On the Integrity of Cereal Naming Conventions

We do some pretty wacky things to try to shovel as much sugar into our collective diet as possible.

Take, for example, this new cereal.  Here’s a picture of the box, sent to me by a good friend who knew I would have some thoughts:

SugarCookieToastCrunch

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Obviously, this is a seasonal offshoot of the most delicious breakfast cereal of all time, Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  You may also be familiar with the other members of the “Toast Crunch” family: Peanut-butter Toast Crunch and French Toast Crunch.

There is one key criteria that separates those cereals from the abomination you see pictured above.

There is such a thing as cinnamon toast.  There is certainly such a thing as French toast.  There is indubitably such a thing as peanut-butter toast.

There is no such thing as “sugar cookie toast.”

Sugar cookies exist.  Toast obviously exists.

Sugar cookie toast is a non-thing.

Now, you may be saying, “Don’t take this naming convention so literally, Tom!”  But where does it end?  Birthday Cake Toast Crunch?  Apple Pie Toast Crunch?  Refined Sugar and Corn Syrup Toast Crunch?  Juvenile Diabetes Toast Crunch?

And, yes, I would try any and all of those.  And I’m sure they would be delicious.  That’s not the point.

The point is that those of us in decent society – good, patriotic Americans everywhere – have to draw a line at some point.

And I draw that line at making up kinds of toast for the convenience of popular cereal brands.

It’s called a moral code, people.  There’s nothing more delicious than that.

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Thanks Again, Lawyers

I had occasion to rise at the crack of nine a few Sundays back, thanks to the unusual start time of the London-based NFL game between the Falcons and Lions.  The early wake-up was significant because it meant I would sit through the normal allotment of advertising during the game.  I rarely see many ads watching NFL football on Sunday thanks to the commercial-free Red Zone channel.

The 9:00 kickoff meant that Falcons / Lions was the only game on.  So, I happily endured the commercials, seeing them as a small price to pay for expanding my football Sunday by yet another three hours.

Much to my bemusement, one such commercial was a spot for Sony’s Playstation entitled “Friendly Competition.”  The premise is that two friends playing against one another in various video-game-related scenarios morph from one character to another as they compete across genres and titles.

It’s a pretty, well-made, and otherwise-harmless commercial that has one damning flaw.

PS4Ad01

You’ll note the fine print at the bottom saying “Dramatization.  Do not attempt.

You’ll also note the space-warrior riding futuristic, weaponized equipment.

To be clear, the thing they’re telling viewers not to attempt is to fly some kind of speeder bike that shoots lasers in an effort to combat an army of robots on an alien planet.  Definitely don’t do that, everybody!

Oh, and here’s what’s happening a couple of seconds later:

PS4Ad02

 

That’s right—the alien robot things are firing an unknown type of advanced weaponry at the aforementioned speeder bikes (that, again, you should not be riding into battle, dear consumers).  The bikes then explode (probably why you shouldn’t be riding them!), and the two friends simply decide to destroy the robots on foot.

My problem with this commercial is, of course, the annoyance of having to be told not to attempt something that is not only dangerous, not only impractical, but also literally impossible.

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but . . . there is no way that I—or anyone—could genuinely attempt to battle robots on a laser chopper because neither the robots nor the bikes exist.

Yet, companies feel the need to put these sorts of disclaimers on their advertisements because even impossible scenarios can spawn lawsuits from morons.  And, naturally, in our risk-averse, safety-first society, we must kowtow to the moron demographic.

To be fair, Sony appears to have revised the commercial so that the disclaimer appears during the segment where the duo rides conventional ATVs (which do exist here on Earth!).  Still, if we’re seeing these disclaimers for video game commercials, I’m wondering what the next frontier might be for such onscreen warnings.  Action movies?  Video games themselves?  WWE?  Oh, right, those already happen.

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Untimely Movie Review: An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain

The next two movies in the Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection are a pair of Gene Kelly musicals I’ll review in tandem: An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain.  These films present something of a dilemma for me as a “reviewer,” a term I use in the loosest sense allowable.

AnAmericanInParisPosterSpecifically, I don’t care for musicals.

Let’s see how this goes.

The 1951 winner for Best Picture, An American in Paris is the story of Jerry Mulligan (Kelly) persistently stalking and, it being 1951, therefore successfully wooing Lise (Leslie Caron).  The plot is really just a simple contrivance to get from one musical number to another, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Back to that dilemma I mentioned a moment ago.  There’s the question of my personal taste versus the objective merit of the movies.  An American in Paris just didn’t appeal to me subjectively.  Objectively, on the other hand, there’s no question that this is an incredibly well-crafted production worthy of the acclaim it received back in the early 50s.

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Booking Brock

Last month, Brock Lesnar committed acts of violence rarely witnessed on contemporary WWE programming.

