Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday.

People have asked what I'm giving up for Lent, and I am a bit torn. I'd like to give up chocolate, but Valentine's Day falls on Sunday, and if I get any I am eating it. I know me better than to think otherwise.

Others say you should focus more on doing something positive rather than giving up something negative. I think you can do both at once, by which I mean focusing on forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a positive act; giving up something is a negative one. By "negative" I don't mean bad, I just mean that you remove something that was there. In this case, a debt you are owed.

We know that the Bible refers to our sins using the metaphor of debt, that when we harm others we owe them for it, that those who have harmed us owe us. One translation of that section of the Lord's Prayer is "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."

I find this very useful, not just because I desperately want my debts forgiven, but also because it gives me a helpful visual aid for those who have sinned against me.

Yes, the old Parker Brothers Game of Life Promissory Note, which paves the road to penury and lands you in the Poor Farm at the end. Let's say this represents the grievance committed against me by another. Like, perhaps, vicious gossip spread by someone who meant to get me in trouble.

I decide I will obey Jesus and forgive this person. Not trying to make excuses for her; it could have been a completely evil act, and I still am under orders to forgive her. So there's my promissory note, what she would owe me on the Day of Judgment were I to hold on to the memory like an Irish elephant. But I determine that I am going to forgive this person.

The problem with forgiveness is that I can do it, and then find myself getting mad all over again when the incident comes to mind. C. S. Lewis wrote about this, about not only forgiving once but every time the memory angers us.*

By burning the note---usually just mentally; I don't want to run through board game supplies---I realize that I have to let it go, because it was a bearer bond and I destroyed it. I can no longer cash in that note. It's gone.

In that way, I can make something into ashes, and make it into something good, all at the same time.


* I forget which book that was in---I may make it a Lenten mission to find out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Be glad they have not put up a Viagra guy.

I enjoyed the Super Bowl this year, but I avoided the halftime show. Also, the commercials were the usual parade of crass garbage, freakish nightmare fuel, and maudlin sentimentality, and to hell with them.

Lately I've been getting especially annoyed by prescription medications that are enlisting animated versions of our own body parts against us. We got the latest installment of Toe Theater during the game, thanks to Valeant's antifungal medication, Jublia.

Your toe is fierce. 

Sometimes you can't always tell what body part is nagging you. This blob looks like a heart, but is supposed to be your bladder. He's on your case to try Myrbetriq, by Astrellas.

He doesn't know what it does, but he just needs some. Don't you want a happy bladder?
Some people think that the absolute worst anthropomorphic body part is the intestines, as seen by Gut Guy, the mascot for Xifaxan by Salix:

He's all tied up at the moment.
You have to admire the animators, who probably took to drink when given the assignment. "Okay, Aaron, give me a friendly pile of intestines, something for people to watch while the voiceover guy reads the disclaimer. Make him cute."

"A cute pile of intestines."

"Great, you got the idea. By Tuesday."

Gut Guy---and that is his trademarked name---has got to be the grossest animated body part, right? Not like someone would come up with something really bizarre, like Pete the Prostate.

I don't think that Actavis named Rapaflo's spokesorgan Pete, but it would figure, wouldn't it?

I don't see an end to this. Diabetic meds are going to have people being followed around by a pleading pancreas. COPD sufferers will be chased by a pair of irritating lungs. Not to mention:

Relieve chronic spleen pain with SPLEENQINEX!

Don't let strep throat hang around! Try new UVULAX!
It's bound to happen. They're going to keep doing this. Maybe I should get in on the mascot action. (I wrote the book on advertising mascots, as you know---or at least, A book.)

Drug companies interested in using my designs for Spleeny or Uvula Jack can contact me at frederick_key AT I accept large cash payments by check, money order, PayPal, wire transfer, and briefcases stuffed with bills. Thanks a lot.

And remember, I'm kind of a pill myself.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super flakes.

Last month I reviewed the Batman cereal, tied in with the upcoming film Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It actually took me a while to find the Superman cereal so I could compare. Should have known Walmart would have it.

These are not the first battling breakfast cereals by any means. We all are aware of the endless war between Count Chocula and Franken Berry. But these Justice League cereals aren't even the first to pit a human against an alien. Those would be Quisp and Quake.

