For supper I made pasta with turkey meatballs. The package said they had a special blend of spices, which is their way of admitting “turkey: basically, tofu that walked.” While I was cooking dinner I looked at the ingredients, and of course there was the merry-sounding MECHANICALLY SEPARATED TURKEY, which brings to mind all sorts of horrid devices. Really, we don’t need to know that much. I suppose there’s a mandate that says mechanically-separated fowl must be identified as such, lest the consumer think the meat was hand-flensed by caring workers who thanked Brother Turkey for his gifts.

It was from a particular farm, identified on the package. Because we all want to think Farmer Johnson went out each morning and threw the seed, whistling, saying things like “Good morning ladies, don’t push, there’s enough for you all, eat up, tomorrow you die” and other farm sentiments. I forget the brand name, but it had a wholesome sound that went with the protestations on the package: NO GMOs, NO ANTIBIOTICS (except when necessary to prevent disease) NO SCARY SCIENCEY THINGS, just turkey.

The fine print identified the parent company: Cargill Meat Solutions. That’s a local agricultural giant. Now and then I run into someone who works there and it’s like meeting someone who works for the Mossad. Cargill is private and tight-lipped. But they’re very good at what they do, which is why the name surprised me. Meat Solutions makes you think there are Meat Problems, and while I am happy they have solved the Meat Problems, I want to know what they are.

In related corporate news: Unilever is going to yank ads from Facebook if they don’t clean up the “swamp,” says this CNN story. I’m all for Facebook going away by some organic process that includes everyone waking up naked, covered with goo, and connected to the Matrix by a series of tubes attached to their spine. I don’t like it and I don’t like what it has done to my business. More than that, it’s ugly. I read an article the other day about Facebook’s deleterious effects, coming from a Funny or Die guy discussing how FB is killing comedy:

The problem is that Facebook is our editor and our boss. They decide what is successful and what isn’t successful via seemingly meaningless metrics. They hide behind algorithms that they change constantly. And it seems to me that they are not favoring things that are high-quality — they are favoring things that are clickbait, things that are optimized for Facebook, low-quality things that appeal to the lowest common denominator and, honestly, just things at random.

Facebook has created a centrally designed internet. It’s a lamer, sh*ttier looking internet. It’s just not as cool as an internet that is a big, chaotic space filled with tons of independently operating websites who are able to make a living because they make something cool that people want to see.

Like this one! Right? Not making a living from it, but I’m trying to make something people want to see. At least I’m not bored, and I’d have ample reason to be tired of this: February is the anniversary month for the Bleat - it began in February 1996, and with a few brief interruptions has continued to get wider and wider.

I’d say “better and better” but that’s subjective. Speaking of which: got a nasty email from someone the other day criticizing my column, and wishing for the return of Al Sicherman, who wrote a different style of humor. I have no idea what makes someone just send an email that says “you’re bad and you should feel bad about being bad,” more or less. Criticism is one thing, but drive-by micturition is another. Well: today he wrote a letter that said he was sorry for all the snarky emails, and it is his problem, and he will try to be a better person.

“He’s in a program,” Daughter observed. I told her that I wrote back the following: don’t worry about it. Humor is subjective, and people get annoyed when someone they don’t think is funny acts like they’re funny. Oh you think you’re so funny, eh? For penance, write five letters to other StarTribune writers you like, because writers always like unexpected praise.

He wrote back and said he had done that.

“Oh he’s definitely in a program,” Daughter said.

Anyway. The Unilever article said “Unilever would no longer advertise on platforms that create divisions in society or fail to protect young people.”

Define “Create divisions.” The object of society is not a lack of divisions, it is the maintain of the right to have divisions, as long as they’re civil. The problem is unexamined orthodoxies disguised as empirically-derived truths; when one group - say, all the people involved in Unilever marketing - believes a certain set of things to be right and just and productive and fair, and defines anything that challenges those things as divisive.

“Is it true?” isn’t the standard as much as you’d like. “Is it fair?” and “Is is offensive?” are the first questions asked. An odd turn of events from a side of the aisle that once celebrated the idea of an Inconvenient Truth.








Watching the most recent “Pirates of the Caribbean” - interesting beginning, but you know it’s going to shop-vac suck the moment the hero arrives. And so it did: oh, it’s our drunk pirate captain mincing around and looking surprised as things happen, and also Mythology. There was sinew and smarts in the first one, capability and heroism. It was so damned fun - and then it just became this overwrought thing smothered in wet moss, and an upper-class English maid with no upper-body musculature whatsoever was swinging a 40-pound blade because Strong Role Models or whatever. Once upon a time there was no more amusing and intriguing character than Captain Jack Sparrow, and now there’s a collective groan at the very idea, as though Sean Connery’s James Bond had turned into Mr Bean.

So I switched off and started up “Altered Carbon,” an expensive CyberPunkery show about the future where people can jump to different people and be grim and sweaty in small apartments while smoking before faceless instruments of the dystopia show up to kill them. And then kaboom. And then the guy wakes up coughing and naked in a tank and it’s the future or something.

Could be good; some reviews say yay. But here’s the thing. I have no appetite for grim&dark anymore. Once upon a time the Gritty Reboot was interesting, but it’s now the default. In “Carbon” the character opens a window and beholds a wonderful futuristic city at night, tall towers and lights galore - but of course this is really a grim dark world of dystopia corporate rule and oppression etc. See, if you’re introduced to the cityscape of the future at night, it’s a corporatist dystopia. If you see it at noon, it’s Star Trek Optimism.

