Friday, January 30, 2015

The American Whey

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.
What has drawn my ire this week? Well let's see:

Greece being a bunch of dicks about all the money they owe back to Europe?
The underwhelming Blizzard, for those of us in New York City?
Another Hezbollah attack on Israel?
More tragedies involving guns and children?
Louis CK canceling his show that I was supposed to go to Tuesday night (see "blizzard" above)?
Paltry coverage of the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz?
Deflategate and those murderous cheats?

Well, yes... at various times this week, all of the above have bothered me. But only one thing has forced me into action. Only one thing got me up off my ass and over to the computer to angrily spew my fury into the ether-world. I can no longer sit idly by and watch this wrong being blatantly committed. A wrong so severe, it would deprive a sector of the world of items which are vital to the enjoyment and appreciation of life as we know it. An egregious use of our judicial system to benefit the pockets of a major corporation who does not care about the consumer, who does not care about quality, who merely cares about protecting their own interests, even if it is legally questionable and morally reprehensible.

This week Hershey took major steps to block the import and distribution of Cadbury's chocolate in the US. Read more about that here.

Ok, admittedly, I only kind-of paid attention during social studies class way back when. Yet as unsure as I am about the participants in the war of 1812 or who was president before Monroe, I am pretty confident that anti-trust laws exist. And they exist for a reason, several actually: to promote fair competition, protect consumers and prevent monopolies. It was definitely confirmed a long time ago that monopolies are bad. And yet these actions by Hershey can be viewed as nothing short of an attempt to monopolize the candy world by controlling the selections available to American consumers. I will also call into question whether they should have been allowed to purchase distribution for Cadbury in the US in first place, but as with any other rules, money talks and makes shit happen.

Free markets reflect consumer habits and demand. They help promote invention and variety and force quality to be maintained by allowing competition. They also prevent companies from slacking on invention, variety and quality.

In this case, Hershey distributes a version of Cadbury in the US that has been altered so what they do distribute is not even a fair representation of the actual taste and quality that the popular brand is known for. And then, if that weren't bad enough, they are negotiating with importers to prevent the distribution of the actual product from overseas. Their reasoning? Because some of their wrappers are a similar color to some of the products they make? Seriously. Am I understanding this correctly?

Hershey claims that the Cadbury Toffee Crisp bar comes in an orange package which could be confused with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. By whom exactly? Who would confuse a Toffee Crisp single candy bar with the flatter packaging of two round peanut butter cups? I am assuming they are referring to the large portion of the popularity that is forced to compare size and feel due to their inability to read "TOFFEE CRISP" or "REESES PEANUT BUTTER CUPS." Which leads me to the misrepresentation of a Yorkie milk chocolate chunk candy bar, which they claim is trying to be mistaken for a York Peppermint Patty. Listen, I know candy. Very well actually. And to put it most frankly: Ain't no candy bar wanting to be mistaken for no York peppermint patty. No way, no how.
Sorry, you were saying something about these being confusing? Yikes. Do I share the same air as the geniuses who can't tell the difference?
Don't get me wrong. I do like the sensation of biting into a York peppermint patty as much as the next guy. But why would a chunk style candy bar draw their legalese and not, for example, Junior Mints? Arguably the only other chocolate covered mint candy out there that people like. (Sorry After Eights, nothing personal). I can only assume it is because the delicious chocolate used in Yorkies, and Toffee Crisps, and Dairy Milks for that matter are superior to anything Hershey produces so they are running scared. Except instead of running they are standing their ground, and building a wall to keep the illegals out. Hmmmm, interesting concept, but why? Because if the foreigners came in it might prove just how lazy, unhealthy and inferior our proud American products are.

Oh yes, I went there. And I might have to seek Snowden-style refuge because of it. These Hershey people clearly have influence in all the right places. Otherwise how in the world could this atrocity be possible? It couldn't. It defies explanation.

I am taking this opportunity to write this open letter: To Cadbury, To Hershey, To the FDA, to whomever has any say in this matter whatsoever. Please, help protect the free and open market that America prides itself on. Don't force us to choose from only chocolate products that one company produces for us. Allow us the freedom (America, innit?) to choose. Our country has a tough time letting women decide for themselves, but gun owners seem to do alright. The point is, freedom can exist over here in certain circumstances. How about a little protection for someone who wants a Dairy Milk how the Cadbury family originally intended it to taste. I want my daughter to know the Mini Eggs in her Easter basket as the authentic, delicious version I've come to know and love. It is not only fair and just, it is the right thing to do.

