. When you work for people who are perceived one way by the outside world, and another way by those of us who see them daily, your perspective on people of power changes. If that changes, then everything changes.
The phrase "lucky to be here" comes to mind, and I am not sure that the humility of the situation completely reaches those in power. Why have they been singled out and others of us are the "huddled masses?" If I could answer that question, I wouldn't be posting blogs. So, if you have been relegated to some minor position in life, take heart, because those above you are only above you in the monetary sense. Conversely, if you have been blessed to be what we call a superior, do your best to realize that your so-called superiority is divined, and not assigned.

My Great Stupefaction

I realize that life is not a clear-cut set of choices and decisions. There are often grey areas that muddle seemingly obvious conclusions. Grey areas are bad, because they give decision makers the ability to cater to any special interest that either pays the bills or in some way floats their boat.

Specifically, I refer to the grey area of what we may or may not consume. On September 30, 2004, Merck announced the voluntarily worldwide withdrawal of VIOXX® (rofecoxib) from the market. There is a trial currently concluding where a man claims to have suffered a heart attack from taking Vioxx. Meanwhile, RJ Reynolds and Altria (the more user-friendly name for Philip Morris) continue to produce and sell cigarettes, knowing that they are killing people. The boxes used to say “may cause…” or “may result…” Now, they use words like “will” and “does,” as if there is no doubt that the product is causing harm.

Maybe Vioxx and similar drugs help people, maybe not, but it surely didn’t take long for the FDA and consumers to force the companies to take them off the market. As Merck said: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada have concluded that an increased risk of serious thrombotic cardiovascular adverse events is associated with all COX 2 selective NSAIDs. They go on to say that out of concern for their patients (and, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s out of concern for a lawsuit) they have voluntarily taken it off the market.

So, the point is (finally) that I suppose our government is more concerned about people who do not smoke than they are about people who do, and that the FDA, RJR and Altria are not concerned about their customers or ethics, only about their profits. Not a surprise, right? Otherwise, they would be acting on behalf of the health of everyone and prohibiting the further sale of cigarettes. Instead, we prefer to make laws prohibiting their sale to minors and dictating where or when people can smoke, when in fact, they should not be smoking at all. We would not need the laws if we had no cigarettes.

I have voiced this argument before, and the response I get is on the order of “well, you know the cigarette companies are very powerful in Washington.” They may well be, but you still have to ask yourself, who is looking out for our best interests? I don’t understand why the FDA allows people to slowly kill themselves when they are so quick to act on other products that may be killing us.

One function of government should be to help people who cannot help themselves. Smokers are addicts, and almost powerless to help themselves. It’s time for our government to act in our best interests and find a way to get these deadly products off the market and put an end to my stupefaction – at least for now.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another shameless product plug

Better than pills, bran cereal and the "dreaded apparatus". It's good for what ails you.

Spoon it into water and watch it and your troubles disappear.

You'll be a Pistol-Packing Mama in no time!

Trying to do my part to make your lives a little easier. Hear me now, believe me later.

Ain't never been there, but they tell me it's nice

You Are Austin, Texas

A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. You're totally weird and very proud of it. Artistic and freaky, you still seem to fit in ... in your own strange way.
Famous Austin residents: Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, Andy Roddick

What American City Are You?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Is Barry Bonds on Steroids? You Decide.

Compare his 1987 Topps rookie card [left] with this recent photo as a San Francisco Giant [below].

Incredible Before and After pictures tell the real story.

Egg Update

Somehow (an Easter miracle) the bids have been taken down and the egg is now back to its original $5,000. It's a steal, folks. So, if you're looking for that last minute Ridvan gift, this could be just the thing. Since the egg could be said to look as much like Jay Leno or Captain Kangaroo as it does Jesus, it shouldn't be offensive to anyone of any religion. Dig deep.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Good Advice

Things that say they're "collectible" usually are not.

Never buy coins from a television shopping channel.

Liquor before beer - never fear. Beer before liquor - never sicker.

Light a candle and curse the dark, if it makes you feel better.

Never make a life-altering decision because you think other people believe it is the right thing to do. Do it only if you believe it is best.

Signal before changing lanes, not after you already have two wheels in the next lane.

Take a day off from work and spend the whole day with your dog and/or cat. You and your pet will feel better.

Turn off your cell phone.

Go to your nearest big city and buy a meal for a person living on the street. Don't give the money to some big charity, they'll screw it up. Instead, give it directly to the person you want to help.

Enjoy some peace and quiet. This one works in tandem with turning off the phone.

Go outside, walk someplace and walk back. Leave the phone at home.

Send someone a greeting card for no particular reason. Get a blank one and write a note inside. Stop letting Hallmark do your feeling for you.

Think about a problem you have, figure out the answer and execute the solution.

Before you go out in public, buy (and use) a mirror.

Think about the giant vehicle that you want, and imagine how practical it will be.

If you own a giant vehicle, stop complaining about the high price of gasoline.

Evaluate what you want versus what you need. If you consume only what you need, you may find that you don't want for so much. And I'm not just talking about food.

Stop referring to yourself as some Nationality - slash - American. Italian-American, Irish-American ... You're an American, and chances are you've never been to whatever country you profess to be related to - so stop it.

Get off your ass and get some exercise.

Eat vegetables.

Don't be politically correct because people want you to be. Speak your mind, you'll feel better for being honest.

The Religious Right

Today is Easter, or as some would say, "Easter Sunday," as if Easter ever comes on any other day of the week. Prior to this, we had Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday sounds made up, like "Elite 8" had to be made up to go between "Sweet 16" and "Final 4" in the NCAA basketball tournament so that there would be a named stage between two major events.
We celebrate several major Christian holidays in America. They are not National holidays, since the United States does not have National holidays. Rather, they are legal holidays, because businesses are free to be open or closed if they wish. The government, however, is always closed.
I wonder how the growing populations of Islamic, Buddist and Hindu feel (really feel, not what they tell Diane Sawyer) about all this Christian holiday celebrating that we do? They're all tax-paying citizens - at least by today I hope they are - but they don't get a sniff when it comes to having time off for their own celebrations.
We're closed on Christmas, Good Friday and Easter, but if you want one of your non-Christian days off, you'll have to do it on your own. But how to know which days? Thankfully, the New Jersey Deptartment of Education publishes a list of "Religious Holidays Permitting Pupil Absence from School." If you're of the Baha'i faith, your kid can stay home on Friday for the First Day of Ridvan, but he'll need a note and he will miss a real day of school, while his fellow Christian, and Christian tolerant pals are studying American history. This is followed by the ninth and twelfth days of Ridvan, the Declaration of the Bab and the Ascension of Baha'u'llah.
A nice scam would be to pick a religion with lots of extra days off, declare that your kid is of that faith, and sign him out of school a few extra times. If you can't afford nice gifts for Christian Christmas, it will probably make your kid feel better about life, and a day off in spring is better than a fleece jacket in December.