BrockWWEChampion2014Not only that, but he perpetrated those acts against then-WWE Champion and “face of the company” John Cena.

This was exactly what should have happened.

As has been the case for some time now, WWE gets more right than it does wrong, and it got this exactly right.  Cena endured 16 belly-to-back suplexes over the course of an excruciating 20 minutes.  Merely calling them “belly-to-back suplexes” doesn’t do justice to the brutality with which they were delivered.  Being German suplexed is one thing.  Being German suplexed by Brock Lesnar is another.

This Sunday, the two square off again in Cena’s contractual rematch for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions.  Rather than give a long-winded analysis of each match, as I did for Summerslam, I want to focus exclusively on the main event (and try to keep this piece under 2,000 words for once).

My booking for the match would be pretty simple.

Lesnar annihilated Cena and beat him in 20 minutes last time.

This time, Lesnar beats him in 10.

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A Day in the Life of an Adrian Peterson Fantasy Owner

Here was my CBSSports.com Fantasy newsfeed yesterday:

AdrianPetersonFinal

Oof. Not a great day for me.

An even worse day for AD and his family, though.

(Probably.)

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Some (Possibly Unpopular) Thoughts on Rice and Goodell

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp August 22, 2009A few thoughts on the Ray Rice situation, some of which may be redundant for anyone who’s been following the story, others of which may be uncomfortable for some:

1. Ray Rice should have been suspended for more than two games initially.  However, not receiving a jail sentence or serious charges in this type of situation isn’t unusual.

I think laymen have been a little perplexed by this reality, but it does make some sense.  The general idea is that the law is reluctant to hammer someone who is a first-time offender, a previously “model” citizen, and whose victim says this was an unprecedented incident.

Now, you may disagree with this philosophy.  I’m guessing the Twitter Mob probably wants one-time offenders to go to jail for ten years or more.  But I’m merely telling you that prosecutors and judges—unless there’s some personal axe to grind—are generally not looking to annihilate guys who fit Rice’s fact pattern.

2. The video tape coming to light should have had no bearing on the punishment.

The basic facts of the incident were not really in dispute.  Rice’s now-wife came at him a couple of times, he wildly and inexcusably overreacted by punching her and knocking her out on an elevator.  The NFL knew this (more on that in a moment).  The Ravens knew this.  Rice was suspended two games.

There’s a very good argument—one with which I agree—that he should have received a much stiffer penalty from the NFL.  But, whatever penalty he should have received, the punishment should not have been affected by the tape.  We seem to be glossing over this point.

We already knew what happened.  Rice knocked out his girlfriend and dragged her out of an elevator.  Why did we need to see it on tape for him to get punished more severely?  That brings me to the next point . . .

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Beast For Business – SummerSlam 2014

SummerSlam2014PosterIn just a few days’ time, shrewd businessman and creative genius Vince McMahon’s troupe of fairly compensated independent contractors will put on their second-biggest show of the year.

Originating from its now-annual home, L.A.’s Staples Center, SummerSlam features a complete list of well-promoted matches.  I don’t think I can recall a non-WrestleMania show that included this many matches that had been given thorough, proper build-ups.

Maybe it’s the renewed focus wrought by bad financial news (or the pared-down roster that soon followed that news).  Maybe it’s better integration with the WWE Network that allows for certain characters to flourish.  Maybe it’s a better understanding of how to use the flagship show’s three-plus hours each week.

Whatever the reason, there’s no question that, for the first time in a long time, I can look at each of the eight announced matches on this card and remember compelling specifics about all of them.

Let’s get to the particulars:

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The Decline of the United States of America in One Chart

The New York Times Chronicle sub-site is a wonderful utility that graphs the frequency of words and phrases over the publication’s history.  Users can plug in whatever search terms they wish, and the engine instantly and amazingly checks over a century’s worth of content.

Keeping in mind that there are simply more articles today than there were in, say, 1878, it’s particularly interesting to see how certain concepts and ideas have become more or less prominent over the decades.

With that in mind, here, in one chart, is a visualization of the decline of the United States of America.

CompositeNYTChart

Ok, maybe two charts:

LawsuitNYTChart

 

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RAW in Richmond

Due to a last-minute offer of (excellent) tickets, I was able to catch Monday Night RAW in person at the Richmond Coliseum this week.  Here, in no particular order, are some observations and live impressions that I’ll jot down before loading up the television version from my DVR.