Hey Hershey, instead of cock-blocking good chocolate, why not use this as an opportunity to self-examine, re-address some of your own shoddy ingredients, focus on your quality, on your specific taste and leave the Cadbury taste as is for those who prefer it. Or are you too afraid to go head to head? Cause that's what it seems like. It seems like you're scared so you're setting up these ridiculous legal precedents to protect your average product. I don't see how or why this could or should be legal.

Listen, I'm not trying to suggest Cadbury is the end all-be all when it comes to chocolate. Hershey, you've got the Whatchamacallit, and that's something to be proud of. But your brazenness knows no bounds, as exhibited by the Skittles debacle of late (replacing lime Skittles for green apple ones and upsetting the entire taste balance of the pack), and maybe I'm just not ready to forgive you yet. Competition, unlike the actual chocolate being discussed, is healthy. It's good for the marketplace. It's good for the consumer. And it's good for my belly, though very bad for my thighs.

Obviously this means I will have to stuff myself beyond recognition on my trips to the UK. However, rather than binging while I'm in England, I would prefer to be able to eat those candies whenever I feel like it. You know, in the spirit of the American way and why our country is supposed to be the best. It's because you can get everything here, not just things that have been altered to be not as good so they don't make our stuff look as bad. Not just things that conform to color schemes and names that couldn't even in the most random stretch imaginable, confuse people into mistaking one for another. But because it's America and we're known for being fat free, so of course we should have our choice of every candy possible.

And what I choose is my choice. Let us choose!

Yours truly,
A fan of free markets, candy and the American way

In my research on this matter, I found I am not alone...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Two Syllables, Sounds Like: Lounds Sike

Sam Smith always seemed like a pretty swell guy to me. He just proved it in his recent amicable settlement with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. Petty and Lynne will be added as co-writers of the song "Stay With Me" due to its overwhelming similarity to "I Won't Back Down." Hear here. Smith maintains he wasn't familiar with the original song, which is possible, but more likely it existed somewhere in his subconscious a la George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" and the Ronettes' "He's So Fine." Easy breezy settlement this time. It does, however, set an interesting precedent when so much of today's musical output can be described as derivative.

Don't believe me? Take Rixton's song "Me and My Broken Heart." They gave Rob Thomas a writing co-credit from the beginning. Mainly because their song sounds exactly like his song "Lonely No More." But I guess that is the easiest way of covering yourself when you set out to write something original, end up with something that sounds like something else, but you really like it and want to use it anyway, so you acknowledge the similarity, say that they inspired you and throw them a co-writing credit. Is it me, or does that seem just a bit lazy? I imagine that it is legally the best way to do it, but it just doesn't seem 100% right to me. The only real difference in these two stories and my take on them is my own personal taste in music and the fact that I prefer the former set of artists to the latter.

Musical interpolation is nothing new. I have been hearing songs that sound like other songs for forever. It's part of the popular music landscape. And I know I'm not alone because in writing this, I found several sites solely dedicated to song similarities. I have my own list of songs that sound like other songs, and I'm happy to see some of them were covered like Jewel's "Standing Still" and Bruce Springsteen's "My Hometown":
That one had been bothering me for a while.

And Arcade Fire doing their best John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band from Eddie and the Cruisers (Eddie lives!!):

But then there were a few that I didn't see that have plagued my brain. Perhaps it is because no one gives Joe Jackson any credit... or maybe (hopefully) these guys took a page from Rixton's book and already gave him credit. I'm not sure. But for your comparison, I submit:

The Raconteurs "Steady As She Goes" as a version of Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him"
Steady As She Goes

Is She Really Going Out With Him

And continuing with my random, overly specific defense of Joe Jackson's intellectual property, N'Sync's It's Gonna Be Me reminds me an awful lot of Steppin' Out. Both fantastic videos in their own right, but musically there is something quite familiar there...
It's Gonna Be Me

Steppin' Out

I also want to point out the various "hey" shouting songs from a few years ago, just because this seems like the right place to do it:

