September 1, 2005

Fanta’s Shocker: In which I uncover truth so real it’s probably fake

I was reading Snopes.com earlier this evening and I came across an urban legend I had never heard before: Fanta was invented by Nazis. Now this rumor is patently absurd and has been proven false by the good people at Snopes, so don’t you worry. (read the full story)

True, Fanta was created by a German-born Nazi-era Coca-Cola man, but not at the request of the Third Reich (who probably thought soda would rot their perfect Aryan teeth). Rest assured there is nothing inherently evil about the origins of Fanta soda. But the tale doesn’t end there, oh no.

Contrary to popular belief, Hitler survived the war and has spent the ensuing years living in an underground bunker, collaborating with Satan and the Easter Bunny to have his revenge on America. And as can plainly be seen today on billboards and in theaters across the country, his sinister plan has finally been realized.

Evil plan

That’s right, the Fanta girls.

Absurd? Paranoid? How else can you explain what may be the single most painful advertising campaign in American history. Nobody who actually had an ounce of respect for the American public would have subjected us to what is, let’s face it, low-level torture. This is obviously the work of a madman! (See photo evidence below: Hitler, Satan, and the Easter Bunny discuss the campaign with their advertising executive Phil.)

Evil at work

Now I know what some of you are thinking, “What’s Doc Smartypants’s deal with soft drinks? First Moxie, now Fanta, what’s next?” But let me just point out that while Moxie remains to this day the most heinous and vile-tasting beverage on Earth, its marketing campaign was in no way conceived of by Nazis or giant rabbits.]

p.s. Dear Fanta, please don’t sue me.

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July 26, 2005

The Girl’s Got Moxie: Two warriors enter the arena; only one will leave alive

On the final day of my 27th year on this planet I did one of the stupidest
things I have done in my entire life: I drank a Moxie soda. To be fair, Larry
was the one dumb enough to buy it, but then he had the good sense to
stop after the first swallow. But let me back up a moment.

We were up in Stowe, Vermont, for my birthday weekend. Stowe is one of those charming little artsy towns full of quirky shops. It was in just such a shop that Larry spotted the Moxie in the soda fridge. He’d never heard of Moxie, though I had a faint notion that it was some kind of cola, and the boy’s
a daredevil so he bought one. We stepped out of the store into the sweltering
heat as Larry took his first swig. It was like one of those cartoons where a
character accidentally drinks a bottle of Tabasco sauce. I’ve never seen
him react to anything in quite this way. There was swearing, and blustering,
and a look of absolute violation. It’s entirely possible that steam came
out of his ears. He declared it to be the foulest thing he’d ever tasted,
so, being the person I am, I demanded a taste.

There are no adequate words to describe the putrescence that is Moxie soda.
But I’ll try. First off, it tastes a bit like black licorice and gym socks
marinated in cough syrup. The minute it hits your taste buds you can feel the
bile rising in your throat and your whole nervous system gives a little shudder of revoltion. And just as you’re starting to recover, the aftertaste hits you. And if such a thing is possible, it’s actually worse. The
bottle proudly states the year 1884 and I couldn’t help but wonder if
this was a bottle of the original batch. But at least the name finally made
sense because you’d need a hell of a lot of moxie to make it
through one of these bottles.

But as I said, it was the day before my birthday. My 28th birthday. And so, in a fit of insanity, with a touch of near-suicidal birthday bravado, I declared that I would drink the entire Moxie. Even if it took me all day. One of us was coming out of this alive and it wasn’t gonna’ be the soda!

I hoped.

Larry, usually the thrill seeker, was looking at me like I was nuts. But I
stuck firm to my decision. And the day got hotter. And the Moxie got more and more revolting. Now flat and warm, hours later I was still at it, plugging away diligently, stopping for long periods to recover. Determined not to let this one thing beat me. There may be a lot of things bringing me down, I said to myself, but this soda isn’t gonna’ be one of them. No, sir! Nuh-uh. Noooooo way.

Eventually the weather got so unbearable we decided to scrap the cute shops
and see a movie. Sitting in the parking lot of the triplex waiting to buy tickets
for Wedding Crashers I realized it was now or never.

So I chugged the Moxie.

Then I cried.

Then I chugged some more Moxie.

And in the end I was declared victorious, though one has to wonder if anyone was really a winner in this contest. Maybe it was a metaphor for life a la The Seventh Seal. You can fight kicking and screaming and maybe you’ll
feel like you can win if you can just hold off Death, outsmart him somehow,
but in the end we all end up the same, drinking really crappy soda. No wait,
that doesn’t sound right. Oh well.

