pop cult 101

by Incense_and_Peppermints 3 Replies latest jw friends

  • Incense_and_Peppermints

    Bart Simpson Cereal

    (Kellogg's, 2001)

    Gimmick: At long last, a breakfast cereal tie-in to America's First Family, The Simpsons. Companion product to Homer's Cinnamon Donut Cereal, both limited editions.

    New Technology: The surfaces of the cereal balls are slightly dusty, as if coated with actual cocoa.

    Purported Flavor: "Peanut Butter Chocolate Crunch"

    Actual Flavor: Pencil erasers dipped in old peanut butter.

    Yet another attempt to fuse the taste of peanut butter into a sugary sphere, Bart Simpson Cereal inevitably fails in comparison to the classic Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch. While it may be a small improvement over the execrable Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs, Bart Simpson Cereal proves once again that no one can match the food scientists of Quaker in formulating a satisfactorily artificial peanut butter flavor. Then there's the all-important matter of textureagain, the Simpson cereal doesn't match the mighty Cap'n in this regard with a chalky feel that's not altogether pleasant. We can only hope that the Kellogg's R&D department is fast at work developing Chocolate Frosted Frosty Krusty Flakes.

    Homer's Cinnamon Donut Cereal(Kellogg's, 2001)

    Gimmick: Another cereal tie-in product to The Simpsons.

    New Technology: Each cereal bit has a slightly dusty surface, as if coated with a residue of actual sugar and cinnamon.

    Purported Flavor: "MmmmDONUTS."

    Actual Flavor: Slightly stale cinnamon donutsbut cinnamon donuts nevertheless.

    Far more successful in its flavor replication than fellow Simpsons cereal Bart Simpson Cereal, Homer's Cinnamon Donut Cereal follows through on its mission plan by delivering not only the flavor but also the texture of day-old cinnamon donuts. How many donuts were sacrificed in Kellogg's relentless quest to forge such an unnatural union of fried-batter flavor and cereal grains? Despite its success, however, HCDC is overshadowed by the Quaker combine's own donut cereal sneak attack, Cap'n Crunch's Choco Donutsit's hard to combat multicolored sprinkles with mere imitation cinnamon. Nevertheless, we hope Kellogg's sticks with HCDC so consumers may still have an imitation donut cereal choice. (Also, it should be noted that the Simpons packaging is vastly superior in all respects to its competitors.)

    Mickey's Magix(Kellogg's, 2002)

    Gimmick: Utilizing the best of the Mickey Mouse personas (the sorcerer's apprentice) to shill another toasted oat cereal product.

    New Technology: Turns milk blue via the magic of artificial coloring.

    Purported Flavor: "Naturally Sweetened Toasted Oat Cereal with Marshmallows"

    Actual Flavor: Just like every other sugarcoated toasted oats with marshmallows.

    Well, yes, sugar is natural, thus Mickey's Magix is indeed naturally sweetened. With this slight of handas well as the ol' "Made with Whole Grain" labelKellogg's seems to be positing this as some sort of health product. But it's really the same old oats 'n' marshmallows cereal we've seen in countless previous iterations. The oat bits do include blue sparkles that add a little razzle dazzle, and they do bleed blue coloring into one's milk. But I'm no fan of foods that color other things, whether it be milk or tongues or fingers, etc. It's just another reminder of how artificial the food you're ingesting is. Overall, this is just underwhelming. Blue sparkles do not a cereal make!

    Quisp (Quaker, 1999)

    Gimmick: The king of '60s cereal cool returns!

    New Technology: Sometimes old technology is bestsaucer-shaped discs of pure sugary glory.

    Purported Flavor: "Crunchy Corn Cereal."

    Actual Flavor: Crunchy sugar with the faintest whiff of corn flour.

    Yes, the dream of millions has come true: the pink propeller-headed alien has flown back to a grateful planet Earth. But is this reissued cereal as good as the original? Honestly, it's difficult to remember the exact flavor of the '60s/'70s vintage. But it appears as if the food scientists of the Quaker labs have stuck to the original recipethe ingredients panel does not include any artificial flavors or even corn syrup just the pure goodness of refined white and brown sugars. The texture doesn't seem quite as crisp as I recall, but that may simply be due to a forgiving memory. What's even more exciting is the efforts put forth by the Quisp marketing team: a superb wrist watch, excellent T-shirts, and cartoon hijinks by none other than the Spmc artists. On the back of the box, you'll find a comic strip and at quisp.com there's even a Flash cartoon starring Quisp in a Spmc-style adventure. Truly, this was a masterstroke of marketingSpmc is a fitting heir to the Jay Ward mantle. While most adult metabolisms may not be able to absorb large quantities of Quisp, it is comforting to know that it's on supermarket shelves for a new generation to discover and puzzle over.

