Monday, October 23, 2006


My local grocery store in Little Italy (say Little Italy three times fast) has uncharacteristically stocked its shelves with this very un-Italian item: fluff.

I don't remember this from when I was a kid in the early '70s (we were a Koogle household), but some of my friends do. They tell tales of looking on with a mix of horror and envy as their friends strutted their fluffer-nutter sandwiches: a layer of fluff over a layer of peanut butter between two slices of white bread, as illustrated on the back of every jar of fluff - undoubtedly as a way to introduce some sort of "nutritional" element to this otherwise sugary marshmallow muck. How any parent can willfully serve this to their child is beyond me but I suppose sometimes you just gotta relent. I imagine fluff to be the upper-white-trash equivalent of the sugar sandwich.

The attraction is obvious. I haven't even opened it (and I never will) but I was instantly seduced. It's a fine example of effective advertising design. Everything about it evokes happiness. The baby blue and white topped by that jaunty red cap. The jolly retro font (which is extra marshmallowy in its French translation: guimauve). It's just simple goodness and smiles all around, one lovin' spoonful after another. Scoop yourself a puffy little cloud, a pillow, a snowball, a cotton ball. It's all soft and cozy and harmless until your teeth rot out. Kids are probably buying this as a snack on its own (at $2.19 it's cheaper than a pop and bag of chips). And if they manage to get their sticky hands on one of those big bubble-tea straws they can just suck themselves into sugar oblivion (it's a gateway to crack!).

check out the official fluff website here

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Emote this!

The lexicon of emoticons - that visual shorthand for human emotions - is a trend in emailing and instant messaging which I can't %#!**%#@* wait to see bite the dust.

Alright - I admit - I am not totally pure of intent here. I must confess to having, on occasion, typed one in at the end of a sentence when I suspected my tone may be misinterpreted. But I have always immediately deleted it. I prefer to believe my friends and correspondents are quick enough to detect subtle humour or sarcasm to not require the aid of a visual prompt.

The problem with this is that sooner or later, someone gets into a bit of a literal quagmire over the questionable tone of their emails. Was that some kind of back-handed insult? Was he making a pass at me? What exactly does she mean by "shut up!"?
Oh, we've all gotten so paranoid!!! See what political-correctness has done?!

It's understandable in many ways how the more thin-skinned among us may want to punctuate our sentences with the occasional winky-wink or smiley face, or even a >: - ( when we really mean business. That way, there's no room for confusion and misunderstanding. Only straight ahead infantilization.

The worst - I mean THE ABSOLUTE WORST - are those yellow smiley faces you see in ads on the web, which have become increasingly elaborate and moronic. In the world of on-line dating they are the compositional crutch of choice - and this, in a forum where beyond your looks, the bait to beat is charm, intellect, and wit (ie: originality). Usually the more obviously illiterate a person is - and there are a depressing number of those - the heavier the use of emoticons, to the point where each sentence is punctuated with a different one. Like they know they don't have the means to express themselves in simple English (or any other language for that matter) so emoticons are a sort of stunted visual Cyranno. Often the choice of emoticon has nothing to do whatsoever with what's just been said. An appreciation for Quentin Tarantino films, for example, could easily be paired with a dancing hot pepper.

I don't instant message. I think I've done it twice in my life and that was 3 years ago before children were doing it. I am way behind in the technological times here so luckily, I am imune to the 'need' to instant message. I don't have a cell phone either. I'm sure one day this stubborn luddite stance will all come crashing down on me as I sit in an upside down car in a ditch wishing I had a cell phone to call CAA and 911, but for now, well, no car, no cell. My, this is all very dark! It's about opening the channels of communication, silly! Don't you know suicide rates have dropped in Finland since they pioneered the use of cell phones in that country?
Now there's something to call home about.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Going Postal

Let me start this off by saying I love mail. I love sending mail, I love getting mail. I've written an inumerable amount of letters. Long ones. Funny ones. Lovey-dovey ones. Care packages. Fan mail. Letters of complaint and protest. I collect vintage post-cards. I've been to post-card trading shows. I can even say, with no word of a lie, that some of my best friends (two of them in fact) are Posties. There are worse jobs.

My beef is not with these intrepid carriers, but with the Mothership itself and the inane amount of Postal-related doodads and gewgaws it manufactures and tries in vain to sell. I'm talking about the junky trinkets that crowd the display shelves of every postal outlet in the land (display shelves that are installed expressly for this questionable merchandise). I suspect they keep generating all this stuff just to distract people to keep their minds off the fact that they've been waiting in line for 20 minutes.

Here's a list of what my local Canada Post outlet has in stock:

-commemorative pen & pencil sets
-collectible coins and dollar bills encased in a clear resin
-commemorative stamps
-greeting cards (Hallmark)
-plush toys (Postie cats and dogs)
-tiny plastic mailboxes, replicas of old and new
-toy mail delivery trucks, old and new
-commemorative Canadiana plates
-decorative envelopes
-Pop N' Play Simpsons, Disney, bouquet, etc. pop-up cards
-playing cards
-snow globes (to remind us of the Postman's Creed)
-Harry Potter and E.T. coin set
-junior stamp collecting starter kit (do you really want your kid to get beat up?)
-postcards of Niagara Falls (in Montreal)
-watches (to remind you how late the mail is again)
-packing materials (Label it! Pad it! Box it! Shove it!)
-commemorative golf frame (??)
-stamp albums
-Christmas tree ornaments
-decorative gift bags and boxes

Who buys this stuff? More disturbingly, who thought it was a good idea to pour resin over perfectly good money and sell it for three times the value of the money itself? Oh, right, they're uncirculated. Sorry.
Maybe all those Olde Tyme postal delivery trucks and mailboxes are just a way of tugging at our heartstrings, hardened as they've been by the cold and fast world of email, cell phones and chat rooms. What that little plastic mail truck and that stuffed moose with the mail bag and jaunty cap are telling you, as you sweat profusely under your parka, is that they still believe in the power of a hand-written letter or thank-you note. And that e-cards are just another way of saying I was too late or too cheap to spend 51 cents on a stamp (52 cents effective January 15, 2007).