Friday, April 18, 2008

Dressing the Polygamist Way, Only 24 Hours in a Day, and the Quest for Solid News (Friday Roundup)

That's a Clever System the Polygamists Have ... I learned this week that the COLOR of a YZR woman's dress is determined by the family she belongs to. All of Joe's wives wear blue, for instance; all of Benjamin's wives wear light pink; and so forth. Like when schools go on field trips and all the kids wear the same colors so they don't get lost or hop on the wrong bus. Same idea. If my family all had to wear the same color, it would be a light blue, just a shade darker than baby blue. It's flattering on most of us, especially on the three with the blue eyes. Yellow is out of the question. Most of us are too pale, so yellow makes us look anemic.

I Can Name That Tune In Four Notes ... "Luck Be a Lady!" At the height of Kathie Lee Gifford's "problems" back in the '90s, one of the networks aired a special about her that went on for about nine hours. I remember a co-worker recapping the show the next day and saying, "You know, she's the luckiest woman on the planet. Nothing else could explain her success." Apparently her luck hasn't run out because she is now in her second week of co-hosting the FOURTH hour of "The Today Show." If NBC doesn't rein this thing in, producers will have to change it to "The Tonight Show."(For the record, I think she's fairly witty. I hope I look that good when I'm 54. But I would be happy to look that good NOW.)

Give me a 'C'! Give me an 'H'! ... Thanks to the gang of renegade cheerleaders in Lakeland, Fla., I enjoyed an inordinate number of new visitors over the past week. In fact, it was my post titled "When Cheerleaders Attack" that attracted a bumper crop of readers from around the world -- Australia, Canada, Portugal and some little island off the coast of Africa. I am certain they were disappointed to find I did not have the video, nor did I bother to include a link to the video. Because I am that lazy. And I am that offended by YouTube. Most readers were looking for specific cheerleaders, and because I had listed them by name, this is where they landed. Brittini Hardcastle wins the Most Popular vote hands-down. I'm glad, because she probably won't win it at her high school. I'm just guessing.

Other top attractions: "Bret Michaels' Girlfriend," "Al Gore Toilets," "Matt Lauer," "Drake's Coffee Cake," "Brett Michaels' Kids," and "Foods That Make You Sick."

Tag! You're It ... Thanks to MereCat, I have been tagged. My instructions seem simple enough: Share six unimportant things about you. I have LOTS of unimportant things I could share with you, but I chose these:
1. I don't know how to program phone numbers into my cell phone, nor can I change the ringtone.
2. I have seasonal eye allergies that are so severe, you should feel sorry for me.
3. I've never broken a bone. Mine or anyone else's.
4. Bo Jackson once opened a door for me.
5. I hate Cool Whip, Redi-Whip and just about any food with "whip" in its name.
6. I can type 87 wpm.
I am supposed to tag three other people and ask them to list their own six facts, but I prefer to leave that open for anyone to list, in the form of a comment. So, list away...

It is so very Friday -- enjoy it ...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

But Why Are They So ANGRY?

(Photo by Nicholas Bryant)

That headline isn't exactly fair because I'm one of them. It should read: But Why Are We So ANGRY? But I liked the finger-pointing aspect of the word "they." And it makes this post appear less self-serving.

My rant from late last week about this freebie journalism called "blogging" bled over to a writers forum I participate in, and then the conversation popped up again between me and another writer via e-mail, and here you go ... a bunch of ticked-off writers who have no other audience other than other ticked-off writers. At least we have each other! (Many days, no one else would have us. Sniff, sniff.) The ironic part of the whole thing is that we continue to blog and contribute to online forums about the topic -- the topic being that the internet is killing our bottom line.
Here's the deal: Even if you aren't a writer, you do read, and maybe you read newspapers and magazines. And if you do, then maybe this will inspire you to look at them a little differently and maybe provide a better understanding of people -- angry people -- who are just trying to make a living in an industry that is becoming harder and harder to work in and still earn a decent paycheck.

