Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Selected Pictures from My Cell Phone

Taken at an infant and adult CPR class I recently attended

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reading the February 2011 Edition of Trader Joe's "Fearless Flyer"

For some reason, today, for the first time, I sat down and read the monthly flyer from Trader Joe's, the "Fearless Flyer." It really is an incredible document. Now I know where all the English and lit majors go: they go to work for Trader Joe's, writing and editing the monthly flyers.

I found something disturbing and off-putting about the obnoxious, pretentious, and smug tone of the flyer. The thing reads as if it were written by a particularly self-satisfied junior at Dartmouth.

Here are some choice excerpts from this month's flyer: "Though nominally credited to the Danes, it is generally assumed in culinary circles that this particular pastry originated in Vienna, alongside its sister flaky pastry, the croissant." (p. 6) This is the only grocery-store flyer on earth in which you will find the word "nominally."

Continuing in that vein: "What's different about Trader Joe's Strawberry Cream Cheese? . . . . [W]e eschew artificial colors and flavors, instead choosing to use copious amounts of strawberries to achieve our ideal strawberry-to-cream ratio . . . ." (p. 6)

"First there were Joe's O's. Grammatical inconsistencies aside, Joe's O's = great product, excellent value, only at Trader Joe's." (p. 1) Yes, a sentence in the Trader Joe's flyer starts with "[g]rammatical inconsistencies aside," and mocks the grammatical errors appearing on other Trader Joe's products.

Who the hell are the writers of this flyer writing for? Oh, that's right: the judgmental yuppies (like myself) who shop there. Besides not recycling or eating caged-bird eggs, there is no greater sin for this class (viz., us yuppies) than grammatical error. Or misuse or abuse of punctuation: "Though we aim for judiciousness in all things, an argument could be made that we tend to overuse exclamation points. In this case, however, we will argue that the exclamatory punctuation is more than warranted: it's necessary." (p. 7 (Vintage Reserve Cheddar $3.99!))

Because we, the elect Trader Joe's customers, are so fucking smart. We so obviously know what "eschew" and "nominally" and "copious" mean, and we so clearly enjoy coming across these words in our grocery-store flyer because, when we do, it massages that special secret part of us that likes to be reminded that we are the type of people that shop at a grocery store that uses words like "eschew" and "nominally" and "copious" in its flyer, the kind of place that notes "grammatical inconsistencies" in the names of its products, etc.

Perhaps that's why these flyers are written like they are campus magazines from the fancy-ass colleges we, the anointed Trader Joe's customers, attended. Because that makes us feel at home. The message one is meant to take away: smart people shop here, not dumb people -- those people shop at Vons.

Again: "A recent trip to France revealed, quite as we'd hoped and expected, some great foods that we've been really excited to bring in to our stores. . . . Each makes a hearty meal for lunch or dinner, and is bursting with vivid flavors you won't find in the frozen entrees in most supermarket freezers. Our freezers are different, though, so these flavorful finds fit right in among our featured frozen foods." (p. 11) Read: Our freezers are different, just as our customers, like you, are different. You're not like the customers one finds in most supermarkets. You're by no means a fat, ugly American who drinks milk from cows treated with growth hormones or who has no idea what naan is. Because you shop here, you're basically almost French.

Okay. I know there are people being shot on the street in Manama right now and this post is a ridiculous waste of energy, but I had to share.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

View from the Tank: Valu-Pak (very brief reviews of some movies I've seen recently)

It's been too long since I've done one of these. (I may be the only person who feels that way.)

UGETSU (1953): An incredible, haunting, beautiful film about greed, ambition, and being seduced by a sexy ghost with weird drawn-in eyebrows in feudal Japan. Easily one of the greatest Japanese movies I've ever seen. There are several scenes in this movie of stunning beauty -- especially the river-crossing scene in the night fog. A

KNIGHT & DAY (2010): It's hard to think of a more aggressively stupid movie. Watching this, all I could think of was the pitch meeting where someone must've said something to the effect of "Think Bourne Identity meets What Happens in Vegas!" And then some producer said "Love it! Love it! Here's a hundred million dollars. Get Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Oh, and just for kicks, get Peter Saarsgard and that weird kid from There Will Be Blood." Also part of the plan: for the role of the main villain, who is supposed to be Spanish, cast someone who cannot speak Spanish, and who will be dubbed during the more challenging lines. This is the kind of movie that features the couple having little spats while they are being shot at by tons of bad guys. So cute! Also, Cameron Diaz's character, a ditzy, previously aimless single thirtysomething, after meeting the super-agent assassin guy played by Tom Cruise, realizes that she has these awesome latent assassin skills that she totally had no idea about before! Her methods are irregular and fortuitous (accidentally opening a car door at the right time during a car chase and whacking some bad guy on a motorcycle) -- but they gets the job done! (Think back to Janie Lee Curtis's character dropping an Uzi down a flight of stairs and killing all the bad guys in that scene in True Lies -- just like that!) A profoundly stupid film. D+

THE KING'S SPEECH (2010): Predictable, formulaic, serviceable, forgettable. Mostly well acted. The perfect movie to take your parents to. No sex! Just some cute swearing from our challenged noble. The uncritical acceptance of the position and privileges of royalty in this movie is a little gross. It all comes off like a modern, very decent Hallmark Card. Nothing offensive or disturbing here! (Well, there's the interesting and scandalous story lurking here of Prince Edward's abdication for Wallis Warfield, but that story is a little too hot for this mild, family-friendly film, so it's basically brushed aside.) The ending is unforgivable cheesy, and tiresomely inevitable. You will forget the movie as soon as you get back to your car. In fact, you may forget the movie before it's over. B

(2010): Kind of like eating an entire bag of sour gummi coke bottles and washing it down with Cherry 7-Up: you're either going to absolutely love it or it's going to make you want to hurl. (You'll be more likely to love it if you are between the ages of 27-38 and grew up in a middle-class household in North America in which you had access to video games and/or comics.) Hilarious little lines ("Being vegan means you're better than other people"). I am not a huge Michael Cera fan, and I was primed to hate this movie, but I ended up totally loving it -- much to my surprise. Director Edgar Wright manages to master an entirely different world here: the nerd-world of comics, late-80s/early-90s video games, and high-school garage bands. Jason Schwartzman is also surprising with some fine, self-mocking work here. A-

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (2010): A very fine film. Great acting all around. A relatively simple, but involving story. A somewhat perplexing (and slightly cheesy) ending. Good endings are very difficult. Beginnings are easier. Hey, wait, is that part of the point of this film? A-

Saturday, January 01, 2011

2011: Year of the Revived Blog

Happy New Year, Eagle Rock.

It's 2011 and I'm still alive. Apologies for the long hiatus. I just ate like 20 nonpareils right before the clock struck midnight (one of my resolutions for this year is to eat fewer things that are likely to bring on a heart attack).

I haven't been blogging much this year. I'm going to try to get back in the habit this year. The focus of this blog has varied wildly over the past few years. In the next few months, I think I'll focus on movie reviews, book reviews, and Eagle Rock-related posts. I realized earlier this year that I'm no food critic. I don't even really care about "good" food. Mostly, I like to shovel food into my mouth as I talk with people I like. (Or watch TV.)

Anyhow, best wishes for 2011.