1. First and foremost—the crowd was excellent.  Richmond has been a hotbed for big wrestling shows for decades, and the audience was a great mix of young and old.  There was definitely a “multi-generation” feel.  Most importantly, Richmond crowds strike the perfect balance for wrestling.  The crowds here are very “hot” (loud and enthusiastic), unlike a typical crowd in, say, Phoenix.  However, they also don’t try to make themselves the show, like a crowd in certain major East Coast cities.  Richmond finds that sweet spot: An East Coast intensity with an old-school willingness not to be too-cool-for-school, contrarian dicks.  We cheer for faces and boo heels, here.  We enjoy wrestling unironically.  Imagine that!  (But see also #8 and #9 below)

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Absolutely perfect view

2. It’s been almost three years since I last attended a live WWE event.  The operation has been silky-smooth for years, but, incredibly, it’s even more impressive now.  Changes to the ring or set happen instantly as a phalanx of black-clad employees scurry to and fro during commercial breaks or backstage vignettes.  The amount of “moving parts” is staggering, but everyone seems to know exactly where to be and what to be doing at all times.  That’s even true when things don’t go as planned due to, say, an injury.

3. We were in a suite, the best part of which (aside from having our own bathroom) was the incredible sightline.  Even when I’ve had good or great seats in the past, the sightlines haven’t been as clean as Monday night’s.  The view of both the stage and the ring were completely unobstructed.  As a bonus, Roman Reigns entered through the crowd about 25 feet to our left.

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Untimely Movie Review: A Streetcar Named Desire

As the Warner Brothers 50 Film Collection moves into a new decade, the first movie from the 1950s is another story based on a play: Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (which I will refer to simply as Streetcar to signal my credibility to the readers!).

AStreetcarNamedDesirePosterStreetcar (see?!?) directed by Real American Elia Kazan, tells a very “small” story, reflecting its stage roots.  The crux of the plot is that a woman named Stella has a nutty sister (Blanche) who arrives in New Orleans to live with Stella and her abusive husband Stanley.  Blanche’s past is mysterious, and her behavior is odd—she needs frequent praise for her looks, a point her sister drives home more than once.  Blanche also perpetually asks questions about what people think about her.  The eventual revelations about her past are interesting, but not unexpected, given her strange conduct throughout the film.

Story aside, there are problems with the dialogue.  Jeepers, this dialogue.  It’s more music than words, for better and for worse.  The sounds portray the intensity and emotion of the scene, but nobody talks this way.  Not in 2014.  Not in 1951.

The lines sound exactly like what they are: Short, impactful doses of words designed to hold the attention of the couple in the last row of a playhouse.  Viewed with the scrutiny of a close-up on a large screen, they get silly very quickly.

Also note that we’re still in an era of acting that favored broad, melodramatic performances.  The fact that the source material is a stage production only ups that particular ante.  Vivien Leigh, funny and excellent in the 30s epic Gone with the Wind, now seems a little out-of-place in the 1950s, especially acting alongside Marlon Brando.

In fact, seeing Brando and Leigh together is a bit jarring.  It’s almost as if they’re acting in two different movies.  Or, more properly, Leigh is acting in a melodrama from the 1940s, and Brando is delivering something close to a “modern” performance.

Brando is acting.  Leigh is ACTING!

The contrast doesn’t do Leigh any favors, although she won another Best Actress Oscar for her performance.

Karl Malden and Kim Hunter swept the supporting role Oscars as well.  In fact—incredibly—Marlon Brando is the only primary cast member who didn’t win an Oscar for his performance in Streetcar.  Seen from a contemporary perspective, that seems quite odd.  I think it’s also probably surprising for people who only know this movie from the “STELLA!!!” scene to discover that Brando easily has the most subtlety and nuance.

But, again, that’s not entirely Leigh’s fault.  Some of her lines are a volcano of unnatural syllables, particularly strange to hear erupting from the mouth of a past-her-prime Mississippi schoolteacher.  However, there are also moments like (to pick just one) her reaction when Brando gives her the bus ticket back home that illustrate the broad tone of Leigh’s performance.

ACTING!!!

So we noticed.

In some ways, the character Leigh plays here is where we might imagine an older Scarlett O’Hara would wind up at the same age—alone, alcoholic, missing her erstwhile beauty and lost family estate.  The difference is that O’Hara, at bottom, had a resilient, capable spirit.  Blanche is a mess who just gets messier over the course of two hours.

Brando is the major selling point for me.  His is the first performance I’ve seen in this collection that wouldn’t have seemed bizarre 20 years later.  His popularity coupled with his different approach to acting would help usher in a shift toward a more natural, realistic approach to the craft.

This is ultimately a story about two very flawed people (and one who loves and tolerates both of them).  Brando is great.  Leigh’s effort won her an Academy Award, but was the sort of performance whose days as Oscar-winning were numbered.  Hunter and Malden fall somewhere in-between.

Streetcar was rated as one of the 100 best films in movie history by AFI.  One of the 50 best, in fact.  As always, there’s a risk of a disconnect watching it for the first time more than a half-century after its initial release.  However, I don’t think it merits that level of acclaim.

That’s not to say it isn’t a good film.  Of course it is.  But I just can’t get past the unnatural stage dialogue or the antiquated performance of Leigh juxtaposed with Brando’s must-see naturalism.

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