Monthly Archives: September 2014

Candy Crush

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It has started. The Candy Crush of the world of retail. Halloween is only 40 days away. I’m sure the Halloween candy has been out since early September, but I’ve tried to avert my gaze. From here on out, we’ll be in for about seven months of Candy Crush. The candy companies have taken over the holidays we celebrate…it seems that’s all they’re about. And each year they come out with the holiday themed candies earlier and earlier, so that now, it’s all a Willy Wonka blur.

It dawned on my last winter that we have these seven months of straight holidays that have candy associated with them, and then we have a sort of candy break over the summer months. Halloween is all about the candy now…who cares if you have the best costume or the best-decorated yard? It’s all about what you are handing out to fill those pillow cases and pumpkin buckets. And how much candy are you giving?

Then we move into Thanksgiving…chocolate turkeys (a take-off on the Easter Bunny, I’m sure), and the candy corn left from Halloween can be considered a dual-holiday fall candy. We’re not so interested in giving thanks and sharing a meal with family as we are with pleasing the children by providing them with plenty of sugar.

Then comes Christmas with all of its Santas, reindeer, and candy canes. M&M’s turn from orange, yellow, and brown to red, green and white. Stockings are filled with sugary treats, and gingerbread houses are shingled and sided with tasty nuggets of pure sugar.

January provides a bit of a break to recover from your sugar coma, but then watch out! Here comes Valentine’s Day! Candy conversation hearts, boxes of chocolate, candy roses, and heart-shaped red hots. M&M’s drops the green and keeps the red and white. What better way to say I love you than with some chocolate, right?

March brings us St. Patrick’s Day, complete with all that the leprechauns can carry…gold chocolate coins, green-tinted marshmallow candies, and shamrock-shaped lollipops. Re-enter the green M&M’s, and drop the red.

And then, in April we are bombarded with chocolate bunnies, marshmallow eggs, jelly beans, and Peeps. And much like the M&M’s, Peeps have spread into other holidays…ghosts and pumpkins for Halloween, and snowmen and Christmas trees for Christmas.

But once your Easter Basket is empty, you’ll have to wait until October to start down the road to diabetes again.

Oh sure, there’s the candy they throw at all the parades, and the s’more-making candy, but that’s really about it for the summer. I wonder if it takes the candy companies those 5 months to come up with all the candy they’ll need to get through the next Candy Crush.

Stick It To Him!

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I’m really not sure what I’m more upset about. That he hit a child (his OWN child) with a STICK. More than once. Hard enough to leave marks. And that he considers this discipline. Or that he behaved this way while he was supposedly a role model, and still is a role model, despite his actions. Or that he was suspended, and then reinstated when the team and the NFL heard they were losing sponsors if he didn’t play. Or that he was suspended again when the NFL got worried they would lose all of their sponsors if he did play. Or that he will still make ELEVEN MILLION DOLLARS this year, despite not playing and despite HITTING A CHILD WITH A STICK. And all of this is only ONE incident regarding ONE public figure.

I have never hidden my disdain for any famous person who behaves badly, knowing they are watched by millions of young people who look up to them. We have come to idolize our athletes, actors and actresses, musicians, and politicians to the point where we are blind to their bad behavior. We have even gone so far as to make their bad behavior seem cool. We make excuses for them, and make them into some sort of gods who can do no wrong. Teammates, coaches, aides, and agents stand by them, no matter what truths come out.

I’ve also never kept quiet as to how I feel about the total misalignment of rates of pay in our society. We not only lionize them, but we reward them with huge salaries. Our young people can choose to be teachers, nurses, cooks, or sales clerks, and will always struggle to make ends meet. But they can also choose to become athletes, actors and actresses, or musicians, and will be guaranteed to never worry about money again. How did we arrive at this pay scale? Who decided that a quarterback is worth so much more than a kindergarten teacher? We invest zillions of dollars in sports, politics, and entertainment when our schools have to scrape by with tight budgets, and people don’t have enough to eat. But all that money stuff is something we have brought on ourselves, by coming to worship these idols. (And when I say “we”, I do NOT mean me!)

Even putting all the inequities in monetary compensation aside, I am still stuck on the guy that hits his kid with a stick, and it’s ok. Or the one who knocks his girlfriend unconscious in an elevator, and it’s ok. Or the one who rapes a gal in a bar bathroom, and it’s ok. Or the one who holds dogfights, and it’s ok. If we keep saying it’s ok, it will be ok. It’s so very wrong, but it’s all going to be ok.

True North

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the morning with two of my best friends, celebrating one of their birthdays. We had a great breakfast at a resort lodge near here, and then went for a small shopping expedition in a nearby town. Our little town is very small, and has not yet turned trendy and touristy. For this I am thankful, and that is one of the reasons I chose to live in my town, and not those nearby that are more the tourist scene. The town that we visited for shopping is one of the most trendy and touristy around. Don’t get me wrong…there are times when I like to go to one of the more touristy towns and shop, and this is one of my favorite towns in which to do such shopping. But I’ve discovered there’s trendy, and there’s trendy.