Hey Ho
Little Talks
No Cars Go

Now, to be clear, I am not trying to start any sort of legal situation here. Sh!t happens. In fact, I quite enjoy hearing similar songs, which is how I ended up spending half my day on, and

But now I am hungry for more. Whatdya got friends? Any songs plaguing your brain with their inherent catchiness and over-familiarness? Tell me about it...
You can leave out Baa Baa Black Sheep/Twinkle Twinkle/ABC and God Save the Queen/My Country Tis Of Thee since I am already aware of those.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Show us your hits

It's a new year... or it was, a few days ago. I would have posted sooner, but I am so damn forgetful these days. For that reason, I have made myself a list of all the photos I must remember to take this year.

If you're anything like me, despite the ease of use of new technology and the handiness of carrying around a high quality camera built right into your phone, you somehow manage to forget to take pictures all the time. I am so lazy that when I do remember to take photos, I very often forget to download them. And don't even get me started on how infrequently I actually print them (typically a very haste filled printing session as I wrap picture frames on Christmas eve, assuming I have a functioning ink cartridge, which let's face it, I usually don't).

Thankfully I am reminded of all of the pictures I should take but forget to take via my friends and their Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Snapchat* posts. In my messed up mind, their photos are a reminder of all the parenting/life successes I could be having. Hoping to turn around my lazy, forgetful ways in the new year, and possibly to help a few others out there like me, here is my list of the 15 pictures we must remember to take (*and post, because if we don't post it to social media, did it even happen?)

1-New Year's Day
My photo-driven anxiety kicks into full gear starting January 1st. Seeing cute, creative pictures of people either from their New Year's Eve celebration or day after chill-axing is wonderful. Accompanying the photo with a simple yet uplifting note of inspiration and positivity for the new year is amazing. But after a long day nursing a hangover that shouldn't have been so bad, but I'm older now so they just are, the last thing on my mind is "capture this moment." I'm usually left scrambling for a tiara or cheap sunglasses denoting the new year to stick on the kid's head to document that this day actually happened. The message that accompanies it might as well say: Happy New Year to my 30 dear friends, 256 acquaintances, 10 people I kinda, sorta remember from my grade school days and my friend Mary's uncle Bob.

2-Winter Day O' Family Fun
At some point in the winter we all break off into groups based on our geographical locations.
For those of us who purchase and really use winter coats, this means a gratuitous photo of our family having "the most" fun playing outside, building a replica of our family out of snow after tubing/sledding before our family hot chocolate session.
For those southerners out there, you get to post the jealousy-inducing photos of your family having "the most" fun playing outside, building a replica of your family out of sand on the beach after tubing/water-skiing before your family ice cream sundae session.
The skilled warm weather dwellers in the group know to post those pictures two-to-three days after a massive snow storm up north, once our good will towards the snow and all its fun has dried up.

3-Valentine's Day
Another day when the posts fall into two very different groups. A bitter MEME about not needing flowers and loving vodka VS. a gooey message professing your undying love for someone. This polarizing day sure brings a lot of hate with all that love. Hopefully this year everyone knows that any post being made on February 14th is going to either be a #DONT for its funny but uncomfortably awkward gloominess or a #BRAG for its in-your-face, my bouquet is bigger than your bouquet-ness. Don't forget these all-important hashtags to make sure we know which is which.

4-Winter Day O' Complaint
Hey, remember last winter with that polar vortex thing and crazy cold weather that we all thought (hoped?) would be a one-time only thing? Well they are saying this winter is going to be worse. I'm still not sure who the theys are, but that's what they're saying, and they usually know these things.
So, several weeks after our well documented day of winter fun comes the bleak, white-out/snow drift photos taken through the glass because we simply can't be asked to put on boots and a coat just to prove how much snow we have. And yet for some reason we must show everyone just how much snow we have.

5-Vacation, All I Ever Wanted
The key to these photos is making sure they are posted while most of the rest of the world is stuck in their wintry gloominess. Sure, you could post pix of a ski trip (assuming they include amazing bikini photos in a hot tub), but we all know the true winners of this category have the turquoise sea or pool across the top and your feet resting comfortably on a towel or lounger at the bottom, sand optional. Bonus points for a visible adult beverage.