    Star Wars Episode II Cereal (General Mills, 2002)

    Gimmick: A new Star Wars movie, a new cereal. It is the law of the universe.

    New Technology: The union of two standard cereal bits never before combined: corn puffs and marshmallows.

    Purported Flavor: "Sweetened Corn Puffs with Marshmallow Pieces"

    Actual Flavor: Exactly as described! Could this be a first in the annals of sugary breakfast-cereal history?

    The ubiquitous marshmallow piece is the universal currency of sugar cereals. No kid on Earth will ever refuse them, so if you add marshmallows into a cereal then you can't go wrong. (Unless you are susceptible to feelings of guilt over supporting an entire dental industry by causing children's tooth decay.) Typically, marshmallow pieces are combined with toasted-oat bits to create a pleasing yin-yang balance between the sweet and the less sweet. But General Mills has boldly overturned this common industry practice with its own unique take on the time-tested formula. Brace yourself: marshmallow bits with corn puffs! Imagine plucking out the velvety-sweet marshmallows from Lucky Charms and combining them with the forthright corn spheres from Kixwhy, you'd have a whole new world of marshmallow-breakfast sensations to explore. That's exactly what Star Wars Episode II Cereal delivers with its light-saber-shaped marshmallows and its ever-so-slightly less sweet corn puffstruly a masterstroke of elegant sugar cereal design. But can Star Wars Episode II Cereal last longer than the ill-fated C3PO Cereal? We must look to The Force for an answer

    Every one of the following artists is not only hugely successful, but also genuinely beloved by worshipful fans. You can see why: Each artist puts his or her distinctive style to use in producing "cute" art. It should be noted, however, that this popular artwork is also overexploited to the point of naked greed. A few popular coffee-table books would certainly be understandablebut like Hollywood's unstoppable penchant for regurgitating bland sequels, these artists have created franchises more than they have fresh art. Every year, they issue new titles that are barely distinguishable from their previous books. Then the same artwork is republished in calendars, greeting cards, posters, postcards, etc. Far be it for me to criticize the actual artwork (though the words "cloyingly precious" do come to mind). Rather, let us examine the craven urges of popular artists and their publishers.


    SARKjust SARK, thank youcombines her watercolor paintings of whimsical figures with hand-written thoughts on becoming a "succulent wild woman." Her journal-like books, usually filed in the self-help section, have titles like The Bodacious Book of Succulence: Daring to Live Your Succulent Wild Life, Succulent Wild Woman: Dancing With Your Wonder Full Self, or Eat Mangoes Naked: Finding Pleasure Everywhere and Dancing With the Pits. While self-help books generally tell you things that you already know, SARK takes the format to new levels of obviousness with such empowering words of advice like, "Live a wild, vulnerable life. Let us see you, laughing loudly, walking flamboyantly, and wearing colors that don't match." Don't worryshe also offers more specific directives such as "immediately take a nap! naps are when the angels come out to take special care of you." Naturally, these bold, new ways of thinking have snared thousands of people with low self-esteem or who watch the Lifetime network. Whether lasting personal change can really be effected via hand-written admonitions to be "succulent" remains to be seen.

    Mary Engelbreit

    Mary Engelbreit has created a Martha Stewart-like empire of decorating tips and crafts ideasonly with the addition of teeth-achingly-cute illustrations of children, pets, flowers, birdies, etc. The actual text is pretty mundane stuff. Here, for example, is a bit of simple wisdom from Mary Engelbreit Decorating Ideas: Projects to Make for Indoors and Out: "Some of the best times spent with family and friends are when we prepare for meals and enjoy each other's company as we gather 'round the table. These creative projects make every get-together a time of celebration." Expect more helpful advice from Mary Engelbreit Cross-Stitch, Mary Engelbreit's Queen of the Kitchen Cookbook, Christmas With Mary Engelbreit: Let the Merrymaking Begin, or Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion: Fabric. Yes, Mary Engelbreit has got your home projects coveredbut, more importantly, they also have delightful cartoon characters to boot. Let's see you try that, Martha! Meanwhile, Engelbreit also specializes in illustrating children's books that are actually for adults, especially mothers, such as Words For Mothers To Live By, A Mother's Journal: A Collection of Family Memories, When a Child Is Born, So Is a Grandmother, Mother O' Mine, etc. Amazon.com lists 161 selections of Engelbreit products. You can be sure that the country crafts-susceptible have bought them all.