Spurring the wrath, at least in part, is an honest and (of course) well-written look at the unraveling of an industry, written by Jonathan Handel in the most excellent Huffington Post. In it, Handel lists six reasons why content (across all media) has been devalued. A large chunk of it is devoted to blaming technology, which provides immediate and 'round-the-clock access to what was previously a sought-after commodity. Something people PAID for. But now that so much content is free for the taking, quality can be compromised. OK, stop, Amy. Let Handel do the talking. An excerpt:

Subscribe to a newspaper or magazine? Don't bother; most are free online, and there are literally millions of other sources for news, ranging from blogs like the Huffington Post to user generated content. (Full disclosure: I'm a blogger, which makes me part of the problem.) The TV news? Also becoming irrelevant. And books, magazines and journals? So much information is available online that whole categories of publications seem less important.

This all just makes me very sad because I love newspapers and magazines, and you just can't curl up with a good laptop. You need to turn pages, drink coffee over newsprint, pass pages around the table, fight over the comics.

I love that my 12-year-old knows who Leonard Pitts Jr. is. I love that he's just as likely to run out and pick up the morning paper from the driveway as his father is. I love that on his way out the door earlier this week, he shouted over his shoulder, "You need to check out today's letters to the editor! One guy wrote about 'free will'!" Does that make him smarter than anyone else? Absolutely not. Just a little old-fashioned and not completely and hopelessly captivated by YouTube.

Writing will certainly always be around, but no one can readily predict the future of newspapers, as the industry morphs and adapts to a changing readership and the dizzying technology that makes me want to throw my hands in the air and say, "Oh, forget it" because I'm too dim to figure it out and too stubborn to care.

If you're interested in reading about how journalists REALLY feel about the changing industry, check out, but be warned: This site is not for the faint of heart. When journalists get angry, our language sometimes shows it. The cool part is that it's completely anonymous, and that makes the site even MORE eye-opening. All staff writers, freelancers and anyone who writes for a living can be painfully candid about a bad edit by a copy editor, declining salaries and fees, or just a plain bad day at the office, whether that office is at home, in the newspaper building or with a magazine publisher. It's like an online gripe session.

If I've bored the non-writers today, I do apologize. But maybe some of you are newspaper and magazine readers and can be sad (or, at least, concerned) with me for just one day and blame that Al Gore for yet something else ...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Get Your Snack On (Eating With Amy)

Imagine my surprise to see a pile of individual bags of Munchos lying across the middle of a table in my kids' school gym! "Munchos! I haven't seen these in YEARS!"

"Here -- take as many as you want," the principal told me. "They've already expired, so somebody needs to eat them." The day was April 12. I asked another mom to look at the expiration date. "April 4," she said.

"April 4? What year? 1975?"

I had not seen these delicious potato crisps since I had packed them in my Holly Hobbie lunchbox, which looked JUST LIKE the one pictured below. They still make Munchos? I was Out of Control. The other mom just nodded and wandered away. I, however, could not get over this great news that, despite their expiration, Munchos were still being distributed ... SOMEwhere.

As soon as I got home, I went straight to the most reliable source of information I could think of: Wikipedia. And this is what I learned...

When originally introduced circa 1973, the original ad campaign included the phrase, "It's MUNCHOS!" spoken in a really high voice. At that time, a bag sold for fifty-nine cents retail (now $2.99 -- $3.29 in some areas -- for a 7.25-ounce bag or 99 cents for a "Big Grab").
Due to the high production costs, advertising and prolific commercial distribution of Munchos is limited, if not nonexistent, although they can be commonly found in many areas of the midwestern and southwestern United States.

In Roger Enrico's (former CEO of Pepsi) book, "Cola Wars", (1990), he says that he had to prove himself to the company when the introduction in the market of a product called "Fritos" lowered Munchos sales.
So there's the problem: Living in the SouthEAST does not easily lend itself to delighting in the snack sensation that is Munchos, which I've always insisted is the result of Pringles and Bugles marrying and having offspring.
And who would have thought Fritos would be to blame for the second-tier status of Munchos? Given a choice, I would take Munchos over Fritos ANY day; although, I do love a good Frito.