So I drank the Moxie. I should get a T-shirt, like when you run a marathon:
“I Drank a Moxie and Lived to Tell the Tale.” To be honest I did feel a certain degree of pride as I sat there gagging, my tongue lolling and my eyes watering with the empty bottle on my lap. I hate birthdays, but in my
soda-induced misery I was reminded that I was alive—like a near-death
experience. So what lessons have I learned? Well first, there’s a reason there
aren’t a lot of sodas still kicking around from the 1880s. And two, there’s
no obstacle you can’t overcome if you put your mind to it, but maybe there
are a few that are better left unchallenged.]

See the big finish slide show! 100 percent authentic action photos! (Currently only works on PCs)

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July 7, 2005

Not Cool, Loews Cineplex!: In which the movie moguls interrupt my summer of FREE stuff

I’m a firm believer in the platitude that everything is better when it’s free. Think about it. You’re at Costco and you get a sample of some new fat free crab puff soufflé shish kabob shake. In that moment, contained in its little paper sample cup, it is one of the best things you’ve ever tasted. Then you get it home, fix yourself a serving and realize that somewhere between the check-out line and your kitchen it turned into crap. And it isn’t just food. Free stuff just has fewer expectations attached. It’s why we watch sappy made-for-TV movies, accept someone’s hand-me-down fuchsia muumuu, and why despite living in an apartment the size of a walk-in closet, Larry can’t resist bringing home every piece of furniture or electronic
equipment he finds left on the curb.

This summer I’ve been going to the Loew’s free movie Thursdays. You sign up online, print up the ticket, and then trade it in at the box office for a real ticket. Easy. So far I’ve seen Spiderman II, Terminator II, Jurassic Park III, and Forrest Gump. Every week I eagerly look forward to my free movie, even if it’s something I wouldn’t watch if it came on TV. It’s become a ritual. There’s just something delightful about spending two hours in a nice, air-conditioned theater on what would otherwise be a boring not-quite Friday night, enjoying a mediocre movie with friends. Free. And I’ve been quite the loyal Loew’s disciple, encouraging others to attend. Hell, I got five guys to see Jurassic Park III with me! I think that’s more people than saw it when it was first released. And so even though I hate Mel Gibson and am the least patriotic person alive, I was all set to see The Patriot tonight. That is until Loew’s stabbed me in the back.

Lefty, Larry and I showed up a good half hour before the movie, well before our normal arrival time. Standing in line I noticed the electronic show times board was saying Black Hawk Down had sold out. Huh. Black Hawk Down? Perplexed, I leaned over to Larry and whispered, “Isn’t that an old movie?” Somewhere in my brain alarms started to sound. As we reached the front of the line I noticed that Black Hawk Down was listed as an 8 p.m. only show—the traditional time for our free Thursday movie. Sure enough the ticket sellers told us the free show was sold out. So not only did they replace The Patriot with Black Hawk Down without telling us, they oversold tickets to it! Larry suggested we see another movie but I refused to give them any money after they’d tricked us. I stormed out of the lobby with my best Winston Churchill scowl, huffing and puffing and threatening not to buy popcorn when I showed up for next week’s free movie. I guess I could have come up with a better threat, but next week is Independence Day (I’m sure you understand). The worst part, and even in my daze of anger and hurt I saw this clearly, was that I was so super pissed to not be watching a movie that I actually never liked in the first place!

Just so you don’t worry that our entire night was ruined, we did go to the video store and rent The Rocketeer. It was fun, but I can’t quite wash away the bitterness of having to part with $4 to rent a video when we should have been spending the evening in that blissful state that can only be attained by getting something for nothing. Oh Loew’s, why hath thou forsaken me?! Jerks.]

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February 15, 2005

UPS WTF?!: In which the boys in brown declare war on me

The following is a new tale of woe for those who have been following the continuing misadventures of the Bridesmaid Dress of Infinite Plunges.

