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Sorry, Kids: There Ain’t No Betty Crocker

2 Dec

by Roger White

So I was watching “Seinfeld” for the eleventy-millionth time the other night, mainly because there is absolutely nothing on TV worth watching these days other than reruns of “Seinfeld,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “The Twilight Zone.” I know, I know, you young whippersnappers will hold forth that there are some great new shows today, like “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Big Band Theorem” or whatever. I’ll stick with the classics, thank you very much. Don’t you love the word eleventy-million?

not that theresAnyway, I realized that the shtick Seinfeld was doing was aimed right at me. He was talking about pretentious, faux-authentic-sounding brand names, particularly cars. Names like the Integra or the Impreza. They’re made-up names that are meant to sound like other meaningful words, like integrity and impressive. The punch line: Seinfeld simply hoped he hadn’t bought a Lemona. It hit me that the last three cars I owned before my current little Korean vehicle were just that: an Integra, an Impreza, and a Lemona. All true, I previously owned a 1986 Acura Integra (a great car), a 2003 Subaru Impreza (a fast but frustrating car), and a 1979 Lemona (a VW bug—a true bomb I never should have purchased).  Don’t ask me what I was thinking, buying a 35-year-old POS as my daily commute. Besides, that’s another story. A very sad, long story.

Again, anyway. Things then got cosmic as I sat pondering Jerry’s sage words. It struck me as I lifted a spoonful of my Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter flavored ice cream to my mouth. My ice cream brand, too, was a made-up name meant to sound exotic and luxurious. Remember when Häagen-Dazs first hit the haagen whatmarket? Ooh, we thought, super rich frozen goodness from some strange Nordic country where they surely make ice cream from virgin glacial streams, from milk of cows that graze only on Alpine truffles, and from melted gold flakes from Icelandic lava flows. Or something. Turns out, Häagen-Dazs is a nonsense word concocted by one Reuben Mattus from the Bronx. The name, which is not Danish or Swedish or anything slightly lederhosen-ish, doesn’t really mean a thing—except that ol’ Reuben was a marketing genius.

Same with Löwenbräu beer. Back in 1975, just about the time I started my prolific and illustrious drinking career, Miller Brewing of the US of A acquired the North American rights to Löwenbräu, which was originally brewed in Munich. Ya know, the real Germany. Well, when Miller got hold of it, they “Americanized” the recipe, and the original German version of Löwenbräu was no longer imported to our fair shores. Basically, the Löwenbräu we got was Miller swill in an umlaut-sprinkled wrapper. Of course, we young and impressionable drinking types had Millerbrauabsolutely no knowledge of this. We just saw a new, mysterious foreign beer on the market—in a green bottle, even! The name was obviously German, and if anybody knew their brew, it was the Germans. We was hoodwinked.

Same holds true with so many other brands, like bottled water types. I really never understood the billion-dollar explosion of the bottled water industry. It’s water. In a plastic bottle. Water! H2O. This is where brand-name marketing gurus have a field day. There’s one out there called, get this, Glaceau Smartwater. I kid you not. And I not you kid. Both parts of that faux moniker evoke good feelings, don’t they? Aah, a pristine glacier. And intelligent liquid. What could be better? An intellectual body of glacial ice—you can’t get more new-age trendy than that. You know who produces Glaceau Smartwater? Coca-Cola. I picture guys in the back of these massive Coke plants running tap water into these oh-so-fashionable containers of Water de Glaceau. And they’re probably smoking, too. Unfiltered Camels. And laughing.

And don’t get me started on Evian. Look at your Evian bottle in a mirror. Yeah.

uh huh

So. Cogitating on this unsettling realization that so many of the products we consume are purchased under false pretenses, I jogged in a mild panic from the den to the kitchen, where my lovely esposa was making a batch of Betty Crocker pancakes. Paranoia was setting in, so I had to check it out. I ran to the computer and googled “Betty Crocker.” Gads, sure enough. There was no such lady!! Say it ain’t so! I quote from Wiki-whatsis: “The name Betty Crocker was created for the Washburn Crosby Company, later to merge with General Mills, as a way to personalize the company’s products and customer relations. The company picked the name because it sounded warm and friendly.”

I was aghast. Agog. I needed comfort food. “Ah, pancakes. Thanks, dear. Pass the Aunt Jemima.”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

143a.

 

Have You Suffered Dizziness, Coughing, or Death Recently? If So…

20 Feb

by Roger White

So I’m curled up in bed on a drizzly, dreary Wednesday, nursing a bit of a cold (and when I say nursing, I mean I’m milking the most out of this sniffle so I can stay home—don’t try to deny that you know what I mean). I’m all set. Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke, The Big Ma BarkleyValley—the whole lineup waits for me. I’ve got my rainbow-colored goldfish crackers, ice-cold Dr. Pepper in a glass with the bendy straw so I can drink it in bed, and—my favorite—Girl Scout lemonade cookies. Man, I got it made.

But about midway through the second or third TV show, I start feeling bad—not sick bad, like I’m pretending to be. No, I start feeling like some sort of no-account loser. A vague and nebulous guilt nags at me, as if I should be creating something or fixing something or learning to sell real estate or toning my abs. And I realize the culprit is my very own pal—the television. No!

Unfortunately, yes. TV advertisers assume, and maybe rightfully so, that the vast majority of folks who stay home during the daytime are unemployed, uninspired, unhappy underachievers. Have you watched the ads on daytime television lately? Talk about a real buzzkill. Shee.

From the time I watched Barney Fife try to arrest the governor of North Carolina for parking next to a fire hydrant to the time Lee sacre bleuMajors rescued his ma Barbara Stanwyck from evil rustlers, I’ll bet you I saw 37 commercials, all of them for one of the following:

  • How to be a culinary arts professional by attending Chicken Cordon Bleu Academy
  • How to be a medical assistant professional in just six weeks by taking online classes from OuibedoxUniversity
  • How to sue your employer for asbestos exposure if you suffer from: a. difficulty breathing; b. dizziness; c. chronic coughing; or d. death
  • How to make $100,000 in six months by convincing people who stay home during the daytime to send you $39.99 for your program—a program that basically says to tell people they can make $100,000 in six months by sending you $39.99 for your program—are you following this?
  • How to lift your butt as only the Brazilians can
  • How to: lose your muffin top, achieve six-pack abs, boost your testosterone, add inches to your man parts, add inches to your woman parts, take inches off your woman parts, buy the correct bra, perform better in the bedroom (what, standup comedy?), or remove unsightly skin tags (ew)
  • How to remain in your home, travel the world, have money in the bank, finance your kids’ college, and retire in splendor—all with a reverse mortgage

I still don’t quite get the whole reverse mortgage thing. There must be something to it because they have former congressmen—heck, even Henry Winkler—hawking them. I reckon if a reverse mortgage is good enough for the Fonz, then maybe I should look into it. If it’s what it sounds like, I presume that in a reverse mortgage, the bank pays me a monthly mortgage payment, and then all the upper management peoplThe Fonze at Citibank Mortgage come and live in my house. Does this mean we have to move out, or can we just let all these guys sleep on the sofa bed until they get tired of the whole reverse mortgage deal?

And why a Brazilian butt lift? I’d like to see a good Norwegian butt lift now and then.

Man. I was going to stay home again on Thursday, but this is all too depressing. But ya know, I have been coughing and suffering some dizziness today. I might just call that law firm. I thought I caught a whiff of asbestos in the old cubie lately. Worth a shot, no?

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.