    George Rodrigue

    As NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw so eloquently states in his foreword to Blue Dog Man, "When I am working, I can look up at the wall and see a picture of Blue Dog staring out from within a television set. The caption reads, 'Sometimes I feel like a Blue Dog.' It's a funny, provocative commentary on the feelings I often have as I look into the lens of a television camera and, by extension, into the eyes of millions of Americans."


    While Brokaw's statement makes very little actual sense, the Americans he speaks of no doubt also feel the same mysterious attraction to George Rodrigue's Blue Dog. The perpetually hollow-eyed creature stares out unrelentingly in countless paintings collected in such books as Red White and Blue Dog, Why Is Blue Dog Blue, Blue Dog Love, A Blue Dog Christmas, etc. Why are this nation's citizens transfixed by the same dog in the same pose in paintings that seem barely different from one another? Why has a painting style that would normally be disregarded at the flea market become, as amazon.com's reviewer puts it, "a touchstone of contemporary American culture, winning accolades from U.S. presidents, Hollywood stars, and ordinary people alike"? Some claim that the pooch communicates on the same sort of human/dog level that occurs in real life, thus sparking memories of canine bonding. Or maybe it's just cute.

    William Wegman

    William Wegman is undoubtedly one of the most popular photographers in the entire world. His photographs appear on magazine covers, in museums and galleries, and on address books. They are instantly recognizable for their wit and charm. But there is one aspect that most art connoisseurs seem to disregard when lavishing his sizable output with praise:

    These are a bunch of photos of dogs in costumes.

    Dogs as Cinderella, dogs as Little Red Riding Hood, dogs as construction workers, dogs as firemen, dogs in dresses, dogs in suits, and on and on. Certainly, Wegman has brought a new degree of technical craft to the dogs-in-costumes genre, but the fact remains that this used to be the stuff of turn-of-the-century postcards. With his non-costume dog photography, Wegman is still just as manipulative; in Puppies, he jams cute lil' weimaraners into trees, vases, wheelbarrows, etc. While these poses are undoubtedly entertaining for humans, I wonder how fair it is to seal a puppy into a cloth pouch and then hang it from a metal fence post just because it looks cool?

    Anne Geddes

    What William Wegman does to dogs, Anne Geddes does to human babies: stick 'em into costumes and make 'em do silly things. This means coating a baby in feathers and propping it up in a bird's nest, attaching flowers to babies' heads then making them sit in flower pots or old cans, putting babies into watermelon costumes then sliding them into melon rinds, slapping a cabbage leaf atop a baby's head and making him sit inside a cabbage, etc. Of course, all of Geddes' photos are beautifully lit, artfully composed, and gosh-darn cute. But they're also manipulating children to do patently unnatural things just so we can say, "Look at the peapod with the baby's head! Awwww" The effect, at times, isn't just surreal, but rather freakish. Geddes' non-costume work of babies just being babies is often just as captivating, though perhaps not as profitable.

    Edited by - Incense_and_Peppermints on 15 August 2002 11:43:20

  • RandomTask

    Dammit I want full reviews!!!


    It's funny because its true.

  • joeshmoe

    Did you even TRY Homer's cereal before you mocked it?!! DID YOU??!!

    Incidentally, all those wonderful coffee-table books, and many more, are currently available at your local Cracker Barrel, the trinket capital of America.

  • Incense_and_Peppermints

    random: your wish is my... (see above)

    joeshmoe: ooh i hate every single one of those books. i think of all the excruciatingly intricate maneuvers anne geddes (and those babies) must have had to go through to take those shots... and there is way too much mary engelbreit out there, it's everywhere, and those stupid weimereiners are just WRONG...

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