Strange

It’s that time of year when our televisions will soon be filled with reindeer, snowmen, commercials for cars with giant bows on them, and a jolly man in a red and white suit. You can also find bionic men, talking human waste, and little girls with weird spots on their faces. They’re all part of my new piece at Esquire, 11 Strangest Holiday Specials and TV Episodes.

Update: I had planned to have the new Letter in your mailboxes last week but…well, you may have noticed when you checked your mailboxes that it wasn’t there. It’s turkey week and I don’t want to rush one out now, so the next one will be for December, right around the second week. Thanks for your patience (again)!

And Happy Thanksgiving.

Caffeine

There’s a woman at my supermarket giving out free samples of coffee. The line she’s using to get people interested enough to come over to her table to try it?

“Hello. Do you like good coffee?”

I wonder what answer she expects? “Oh God, no, I HATE good coffee. I like drinking terrible coffee that I don’t particularly enjoy!”

I didn’t want to get into a conversation with her – I really don’t drink coffee – so I turned my cart around and went down the aisle to buy…well, tea actually.

Another rant about technology

Yes, this is another one of those blog posts where I talk about some aspect of modern technology that irritates the heck out of me. If you have no interest in reading something like that, here’s that video that everyone’s been talking about this week. Enjoy!

I have a relative who doesn’t check her voicemail messages on her landline. She has voice mail – in fact, she had to set it up – but she doesn’t use it. Her and I played phone tag recently. She left a message for me, I left a message for her, she left another message for me, and then I called her back and we finally talked. I asked her if she had gotten my message that I had called and she said she had. So I asked her what she thought and she didn’t know what I was talking about. Guess why.

She had scrolled through her calls and noticed that I called but she didn’t listen to the message.

Is this a new thing? People don’t listen to voicemails that you leave? Or is it that people don’t even leave voicemails anymore? Do people just communicate through texts and Facebook chats now? Is everyone just simply hanging up when they call and get someone’s voice mail? What the hell?

I told her that if she didn’t check her voice mails on her landline and in fact hardly ever uses her landline (her words) because she has her cell, she should probably just get rid of her landline and use her cell exclusively. A lot of people do that now. She said she wants it for certain things, like 911, and I completely understand. I’m never getting rid of my landline until they break down my door and pry it from my wall for the very same reason (and many other reasons too, as I’ve written about on this very site several times). But if you keep your landline, shouldn’t you check your messages if people call you? I assume people check the voice mails they get on their cell. (Or do they?) What if someone leaves an important message?

I’m tempted to leave her a time-sensitive message sometime. “Hey, I have a check for $5000 for you, but you have to meet me at this restaurant by noon or you can’t have it! See you then!”

Smartphones and texting and Facebook have made “keeping in touch” easier and faster. They’ve also destroyed any remnants of real communication and common sense.

In other news, I have a new piece up at New York mag’s Vulture and my weekly column at The Saturday Evening Post.

Happy

There’s magic in the air today. Can you feel it? It’s hard to put your finger on but you know it’s happening. There’s an extra bounce in your step, you feel like things are actually getting better, the way you feel after a bad headache or cold has finally gone away after such a long time clogging your brain. The fog has lifted and everything seems right in the world again. Life just seems better in general, and you actually look forward to tomorrow. It’s like a constant bombardment of negativity has gone away and you can mentally breathe again. And you know why?

ALL OF THOSE DAMN POLITICAL ADS HAVE STOPPED.

Trouble with grandma

I’m mad at Grandma. Not my grandma (I don’t even think I ever met any of my grandparents) but the Grandma who makes the many treats I see in a new display at the supermarket. Take a look at this box and tell me what’s in the package:

grandmascookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love all things red velvet and I love cupcakes so I bought them. I noticed when I got home that they’re not cupcakes, they’re cookies! Yes, yes, I see that it says “frosted cookies” under the brand name, but isn’t your eye drawn to the cupcake that’s front and center? There’s a cookie there too next to it but it doesn’t even look like a cookie to me, just a mass of…frosting or something white splattered on the page. It’s the cupcake that stands out.

Why even have a cupcake on the box if they’re cookies? Sure, red velvet cupcakes exist and you want to convey that fact that this box contains cookies that have the flavor of red velvet. But cupcakes aren’t the universal symbol for red velvet, it’s cake, isn’t it? So why not have a red velvet cake on the front? No one’s going to think there’s a cake in the box (though even this could be confusing because they could always put mini-cakes in the box). Besides, aren’t cupcakes over? I thought we were all talking about pretzel bread now.

It’s not like the cookies are banana flavored and the company would put a banana on the front to symbolize banana flavor. No one’s going to think there are actual bananas inside the box. But you put a clear picture of a cupcake on a box that’s the same size a cupcake box would be, then people could naturally assume there’s a cupcake inside.

I haven’t tried them yet. Maybe they’ll be so delicious that I’ll forgive Grandma, but I just wanted to warn you about the possible confusion. This has been a public service announcement.

“Bad” news

Let’s talk about action figures (aka “dolls”).

I collect a few things: old advertising, books from my favorite authors, old cookbooks, maybe once in a while another random collectible of some kind I might see. I might get back into PEZ dispensers at some point. I don’t collect action figures. I think I have a few figurines from the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials like Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town and Rudolph, maybe a couple of MST3K figures that came with the DVD sets, but that’s about it. Action figures really don’t interest me that much, and I don’t want to have boxes of unopened action figures (no, don’t open them or the value goes down!) stored in my apartment. But I know a lot of adults who collect them.

And that’s the point I want to make about this Toys ‘R Us (not sure how to make that damn backwards R) controversy. A mom in Florida launched a campaign to get the toy store to pull the Breaking Bad action figures from their shelves (the figures come with fake money and a fake bag of meth). She succeeded. The company pulled the action figures this week.

Question: how many 9 year-olds watch Breaking Bad? Do they really want Breaking Bad action figures to play with? I really doubt young kids are clamoring to pose Walter White in various ways and make him run along their living room floors. These action figures are made for adults to purchase, and while the stores probably shouldn’t sell them alongside Barney dolls or Chutes & Ladders (are the kids still into those? I am so out of the loop.), did they really have to pull them completely? Couldn’t they have just moved them to a different part of the store (if they weren’t already) or come up with another solution? The figures are labeled for teens and older.

What about the action figures that have guns and swords? How about water guns? And I’m going to assume Toys ‘R Us is still selling videogames where the main objective is to shoot, maim, blow up, murder or run over people with their cars?

The next Letter is coming next week. I decided to make it the October issue instead of September so things got pushed back a little bit. Thanks for your patience! New Saturday Evening Post column today. Have a great weekend.