Friday I came home from work to find the most annoying piece of paper stuck to my door. Yes, dear friends, it was a note from the UPS folks saying they had missed me (imagine that-in the middle of the day!) and would not relinquish the Dress of Most Unfortunate Design to me until I signed for it in person. Next delivery attempt? Between 2 and 5 p.m. on Monday. Of course, because everyone is apt to be hanging about the house between 2 and 5 on a Monday! Heaving a great sigh of resignation I decided I would simply have to take the second half of Monday off. OK. So Monday I arrived home at 1:30 p.m. and began my UPS vigil. I waited. And waited. Then, at last, the door buzzer! Hitting the door-open buzzer and racing down the stairs at breakneck speed I arrived just in time to see a package hurled into the inner doorway. Not from UPS and certainly not dress sized (especially not my dress size). I trudged upstairs with the package, which turned out to be three cans of Pibb Xtra for Larry (thanks, Dad). I resumed my vigil.

I became very drowsy but knew I couldn’t give in to my sleepiness lest I miss the UPS driver. Catching a UPS driver, you see, is very much like catching a leprechaun or seeing Haley’s comet: you’re lucky if you get even one chance. Some cheese and crackers later and the buzzer! Again I hit the open button and charged down the stairs only to fling the door open and find…some totally random dude. Apparently he was there to box up the first floor apartment of the building’s previous owner (now deceased for some time) but he couldn’t get his key to work. Not surprising since I can barely get in myself most days, but that’s another story. So I put on the brave face (no problem, sir, I love running up and down the stairs at all hours of the day) and climbed back up to continue waiting. And waiting. And waiting…

At 5 p.m. I said to myself, “What in the name of all things holy? Heads are gonna’ roll!” Obviously I had been outmaneuvered again and UPS must have arrived earlier than anticipated and left with the Dress of Ultimate Exposure. So I decided to track my package online using the number on the infamous Friday afternoon non-delivery slip. So I tracked the Dress of Doom, fully expecting it to be safely nestled back at the UPS lair, but instead I see: Status-Delivered, Signed for by COHEN. ~blink, blink~ Uhhhh…whaaaaa’? A pause to digest this and then I believe I yelled something to the effect of, “What the FUCK?!?!?” So I ran downstairs (though I might have strolled at this point) and there, sitting in the outer entryway, was the Dress to End All Dresses. Huh. I called Larry. He hadn’t signed for it. There is no other Cohen in the building. In fact, at that hour there probably wasn’t another living soul in the building. And UPS never so much as touched the buzzer for my apartment. This leads me to the following possible conclusions:

1) UPS are a bunch of wankers who fake signatures and toy with their customers mercilessly.

2) The ghost of the dead building owner, disturbed by the presence of a stranger in his apartment, was hanging about in the entryway and figured he may as well sign for my package assuming I wouldn’t be home to do it myself.

3) Larry signed for it and is trying to drive me mad like Charles Boyer did to Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight.

4) A future me traveled back in time to ensure that the dress was delivered, signed for it, but hated me so much she didn’t bother to ring me to let me know.

5) In a Donnie Darko-esque schizophrenic daze I actually signed for the package myself and then left it in the entryway, perhaps hoping it would be stolen thereby freeing me from any obligation to wear the Dress of Sincerest Unflattery.]

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January 19, 2005

A Truly Sucky Day: In which I have a truly SUCKY day!

Yesterday I went in to work late because I was feeling sick but not sick enough to skip work altogether. I braved the 10 degree weather (-6 real feel) and stumbled in just as they were finishing a production check in. Two hours later my boss practically booted me out the door (in a really kind way because she’s a kind person). That’s when I realized it’s true. The workplace really has changed. It used to be that you were considered a wuss if you called in and a model employee if you showed up, but now they treat you like a leper if you so much as cough. They look at you like, “How dare you come and infect the rest of us?” But it wasn’t always this way and I’m struggling to figure out how to unlearn what I’ve been taught my whole life.

So I faced the wind and 10 degree weather to walk back home. And boy howdy if I wasn’t rewarded with a phone call from the vet telling me that Wombat’s bloodwork came back with a wallop of bad news. It is a bad, bad thing when a vet says the prognosis is “not very good.” Being me I carefully took notes and hung up the phone and burst into tears. Half a box of tissue and some cheese puffs later Wombat and I snuggled up to read the second half of “The Time Traveler’s Wife”. Good book. Then we watched “The Hunt for Red October” because that’s what we do when we’re sick. It hit me again how truly astonishing it is that Sean doesn’t even try to sound Russian.]

