Sunday, April 29, 2012

Short memories

Does anybody remember why Hitler's march into Russia failed? It was for exactly the same reason that Napoleon's similar march failed, right? I'm not comparing Romney to Hitler, except in that they both seem unable to learn from history. This is Romney's latest campaign ad.

I'm not even going to attack the obvious lies, distortions and half-truths that it's riddled with. Instead, here's a failed campaign strategy from just 4 short years ago.

Is it just me?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Honor thy Father and Mother

Sometimes, the rules that people want to force everybody else to live by are just complete bullshit.

Anybody who's been reading my stuff for a while would assume that I'd be about to embark on a rant about the current mangy pack of theocrats, or the anti-abortion crew, or some other group of modern-day fascists. And you'd be wrong.

Somewhere between taxes and the random family crisis, I haven't had a whole lot of blogging in my life for the past few weeks. As a hint about one of them, I'm going to have to give you some background.

I have been known to occasionally babble on (endlessly) about my wife, because she's one of the only truly admirable people I have ever met (and I've met a lot of people - not all by choice, but that's neither here nor there). But the fact that this is true is practically a miracle.

My father-in-law was also a good person, and probably the source of the Trophy Wife's awesomeness. The record isn't clear about when he realized that he'd found himself trapped in a loveless marriage with a crazy woman, but he stayed in it for the sake of the children, until my wife was in her late teens (16 to 18, if it matters - I don't remember, and I'm not going to ask her).

My mother-in-law, Ann, on the other hand, has never been a good person, and when her husband divorced her, she went completely off the deep end (assuming she wasn't there already).

The Trophy Wife doesn't remember when her mother began threatening suicide, but as they moved from one cheap rental place to another (usually just ahead of the eviction notice), it was often a daily occurrence. And it wasn't subtle, or any kind of hidden threat, either: "If you ever leave me, I'll kill myself."

I won't dwell on the drug-dealer who lived with them for a while, or any of the other multi-layered slices of idiocy that this woman laid on her daughter. I will point out that when I married her, living on a military base was a bonus, because Ann couldn't stand to be inside a fence that was guarded by guys with guns.

Going to Germany for seven years was a great idea for any number of reasons - one of which was the number of phone calls went down after the first few phone bills full of transatlantic calls. (Yes, this is a woman who would call four and five times a day. Not because she had a reason, or anything to say - she just couldn't let go.)

My mother-in-law was (and sometimes is) a self-absorbed, manipulative bitch; her propensity for rewriting her past has blossomed into full-on delusion these days. As her mental capacity has diminished, she has started to believe the lies she has told and the random fantasies she has occasionally imagined for herself.

Ann has hinted in the past that she wants to move to Albuquerque. And aside from the fact that we don't have room for her, there's actually one simple truth that prevents her from coming here - the town is full of Catholics and Mexicans. She can't stand either one (or blacks, or Muslims, or pretty much anybody on the planet).

My wife can hardly stand to talk to her mother - she tenses up so badly that her back starts to spasm, and her hands are often shaking when she hangs up the phone. But she still manages to talk cheerfully to what little remains of this evil woman. She recounts her week, giving all the little details and mildly funny stories. And then hanging up and cursing, or staring off into space. Or pouring herself a brandy.

I don't know how the years spent with that poisonous, hateful woman didn't break my wife, but she managed to become the most important person in my life. She is invariably kind, gentle and loving, even when she can barely move for the pain. When I have been at my best, I still barely rise to the level of her worst.

Of all the idiocy found in the Ten Commandments, I have come to have no use for one of them. "Honor thy Father and Mother," my ass. Respect is earned.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

How Loco is Your Taco?

I'm just not in the mood for politics. Watching the GOP Clown Show on April Fool's Day just seems redundant. Instead, let's talk fast food.

Every brand of fat-enriched, unhealthy food-like products sold over a counter and through a window wants to stand out from the crowd, so they keep trying "innovations" that aren't particularly innovative.

And I'll try anything once.

Burger King rolled out its "new" model french fries just in time for St Patrick's Day this year. Personally, I wasn't impressed: they were bland, not particularly crisp, and actually a step down from what they used to sell.

Taco Bell, on the other hand, decided to go with an interesting idea: they paired with Doritos to make taco shells, and cross-pollinated the products to create the Taco Bell Doritos® Locos Taco. And you know what they ended up with? Is the answer "Awesomeness!"?

Not really, no.

The taco already contains most of the flavors in the Nacho Cheese Dorito - the spice is in the meat, not the cheese, but the components are all there. So really, all you're adding is the orange fingerprint dust coating the outside of the shell.

Oh, and a hefty dose of sodium. Don't forget that.

Break a piece of the shell off, it tastes like a Dorito. But that flavor gets overpowered by the taco. So essentially, instead of just getting random chunks of taco filling dropping on the paper (or your shirt, or your pants), you get all that, plus a light coating of artificial cheese and salt on your hands.

You know what this product is meant for? Brand loyalists. Which means I'm not the target audience.

For one thing, I don't go to Taco Bell often - I live in New Mexico. I have actual Mexican food choices, for similar prices; I also have much better choices, for only slightly more.

(We also have an interesting hybrid locally, called New Mexican food - it's like Tex-Mex, without the emphasis on artificial cheese, cheap cuts of meat, and over-processed greyish-brown bean-like paste. And the chilies: New Mexico's biggest agricultural product is featured, but the purpose is to enhance flavor, not just burn off the top layer of skin on your tongue; our big question is "red or green?" As in the color of the chili sauce, not which football team you prefer.)

And for similar reasons, I'm not a huge Doritos proponent. I kind of like the artificial-cheese end of the snack food spectrum, but have no specific brand or variety that I'll choose first. What's available, what's cheap, and what tastes best all factor in, to varying degrees depending on the day.

In general, I have no brand loyalty. Which must make me a perplexing demographic, from a marketing standpoint.

And really, the only real component the Dorito shell adds to a taco is mental: if "Doritos are awesome!" is tattooed somewhere in your forebrain, then the idea of eating this taco has a certain mental thrill for you that I don't experience.

But that's why the ads have the taco coming out of a Doritos bag. That's why the (perfectly reasonable, by the way) cardboard sleeve the taco comes in has the Doritos® logo emblazoned on it. You're the target audience. I'm not.