Grimdark has run its course. I’m not talking about one-off commentaries like “Black Mirror,” but rather the shows that hose you down with the filthy slurry of a world gone permanently wrong, a world where One Hero Must Rise, except that the hero is usually avenging some personal thing, and I’m expected to care. I can predict: he will be beaten. He will be bloodied. Teeth may fly. In the end, there may be Justice, in the form of a weapon pointed at the head of the bad guy, then a quip, then bang.

Heroism without heroes; heroic quests without any great ideas that transcend the character. I think we might all be done with that.

Am I wrong? Would you reject a show that had a bright, optimistic tone as a Pollyanna joke? One of the reasons I think the new Star Trek is such a wretched misfire is because it trots out the easy, cliched grimdark tropes in an era where people might just be starved for optimism. But it’s almost as if the people who make our entertainment believe that we live in such horrible times that anything optimistic would be seen as a dereliction of artistic duty, because #Resistance and so on. Yet I keep having conversations with Bernie voters who couldn’t care less about Star Trek but love Orville.


Which brings me to “Cloverfield Paradox,” most of which I watched the other night. It’s one of those “something goes wrong in space” movies, and like most contemporary science fiction, no one acts as if they’re the sort of person who is psychologically or intellectually fit for the job. They squabble, they yell; they behave immaturely the moment something bad happens. Prior to that, of course, we know they’re all cool professionals because they frown slightly while typing.

The very premise of the show makes you weary: earth has run out of fossil fuels, so we have to build a big orbital machine that’s going to shoot a particle beam at the planet and . . . then energy galore, I guess. Leaving aside the idea that we’ll run out of oil, and that there will be no backup technologies anyone could have ramped up, and leaving aside the “earth spirals into chaos” part lifted from 2010, and leaving aside the fact that the crew apparently spends two years in space trying to get the thing to work and there’s no relief shift - well, it’s all wide-eyed staring and running around and that hallmark of modern movies, desperate typing.

The problem, I think, was the lessons taken from the first “Alien” movie. Hey, they squabbled! Right? They were tense. They gave each other guff. That’s why it was so different! Well . . . no. It was different in the sense that sci-fi used to be guys in white jumpsuits shouting things like “Vector six, Mister Conners! Hard to port!” but now they were working-class people arguing with middle management about the bonus situation.

That's what made it work.




It’s 1962. A little splash of summer in these cold, cold days.

On second thought, no. He looks clammy. They all look clammy. They all look as if they’ve been rubbed with the strange gel in which some Spam seems to be packed.

MEAT POWER isn’t a popular idea anymore. At least you don’t want to say it out loud.

Maybe Meat Power was the Meat Problem.

There’s an early 60s illustration for you, and I don’t say that as a positive thing.


Mallory? Him:

Philip Rogers Mallory (November 11, 1885 - November 16, 1975) was an American businessman. Rather than making a career in his family's shipping business, he founded his own manufacturing company, the P. R. Mallory Company.

That he did. The world no longer knows the Mallory battery. We call them . . . something else.


It’s a great campaign, but frankly, who cares?

Perhaps I’m missing the Mad Men ep where this was discussed, but was the underlying message of this campaign a reference to the carpet matching the drapes, so to speak? Or was she covering up gray hair, to seem younger? Or was she just being someone else? Or are we supposed to think it was a reference to promiscuity?

I just don't get it! All of these unanswered ambiguities that make you think about the product, and give it an air of mystery - how does that sell hair color?

Nothing imitation here! Only real, genuine Ovals.

If you look closely, you will note that adding a scoop of ice cream bestows sainthood.


The whole family enjoys a trip to the insurance office:

The kids don’t know what it’s all about but they got suckers. Wife is happy because now the family’s safe if Dad falls over dead at work from stress. It’s a lovely little modern building, isn’t it? Yes, I looked. Can’t find a trace.


Somehow this makes it look as if Toasties are made from corn that suffered a horrible blight.

Wikipedia notes that Post Toasties were originally sold as Elijah's Manna. Mr.

Church groups were outraged over the use of Elijah as a cereal mascot. The book Cerealizing America by Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford has a quote from C.W. Post who was outraged at the outrage over his new cereal:

"Perhaps no one should eat angel food cake, enjoy Adam's ale, live in St. Paul, nor work for Bethlehem Steel... one should have his Adam's apple removed and never again name a child for the good people of the bible.”

But he changed the name anyway.


Fail bigger!

At least in America. These products of a British firm didn’t catch on, but not for lack of trying. Wikipedia:

In America the company saw a chance to challenge soft-drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola with its own C&C Cola. An elaborate marketing scheme was launched in 1955, in connection with the television revival of 740 motion pictures produced by RKO Radio Pictures. C&C Television Corporation reprinted the entire RKO library for nationwide syndication in the United States. All of the features now began with a "C&C Movietime" title card, and TV stations showing the films would interrupt the telecasts for commercial mentions of C&C Cola.

Although the broadcast rights to the RKO library now belong to Turner Entertainment, licences to the C&C prints were granted in perpetuity, and stations that bought 16mm prints of the C&C films in the 1950s continue to show them today.

Anything on YouTube? Checking . . .

Good Lord, what an artillery barrage. The movie was "Danger Lights," from 1930.


  Yeah, who could turn down . . . SUPER COOLA.

That'll do, I hope. On to Tuesday, the worst day of the week - may you have the best Tuesday possible.

Some offensive Scoop may work against that hope, though. You're warned.


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