Being in north central Minnesota, your choice of the theme of the day is up north, at the cabin, or at the lake. Many things about the north woods are appealing to me. I go for the more natural north woods décor…pine trees, log cabins, lakes, rivers, snow, woodland animals, stone fireplaces, and a good fire ring. But when we move into the trendy type of décor, count me out.

I’m talking about the kind of décor that you have to sign over at least one paycheck for at a foo-foo shop that sells man-made goods that attempt to replicate nature. Large leather sofas and chairs, moose heads, woolen blankets, oversized pine cones that don’t even come from Minnesota, and lots of plaid. Heavy sets of dishes made from pottery with a pine cone design. Large Italian glassware to finish off the table setting. Oh, and don’t forget the scented candles…pine forest, maple syrup, s’mores, baked apple, and mocha java. And hugely overpriced baskets of fragile ornaments, pottery bowls filled with woolen balls, and large wildlife paintings done on fabricated barn doors. A log-like gas insert for your fireplace, allowing for a flat screen TV for above the raging inferno.

Nothing like the real furnishings that come with your typical mom and pop resort. Bamboo tables and sofa frames with aging, cracking leather cushions. Chrome-legged kitchen tables with grey formica tops, with chairs that matched. An old, rounded Kenmore fridge and a small gas stove. Mismatched dishes, a few odd pots and pans, and some old, colored aluminum glasses. And the scent came from the real wood-burning fireplace, not some perfumed candle. No special track lighting to accent your Italian glassware…just that old, dim lighting that gives an air of 50’s charm.

I noticed yesterday that these trendy shops come with a well-defined population of equally trendy shoppers. I am not one of them, nor will I ever be. They are overdressed for the north woods. They have on a lot of jewelry and make-up…something you never really need if you’re truly up north. They ooh and ahh at all of the fabricated north woods kitsch. Their cabins are likely million dollar homes, squeezed between the old mom and pop places that will soon come down to make room for more million dollar homes. There is little chance that they are taking their purchases home, putting on their casual wear, and filleting and frying some freshly-caught fish, splitting some wood, and making s’mores around the fire ring. No, they are likely having some of their up north friends over for fancy hors d’oeuvres and fine wine in Italian glassware. And there likely won’t be any Scrabble or Gin Rummy playing, scary stories around the fire, or hikes through the woods to forage for mushrooms.

The Loud Family

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I’m betting you’ve all encountered one. Perhaps at a restaurant, in an airport, at the movie theater, or in your neighborhood. The Loud Family. Everything about them is loud. Annoyingly loud. Always.

You’re in a restaurant, hoping to have a nice meal and some conversation with your friends, and you get seated next to The Loud Family. Their conversation quickly becomes way more important than yours could ever be. They ramp up the volume until you not only know everything about them, but you can’t hear yourself think, let alone have your own conversation at your table. They ask about beer options LOUDLY, they order LOUDLY, and then they even eat LOUDLY.

You get seated on the plane, heading to your much-needed vacation, and, as luck would have it, behind you is The Loud Family. Before take-off, they are on their cell phones, having LOUD conversations with the loved ones they will not be able to speak with for the next few hours. Their children are LOUDLY demanding this or that, ratcheting up their volume each time they are ignored by their parents, who are busy talking LOUDLY to each other.

The movie is about to start, and you are all settled in with your popcorn and Milk Duds, ready to enjoy the movie you’ve waited weeks to see. Just before the movie starts, in comes The Loud Family. And, of course, they sit right behind you. There is LOUD discussion as to who sits next to whom. There is much LOUD whining and complaining as to who got what concession items, and who did not. Then, just when you think they are settled in, and ready to watch the movie, you hear an obnoxious ringtone, and dad takes the call (of course.) Not only does he take the call, but he feels the need to yell LOUDLY in order to be heard over the movie.

Then there’s the ultimate Loud Family. I’m not talking about people who just talk loudly while you are in contact with them in a public place, although that can certainly be annoying. I’m talking about neighbors, who you are stuck being near when you are relaxing at home. EVERYTHING about them is loud. Their car has no muffler. Their lawn mower sounds like a small plane taking off, and sputters and revs. Their leaf blower sounds like a chain saw, in YOUR living room. They take off on a motorcycle in the wee hours of the morning that sounds like Sturgis at full-tilt.

And, yes, there’s the loud talking, too. Everything seems to be screamed or shouted, as if at a distance. Their kids are screamers. Not just the usual screaming when a child is hurt or scared. Oh, no…I’m talking about just screaming for no apparent reason. And when one screams, and gets attention that way, the siblings learn to scream, too, compounding the issue for the neighbors. And the dog, which seems to have been acquired only to store in a crate in the back yard, barks, whines, and yips all the time. Go figure. Wonder where he learned that?

I have to wonder, do these people realize their extreme volume? They seem to have a very high tolerance for noise, themselves. Perhaps they believe everyone has the same tolerance. Do they just not care? Do they feel their conversation IS more important than anyone else’s? Are they hard of hearing, and don’t realize they’re being that loud? A lot of funny movies and TV shows have been made with LOUD characters in them. When The Loud Family watches these shows, do you think they recognize themselves, or do they just shout on their cell phones throughout the shows, and miss the point entirely?