This just in ... from Time Magazine, Oct. 17, 1969:

Dallas-based Frito-Lay, which claims to be the biggest chip maker in the U.S. and uses Comic Buddy Hackett to munch chips on TV commercials, sides with the institute. But Frito-Lay is hedging its bet by test-marketing Munchos, a potato snack that it carefully labels "potato crisps." Francis X. Rice, president of the institute, concedes that "synthetic" chips do have advantages. Pringles, for example, have a longer shelf life and are not nearly so fragile as potato chips because they are uniformly round and come neatly stacked in tall cardboard canisters. Partly because of the costly packaging, the dehydrated chips cost about 15% more than regular chips. Pringles taste and look much like real potato chips, but they are not as crisp.

Fast-forward to 2008: Where does a girl in the deep South go to find Munchos (the unexpired variety that isn't in the school gym)? To Google, of course. That is where I found, an Atlanta-based company that delivers snacks and beverages to offices throughout the metro Atlanta area, where I do not live. CVCoffee sells Munchos for the bargain price of $.46/bag (probably by the case).

So I Googled some more, and that led me to the product locator element on the Frito-Lay website, where I entered my zip code and found (and you won't believe this) that Munchos are sold at about a half-dozen gas stations ALL AROUND ME.

Well, well, well! This is FANTASTIC news! I may not have that most wonderful and insulated Holly Hobbie lunchbox anymore, but I can still get my snack on at the Kwik Stop. I'll be munchin' like it's 1975 all over again ...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

First, the Bad News; Then the Good Stuff

Too many good people have good jobs where they have to deliver bad news.

The doctor.
The school principal.
The parent.
The mail carrier.
The newspaper guy.
And the accountant.

Happy April 15th, everybody! If you've already received and spent your refund, NOBODY CARES. If you've already received and spent your refund and already have your Economic Stimulus check earmarked for some great piece of electronic wizardry or a down payment on a shiny new car, WE STILL DON'T CARE. Big plans for some home improvements? NOPE. STILL DON'T CARE.

According to our accountant, we are not alone when it comes to paying out the rear for 2007. When we picked up our final returns, she was prepared with a prescription for Phenergan, a roll of Tums and a bottle of Calomine. Why?

"I called one client to give her similar news, and she vomited," she said. "And another client I called, well, he crapped in his pants. Literally." And a third, she told us, learned his fate by telephone and later came to her office just to show her his hives. She might just qualify to be on Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs."

Monday's headlines let us know that it could be worse. Five-time Grammy winner Dionne Warwick, for example, owes $2.7 million in state (California) taxes. Do you think she crapped in her pants when she first learned this? I know I would have.

Bill Clinton's former political adviser Dick Morris, now a Fox News analyst, has had his share of tax woes. Among them, he reportedly owed $452,367 to the state of Connecticut and some crazier amount to the IRS. Morris says that so far, he has paid almost $3 million in state and federal taxes. I think that warrants some vomiting. Accompanied by hives.

FINALLY, Some Good News from "The Today Show"

If you caught this morning's edition of "The Today Show," a constant Thorn In My Side that equally wrecks and makes my day, you may have seen the segment about Barack Obama playing basketball. No, wait, that wasn't the inspiring story of overcoming adversity and reaching for your dreams that I meant to highlight. The story is about the 70-year-old man who has gone back to school ... back to first grade. After ushering his grandchildren to and from their elementary school for some time, he quietly asked one of the first-grade teachers if she could help him learn to read. And she did. She tutored him for several weeks and witnessed his gradual climb toward literacy.

The footage shows a tall, black, 70-year-old Alfred eating lunch alongside tiny 6-year-olds, sitting in a circle during storytime and walking down the school hallway, and it zooms in on some of his handwriting, scrawled on colored construction paper -- some of the first words he has ever written.

"What a nice way to end this half-hour," Matt Lauer tells Meredith Vieira. Wonder why they don't start the half-hour that way ...

Monday, April 14, 2008

I Know What You Ate Last Night

Q: What did you have for dinner last night?

Lean Cuisine Girl: I had grilled white meat chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers, cheese and a creamy pesto sauce in a soft flatbread ...

Amy: I had a diuretic caplet, a laxative and a handful of honey-roasted cashews.