. . . And here you go. Brought to you by Audible.com - CLICK for heaven's sake! It's how I get paid.



Women like cupcakes but they SHOULDN'T. From the Guardian:

I've tried ignoring them or just being slightly bemused by their ubiquitousness, but I've finally realised that I'm sick of cupcakes. They're everywhere, with their candy colours, inch-thick icing and red-velvet sponge.

As Samuel Johnson once said, a man who is sick of cupcakes is sick of keeping himself from whining about it in the Guardian. He’s not just sick of them, mind you - he’s had an epiphany, an eventual realization, an apotheosis of his cupcake-related emotions.

I also get that I'm not their target market. Cupcakes seem designed to appeal, in the main, to young women. They are glossy lifestyle accessories for the post-Sex and the City generation.

People who came of age after a certain TV show went off the air. And who were never affected by it, thus joining the millions of people who were never affected by it when it was on the air.

Cupcakes look absolutely fabulous, of course … in photographs, on e-commerce sites, in shop windows and in expensively beribboned boxes. But have you ever managed to eat one without either getting frosting on your nose or ending up with sticky slime between your fingers?

Let me think.

Maybe not. Yes I am not in the final stages of realization, so perhaps it doesn’t matter.

They're the edible equivalent of ultra-fashiony high heels: great to look at, ridiculously impractical. And like heels, borderline masochistic. Why? Because cupcakes are very obviously a terrible food choice.

Fashiony is a terrible word choice, too.

What irks me about cupcakes is that, for their implied young female, figure-conscious, on-off dieting customers, they set up this horrible dynamic of enabling indulgence in a forbidden object.

You know what cupcakes really are? – butter-iced snares of self-loathing that sell precisely because they exploit young women's insecurity about their looks and identity, and offer a completely false and self-defeating solace of temporary gratification, almost certainly followed by remorse and disgust.

They're just cakes, you say. Ah, but they're not just cakes: like any cultural artefact, they have implicit values baked in. And the values I see in cupcakes are of a demeaning, self-trivialising sort of hyper-femininity. This is where I start to sound like the worst kind of moralising Puritan killjoy

Self-awareness as a defense does not mitigate the extremity of the assertion. I'd say it's just an odd piece, but he's not alone:

Why does this fetishisation of cupcakes make me so annoyed? Cupcakes are just so twee-ly, coyly, ‘ooh no I really shouldn’t'-ly, pink and fluffily, everything that I think feminism is not. It’s feminism-lite, feminism as consumption and ‘me time’ (grr), rather than feminism as power and politics and equal pay.

But it turns out they're all walking in the footsteps of one Sophie Heawood's piece, Poison lurks in the heart of a cupcake / Bun fetish deals a blow to feminism

At least she seems to be half-serious. Her piece concludes:

. . . (F)airy cakes, the English version, makes you think of a soggy plate of buns that somebody's mum has made for their seventh birthday party and plonked on a table next to the orange squash before she goes off for a fag and to shout at the kids to stop making such a racket.

Fairy cakes are too honest, too mortal, too British. Fairy cakes taste of defeat, which is why I like them.

So now you know: there is a proper moral and ethical stance for cupcakes.

I think one's happiness and ability to feel at home in the world is directly related to one's ability - one's incessant compulision - to invest the most commonplace observations with the most grandiose conclusions.

I wondered if there was a male analogue, and there is: Jerky. And also its miseralbe stepchild, Slim Jims or other unduly moist processed meat sticks. If you note that a king-sized Slim Jim is rather greasy, the manufacturer would probably respond Damn straight, and you know what else is? A NASCAR dipstick. All the marketing and package design for eternal meat-fragments has a hyper-masculine aspect. Since that isn’t a factor in my purchasing decisions, and I base my jerky needs on price and flavor, I’d be amused at a female writer getting aggravated on my behalf about the overall cultural messages of jerky.

Thanks, but maybe I want this because I like it. Ah, but what if you like it because it speaks to a cultural message of which you are unaware? Oh, that’s possible. I buy something. I don’t like it. A bad taste, a rote note of ersatz teriyaki. Yet with zombie-hand I reach out and buy it again, powerless.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to study old ads the way I do, and realize I MUST buy these things, but cannot, because they are no longer made. Across the void of decades their voices still whisper. Some nights they make it hard to sleep.



I’ve long been curious about this movie, and finally found a copy. Unfortunately, it was stored in corrosive Vaseline for 50 years. I wonder why they used different colored letters, so one thinks you’re about to see Paul Whiteman’s Craplook.

If there’s anyone’s Craplook I might want to see, and there isn’t, Paul Whiteman is not high on the list.

Who is he? Why, the king. The King Jazz of.

The King of Jazz. Cultural historians who note that white America frequently appropriated - or absorbed, if you wish - other ethnic art forms must have uttered a sigh of dismay when first they read of Paul; literally, a White Man who was declared King of Jazz.

The movie explains this with a cartoon, which doesn’t really explain it at all.

But hello, who shows up at the 2:22 mark?

Lot of backstory in that single image. The cartoon was animated by Walter Lantz, who'd later become famous for Woody Woodpecker. But one of his first jobs was animating Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a Walt Disney creation whose rights had been yanked away by the old man in the "UP" movie dirigible. (It's a complicated story.)

Then comes the movie. Skits whose comedy has worn poorly; big numbers about the glory of marriage, all in underwhelming two-strip technocolor, performed by late-20s archetypes:

That's a train:

The amount of fantasy devoted to these events could be quite extraordinary.

Of all the acts involved, this is the most famous:

That's right, it's those guys! The Rhythm Boys. More on that in a second. You know at least two of them.

At the end it gets insane: that's an orchestra in the piano.

Wikipedia’s comments sidle right up to the line where “encyclopedic” turns into “commentary:”

The grand finale is the Melting Pot number, in which various immigrant groups in national costume offer brief renditions of characteristic songs from their native lands, after which they are all consigned to the American Melting Pot. Performers from some of the earlier musical numbers briefly reprise their acts while reporting for duty as fuel under the pot. Whiteman stirs the steaming stew. When the cooking is complete, everyone emerges transformed into a jazz-happy American.

Well, yes.

The movie wasn’t a success. Didn’t even make a million. Whiteman had to fire band members and cut the pay of others, but some did okay; that Bing Crosby fellow landed on his feet eventually, I hear. One of his Rhythm Boys partners, Harry, had a good run after this - he appeared inb over fifty films, and wrote a few popular songs, including one of my favorite songs of the era, “Happy Feet.” It’s the instrumental section and the arrangement that brings the era to life. I've mentioned this before; it's why I was looking for the movie in the first place.

By the time the film came out the crash may have soured the national mood, and flapper-era ballyhoo like this looked frothy and dated. Or it might have been because people who saw the movie told their friends it had one of the most terrifying images ever put on the big screen.

The "Rhapsody in Blue, okay, Turquoise" sequence:

One more thing: Harry, the partner of Bing Crosby, drank himself to death at the age of 57. (There’s a lot of those this week.) You’ll know his last name when I show you a picture of . . . his nephew.


Work blog around 12:30 and Tumblr as well; enjoy the Diner - and some new restaurants as well.





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