6-Random Holiday Fun
This could take the form of a successful April Fools post, or it could just be you in a bathtub full of Coronas on Cinco de Mayo. The point here is that you not only know all about the fun holidays of the year but that you are nailing them!

7-Summer Baller
The only way to prove how much we enjoy the summer is to make sure everyone gets to see the fabulous way we spend it. Own an amazing beach house? Post it. Just renting one? Post it. Just visiting one? Post it. Heck, slow down when you're driving by one and post it... I'm not gonna know the difference. What is the point of having over 400 friends but to allow for the law of social media averages which clearly states that you will be somewhere better than at least one of them at any given time?

8-Back to school
Yes, our kids attend school. And yes, they all head back to school at the end of the summer/early fall. Somehow this became a really big deal involving banners, posters, chalkboards, fancy dress and multi-colored chalk answers to questions like: When I grow up I want to be? and My greatest educational inspiration is? and How much better is my parent than your parent cause they are documenting this day officially, not just snapping a pic of me with pop tart on my chin as I rush out the door with the angry bus driver waiting in the background?

9-Fall Day O' Family Fun
I have already documented this annual ritual in my post It's the Great Pain-in-the-ass Charlie Brown. Year after year we continue to subject ourselves to the hell that is the pumpkin patch/apple orchard/hay ride for the few moments of fun that is the pumpkin patch/apple orchard/hay ride mainly in search of the elusive photo documenting those fleeting moments of family harmony and joy.

10-Halloween Costumes
Whether traditional, timely, witty or just plain silly, we have to post a pic of our Halloween costumes. Something has to justify their $30+ annual price tag. Let us also take this chance to acknowledge that we, each one of us, has the cutest kid, even if it is the fourteenth Elsa I'm seeing on my newsfeed today... or whatever THE costume is this year.

11-Have yourself an awkward little Christmas: December (cause seriously, November is ridiculous)
Time to break out the Christmas sweaters and brave the crowds at the mall for the Santa photo. Funnily enough, an oversized strange man with conspicuously fake white hair and bright red itchy clothes seems to freak some kids out... weird, right? So while the smiling family around Santa is a lovely pic to share, secretly I think we all know the hysterically crying tot on his lap gets way more love online.

12-Throwback Thursday, Flashback Friday, Remember When Wednesday or whatever reason we have to dig up old photos, take a picture of them and post them to either laugh at our own awkwardness, or revel in a moment of passing glory. Also a great way to sniff out your fellow former Jordache/mullet/hemp necklace die hards.

13-Celebrity photos
Self explanatory really, but remember there is a difference between a photo of a celebrity and a photo of you and a celebrity... A photo of Peter Dinklage walking down the street with his family, taken from behind so as not to disturb him is classy, but nowhere near as impressive as you faking a blow to the head by the real deal Evander Holyfield.
I'm a New Yorker... I let him pass with his family and then took a photo afterwards to show my friends.
I wanted it to look like I was being punched... it came out looking like I was singing karaoke into his fist... but what a fist, eh?

14-Major purchases
You might be on a boat mother f#$%er, but is it yours? If so, then make sure we know that. I need photos of any major purchases you might be making, otherwise I might think you live modestly, and there is simply no glory in that game playa. If you're not the #BRAG type, then feel free to continue to passive-aggressively tell me about how "the new house is just too big for all our stuff," or fake-complain about the awful mileage on your new coupe (pronounced KOO-PAY). We hear ya barking big dog.

15-Major achievements
Don't feel like you have to buy your way to admiration. But do feel like you should post pictures of anything even the least bit Pinterest-worthy. Oh, this handmade crafty kids project that looks like something you would buy in a store? It kept the kids busy on a school holiday. Oh, this food-porn worthy five course dinner and fully dressed table? Just my way of saying happy Friday.

Oh this? Yeah, I was gonna buy some cupcakes, but instead decided to make an entire cake that looked like her favorite toy. NBD.
Ok, there's your 15 photos you should remember to take and post.
Bonus photo: Rainbows. Everyone loves seeing the rainbow you're looking at, so don't forget to post your rainbows.
Ahhhhh, rainbows

*Full disclosure, I'm not actually young or cool enough to do (be? have? use?) Snapchat, but my younger, cooler cousins do, so I know it's a thing.