The difference here is that Quisp and Quake were identical cereals in different shapes, while Batman and Superman have different shapes and flavors. Batman has bat shapes with chocolate and strawberry, while Superman is "caramel crunch" in the shape of the S shield on his chest. (Which stands for Superman, never mind what lame Kryptonian excuse he makes.)

Superman certainly has the longest relationship with cereal of any superhero. Superman debuted in 1938, and according to Gary Grossman's classic book, Superman: Serial to Cereal, the Superman radio show premiered just two years later:
The radio show brought together two longtime business partners, Superman and Kellogg's. It was a profitable relationship that lasted until 1957, when production on the television series ended. For years, Superman and the breakfast foods were inseparable. Characters from the cast peddled Corn Flakes moments after being saved from an almost certain demise.
On radio, Jimmy Olsen chimed:
Hep Hep Kellogg's Pep
Keep in Tune
Keep in Shape
With Kellogg's Pep

What's the Superman cereal like? Sure enough, it tastes like caramel, but not an in-your-face burnt caramel. Mild and pleasant, and not tooth-achingly sweet. Caramel seems to be important once again; witness Hershey's new dedication to Milton's original candy, and the new Pop-Tart flavor Chocolatey Caramel. Superman is right on that bandwagon.

Which is better? Although I didn't have any Batman cereal left to do a head-to-head test, I am able to say that I personally prefer the Superman cereal. The strawberry-chocolate combo is not one I swoon for, but I've always loved caramel, and I think that gave Supes the edge. Just a personal preference, not a judgment.

But who had the best review? A friend brought to my attention a remark from Facebook by one Rudy Vucelich, who reviewed the cereals and said, "My local grocery store didn't have any of the Superman cereal left. Also, the Batman cereal has a bitter, chemical taste to it. The Superman is much more delicious. Guess that's settled then..."

To which his comrade, Brian Pittman, replied, "Batman's cereal is just bitter because his PARENTS ARE DEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAD!!!"

Almost made me want to join Facebook.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Inappropriate treats.

These popped up at a meeting I attended recently:

The package was new and unopened, until we tore into it headlong. So, how're YOUR New Year's resolutions working out?

JC's makes all kinds of pie-like treats, as seen on the company Web site. I don't think they make actual pies, but they make pie pops (frozen pie-inspired pops) and these pie bites, or pie-inspired truffles. The bites are available as turtle (caramel chocolate), s'mores, and so on; seasonally, the above white chocolate peppermint. So whoever catered the meeting was buying off the out-of-season discount rack. "Tis the Season" says the package; "Twas the Season," anyway, at this point.

And that's the funny thing---one bite of the truffle and I felt it was all wrong. The peppermint was as out of date as a leisure suit. I was astonished at the inappropriateness of the treat, more than a month after Christmas. Pumpkin would have been less weird; that will be around again in nine months, not eleven.

It's odd, how off the truffles were. It wasn't that they had passed their sell-by date. These things keep, and they come in an air-tight package, too. And it's not like we're beyond the trappings of Christmas, which in the secular sense include snow, always snow---we had snow yesterday and maybe more coming next week. But that peppermint and white chocolate combo was like a relative that had come for Christmas and was determined to hang around until hog-brandin' time.

All that said, the truffle was pretty good. Very sweet, of course, but that didn't seem to slow anyone down. Resolutions be damned---it'll be Valentine's Day in a week or so, and that's another avalanche of chocolate and calories anyhow.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Squeeze it dry.

Do you know what this is?

It's a clip designed to squash the toothpaste tube flat in an orderly manner, ensuring a nice even squeeze and a thorough emptying of the tube. I got it at the Container Store, but they're made by Jo!e, who sells them under the name Squeeze Ease Tube Squeezers, and they work just as advertised. Three bucks for a set of three. Of course, they are designed not to contain, but to un-contain, but perhaps the Container Store is branching out.

The Squeeze Ease Tube Squeezers may never make back what they cost in terms of how much more toothpaste they get from the tube, but they in addition to easing the squeeze, they ease your fears of waste, from which, as the proverb promises, want follows. (Further, there are pricey prescription medications that come in tubes and for those, these little devices may quickly prove their value.)