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June 6, 2004

R.I.P. Brawny Man: In which I explain to the people at Brawny why not everything is about sex

The ad spots, as described by Seth Stevenson (http://slate.msn.com/id/2097505/) go as such:

It’s a puppet show of household products. Two paper towel rolls sit side-by-side, watching a soap opera. On the first roll is emblazoned the familiar Brawny Man, who indicates in voice-over that he’s indifferent to the sappy soap. Next to him, on a roll with updated packaging, a new, improved Brawny Man is displaying more refined emotions. His voice-over displays his detailed understanding of the soap’s relationships. He cares about love and loss. In short, he’s got a softer side. In a separate spot,he’s even shown meditating on a yoga mat, chanting, “Om” (as the old Brawny Man looks on and scoffs). At the end of each ad, we’re told that Brawny has been “massively improved.”
Last July I read an article in Ad Week magazine (shut up, we get it at work) about how all these women in their 40s have romantic fantasies about the Brawny Man. They imagine him as a firefighter, construction worker, lumberjack or cowboy who is “strong, rugged, reliable and ‘treats me well.'” The notion of lovestruck housewives mooning over a paper towel icon struck me as laughable (I went so far as to jokingly hang a picture of the Brawny Man by my computer ’cause He’s So Dreamy) but it did make me pay attention.

After that I was more aware of the changing Brawny campaigns. Well recently they finally decided to update the Brawny Man himself. No, not update—replace. And you know what folks? I am not happy. OK, so I realize the old Brawny Man looked like a late ’70s TV hunk a la Burt Reynolds or Tom Selleck, but more importantly he was sincere! Not sincere in a drippy, “I’m a sensitive guy who’ll take you shoe shopping” way, but just a really genuine sort of guy. I grew up with the old Brawny Man and while they may be marketing to lonely housewives in need of the latest Danielle Steel they completely missed those of us for whom the Brawny Man is practically a father figure, or at least a favorite uncle. We don’t need him to be stylish or sexy; we just want him to be himself!

The Brawny Man, the real Brawny Man, was the kind of guy who would have taken you camping or taught you to ride a bike. He’d know instinctively what to do when you are having “boy troubles” or being bullied at school. He would spout off after-school special advice like a fountain and tell spooky bedtime stories to all your friends who came over for sleepovers. Brawny Man would tell corny jokes and help you with your math homework and then the two of you would build a kite out of newspapers and fly it in a neighborhood park. When I think of the Brawny Man I feel like a kid again and the feeling is comforting.

The new and “improved” Brawny Man wears too much hair gel. He’s too busy watching soaps or shopping at The Gap to take you camping—besides, he wouldn’t want to ruin his manicure. He wears flannel but lives in a condo. He’s plastic and just two doors down from condescending. His mile-wide smile full of carefully whitened teeth seems to say, “Can I help you find something?” rather than, “How was your day?” I’ll give him props for looking ethnically ambiguous (is he Italian, is he Greek, is he Russian, could he be Hispanic?) but he loses points for obviously taking steroids (give those arms back to Mark McGwire!).

Oh, don’t give me that look! No doubt this “improved” Brawny Man is a descent fellow to hang out with, but he’s uptight, and folks, I’m already uptight enough for me and all of my friends, I don’t need another one of me. Sure us obsessive compulsives like things clean (a perfect match for selling paper towels) but the Brawny Man shouldn’t look like he’s afraid to tackle a mess, which New Brawny Man obviously is. He needs to loosen up. This guy doesn’t remember the ’60s and doesn’t care to. In short, he’s just a little too…Ben Affleck.

They’ve periodically updated the Brawny Man’s look since his first appearance in 1974 (http://www.brawnyman.com/Fun/history.html). A few years back they did a modest makeover on Brawny Man where they updated the hairstyle, trimmed the mustache, and changed his shirt from plaid to denim. But apparently that wasn’t enough for some people. And I still argue that the old Brawny Man could have been updated further rather than replaced. OK, lose the mustache if it’s a huge deal. Change his shirt. Even darken his hair a bit.

But why replace him? It’s just cruel. And the ad spots making him look insensitive? I resent those more than anything. Retire the man if you must, but don’t humiliate him; don’t invalidate him. In retiring the old Brawny Man I feel the people at Brawny have stolen one more tiny piece of my connection to childhood. Maybe for the masses a young, hip sex symbol is what they look for in a paper towel, but me, I will always remember the tried and true reliability of an old friend—the father figure, the naturalist, the livin’ in the ’70s fool, the Brawny Man.]

Another interesting take on the Brawny man: http://towleroad.typepad.com/towleroad/2004/03/has_anyone_noti.html

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