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:








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.

Columbus Day

This weekend I was watching the news and the meteorologists were giving the Columbus Day forecast. They were calling it a “travel forecast,” for the trips your families are going to make on Columbus Day. This morning I was watching The Today Show and they had a couple of cooks on, giving recipes and tips “for your Columbus Day feast.”

Question: when did Columbus Day become the new Christmas, where we pack the family into the car and go visit relatives and eat a big meal? Is this some trend I’ve somehow missed?

I’d write more but I have to get to the mall. National Sandwich Day is only a few weeks away and I don’t have any shopping done.

Jan Hooks

First, a big hello to everyone who visited the site after Jim Romenesko linked to my post from earlier this week. Always nice to see an increase in traffic and have to wonder, why am I getting so many visitors?

Second, a word about Jan Hooks, who died yesterday at age 57. Fans of Saturday Night Live always look at me funny when I say I prefer the Hartman/Carvey/Hooks/Dunn/Miller years to the Aykroyd/Belushi/Murray/Radner years, but I do. Not that the latter was bad. I watched SNL back then and it was great. But what you like in pop culture is very much influenced by what age you are when you experience it. I was 10 when SNL premiered but in my 20s when Hartman and company joined the show, and I just like and connect with what they did a lot more.

I always thought she was somewhat underrated, so it’s good to hear so many great remembrances of her. I think she should be listed among the SNL greats whenever those lists are made.

Here are a few sketches with Hooks.

The Sweeney Sisters always made me laugh.

Hooks as Sinead O’Connor. I’ve always loved this sketch.

Here she does a fantastic impression of Eleanor Clift.

Here’s Hooks as Diane Sawyer (and Tom Hanks as Peter Jennings!)

And this isn’t funny at all but it’s really sweet (and sad now that both Hooks and Hartman are gone).