It got me thinking of opportunities for other stuff-removal products. The other stuff that's on the bottom of your tube or bags or boxes and so on is never worth very much, but it always seems like a waste to let it go. This could open the door for some enterprising young fellow---like me! (Or you, if you'll cut me in.) Here's some ideas I had---just spitballing, you understand....

Aspirin Dust Assembler---Takes all the dust at the bottom of the bottle of aspirin; reassembles it into a single aspirin pill. Any leftover dust can be saved and combined with the dust in the bottom of your next bottle. Works for Tums, too!

Saltine Mill---Cleverly takes the crumbs inside the saltine sleeve and grinds them into fine salty bread crumbs, which can be used with other plain bread crumbs to top your tuna casserole or make meatloaf or whatever weird thing you do with bread crumbs.

Cereal Sugar Refiner---Just pour the shards and colored sugar at the bottom of the Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries bag into the refiner, and out comes perfectly good decorator's sugar, excellent for cupcakes or cookies. Nothing like a little dose of Lucky Charms on your already sugar laden desserts.

Cheeto Reconfigurer---From the people that brought you the Aspirin Dust Assembler, it's the Cheeto Reconfigurer! Shakes the cheez and meal bits out of the "empty" bag and turns them into a complete Cheeto (or however much of a Cheeto can be created by what's available). Scrape off your orange fingers into the Reconfigurer and take bets on how much of a Cheeto can be churned out from the powder. Makes a great drinking game!

Peanut Oil Deglazer---Why waste all that good oil on the inside of your can of cocktail peanuts? The Peanut Oil Deglazer scrapes the can like crazy, yielding as much as .001 tablespoon of delicious salty peanut oil.

Wine Box Squeezer---Any good drunk will tell you there's more wine in that Mylar bag inside the box of Peter Vella's finest. The Wine Box Squeezer will flatten the box and the bag and give you the fine taste of the Chablis inside. Good to the last drop!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Smell like Bruce.

I came upon an interesting bit of disputed trivia, about Bruce Springsteen, the Jersey Shore, 1960s teenage boys, soap, and maybe Star Trek.

As Springsteen fans know, his first real band when he was a short, skinny teenage dork in Freehold, New Jersey, was called the Castiles. Brucebase reports that the band played at least 115 shows, and also made some recordings.

The site also reports that the band was named "after a brand of soap." Peter Ames Carlin, in his book Bruce, said the name of the band was a "tribute to Castile shampoo, the brand local teams seemed to favor".

They're both right and wrong, I think.

Castile is not a brand of soap but a kind of soap; as Webster's tells us, castile soap is not made from animal fat, as many soaps are, but is "a fine hard bland soap made from olive oil and sodium hydroxide" or other vegetable oils, originally associated with Spain's Castile region. Back in the 1960s there was not quite the preponderance of soaps that there is today, and certainly nothing like the vast variety of shampoos. I found precious few trademarks on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site using the name "castile" that dated to that era. So who was making castile soap when the Castiles began playing in 1965?

Kirk's Castile Soap, made with coconut rather than olive oil, has been around since 1839, and is still around today. I suspect this was the soap that the boys in the Freehold area liked, and it would have been perfectly acceptable to use it as a shampoo too. (Pace Carlin, although Kirk's makes a shampoo now, but I would guess that they didn't fifty years ago.)

Bottom line: If I'm right, you can find out what Bruce and his buddies smelled like in 1965 by buying some Kirk's. I got this bar at Walmart.

Is it worth the effort? Well, if you're into non-animal-fat soap, I suppose this is a good option. It's not expensive; it's a nice, soft soap, feels pleasant on the skin, and doesn't seem to be any more drying or less effective at cleaning than your average bar soap. The scent is mild, not perfumey, and not at all coconutty, at least to me, so you don't smell like a big piƱa colada as you mosey down the boardwalk.

As for the Star Trek thing: I was just imagining if the Castiles had actually used the brand name rather than the type of their favorite soap, and called themselves the Kirks. In 1965 they might have sounded like a religious folk group from Scotland. But in September of 1966, they would have sounded like Star Trek fanatics. And they kept playing until 1968, so the name might have grown uncomfortable.

I guess they could have changed it to the E Street Band or something.