The Visible Taco.
Tuesday October 09th 2007, 9:49 am
Filed under: bizarre,brain exploders,consumer action,food

I am choosing to break weeks of silence for what I feel is a noble cause: to show you quite possibly the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

Last Friday when I was waiting at Taco Bell for my chalupas, I noticed something back in the kitchen on top of the nacho station. I had an idea of what it was but couldn’t really believe what I was seeing. I was going to ask one of the employees about it, but there were people waiting in line behind me and I didn’t want to make a big scene. I figured I’d be able to find a picture of it on the internet, but guess what? Multiple searches on Google Images and Flickr turned up absolutely zilch.

I knew then what I had to do: return to Taco Bell the following Monday with a digital camera. Here is the result:

Do you see that thing on top of the “nacho hutch” (my term)? Right in the center? Here’s a closer look:

Uhh… yeah. You’ve heard of the Visible Man before?

That is a Visible Taco.

So many questions! For starters, what about every other item on the menu, almost all of which are more complicated? What about the Grilled Stuft Burrito? What about Nachos Bellgrande? What about Mexican Pizza?! The Visible Taco is a good place to start, but on its own its completely worthless.

Seriously, though – can somebody please tell me why this exists?

Shut Up, Internet.
Monday April 30th 2007, 10:21 am
Filed under: consumer action,internet crap,rants,tv

Thakelt10 missed the point pretty spectacularly in his 1-star review of the Criterion Collection DVD release of Fishing With John. For the uninitiated, here’s the wikipedia entry for it. This clip of Tom Waits putting a fish down his pants pretty much sums it up, too. Here’s Amazon.com user Thakelt10’s brilliant advice on the subject:

Perhaps even more astounding are the 3 out of 9 people who found his review helpful.

The internet is chock full of gems like these. Everyone has a voice on the internet if they want one, and as such anyone can feel free to opine on almost astonishingly ridiculous crap (case in point here). Wanna know know the real deal about Brawny paper towels? No problem. Can’t decide if that 9 dollar plunger is the right one for you? Some guy named “Eduardo Nietzsche” from Houston has you covered. Trim the fat off of Amazon and you get Yelp.com, whose motto, “Real People. Real Reviews,” makes it fertile ground for unintentional hilarity. Take, for instance, this review of a gas station in Glenview, Illinois. Let me repeat that: it’s a review of a gas station.

User-generated content is great and all, but maybe we can draw the line at reviews of gas stations and plungers. I don’t need advice when it comes to gas stations and plungers. If I need gas, I’ll find a gas station. I don’t care if it’s not “one of the better gas stations in the area.” If I need a plunger, I’ll buy one. If I somehow manage to break it (which I’ve never done before), I’ll buy a new one. It’s a plunger. I understand that you have things to say about the products you purchase and the gas stations you feel passionate about, but enough is enough.

Shut up, internet.

An Interview With Al Cabino: Sneaker Activist.
Saturday May 06th 2006, 3:58 pm
Filed under: consumer action,interviews,movies

Last week, I stumbled across an online petition dedicated to convincing Nike to release the shoes that Marty McFly wore in Back to the Future II. When I checked it then, there were over 16,000 signatures. As I type this now, a few days later, there are over 17,000. The people have spoken. But if it weren’t for one man bringing all them all together, their voices may have never been heard. That man, that great uniter, is none other than Al Cabino, a self-proclaimed “Internationally Renowned Sneakerographer.”

Hypocritical Ross: So what’s your deal?
Al Cabino: I’m a Capricorn. I love sneakers, rock music, hockey… I’m a twenty-something born and raised in Montreal, Canada, working on a book about sneaker culture.

HR: Have you always been into sneakers?
AC: Yes, I’m a sneaker fan!

HR: How many pairs do you own personally?
AC: A respectable number.

HR: What’s the deal with the Back to the Future II shoes? What makes them so special?
AC: Everyone dreams of walking in a movie star’s shoes. The McFlys are the Holy Grail of movie sneakers. The McFlys were created just for the film, they were never worn beyond the silver screen, and I’ve always been fascinated by them. There’s a sneaker legend that says that in 2015, Nike will come out with them. But I’m not going to wait 9 years. There are a lot of people who don’t want to wait 9 years.

HR: And that’s where the petition comes in?
AC: It’s the world’s first and only international sneaker petition. So far, there are over 15,000 signatures from more than 50 countries. I am applying activism to sneaker culture. There’s old-style activism with people like Naomi Klein (also born in Montreal). This is new-style activism.

HR: What do you do for a living?
AC: I work.

HR: Do you work for Nike? Is this all some sort of viral marketing campaign?
AC: Good question—The Washington Post wanted to know if I was a Nike spy.

HR: You have to admit—it does kind of smack of viral marketing.
AC: This isn’t Sneakergate, dude.

HR: I’m just trying to understand your position.
AC: I’m not one-dimensional. I love sneakers, I love hockey, I love activism… I’d love to work with UNICEF on a sneaker-related campaign, maybe create a special sneaker where the proceeds from the sale would go to UNICEF. If starting the world’s first and only international sneaker petition has turned me into an international sneaker celebrity, well, I’d also love to work with organizations like UNICEF. One of my childhood heroes is David Suzuki—he’s a Canadian icon. Google him.

HR: Wouldn’t a Nike-sponsored UNICEF campaign be a bit like mugging someone and then giving them bus fare so they can get home?
AC: I didn’t say it would be Nike-sponsored… what do you propose for my UNICEF sneaker campaign? I’m open to your ideas… I am a sneaker fan! Are you gonna write that I’m a Nike spy?

HR: How do you reconcile the differences between the tradition of activism you are coming out of and the consumer culture you are simultaneously embracing? Some might see that as a paradox. What would you say to those people that say Nike and activism can’t go together?
AC: Traditional activists are consumers too. As stated earlier, there’s old-style activism… this is new-style activism. Old-style isn’t new-style, they are different. Sounds like you can’t accept that. You’ve got liberals, you’ve got conservatives. If you get it, you get it. If you don’t, that’s fine too. I respect everyone.

HR: Some old-style activists would probably be hesitant to call what you are doing “activism,” though.
AC: The term “sneaker activism” is accurate. This is consumerism as an active, not passive, process. I was named a 2006 Noisemaker by the Montreal Mirror (Montreal’s answer to the Village Voice), Montreal is one of the most activist cities in the world. If Montreal has embraced my new-style activism, I’m sure some Cubs fans might too. In Back to the Future Part II, the Cubs defeat Miami to win the 2015 World Series.

HR: So have you gotten any response from Nike regarding the petition? It seems ridiculous that they would ignore over 16,000 people.
AC: Right after I started the petition I was contacted by someone at Nike. He said “Al, this is big. You are on the Nike Inc global intranet. Usually the only thing on there is very important stuff for the employees.” And I was on there. A few days in, they were already talking about it. Nike is the world’s biggest sneaker company. All good things take time, but everyone knows about my international sneaker campaign. I’m still collecting signatures.

HR: Why are you doing this? What’s in it for you?
AC: I want a pair of the McFlys.

HR: How much would you be willing to pay for the McFlys if they were commercially released?
AC: First, let’s get them released.

HR: Are there any other sneakers you want to see commercially available?
AC: I want to work with the Montreal Canadiens hockey club to release some special edition sneakers that would combine my love for the Montreal Canadiens and my love for sneakers. That would be the greatest honor ever.

HR: What’s with the chocolate Nikes? Where did that come from and what’s the response been like?
AC: I’m very inspired by movies, inspired by Willy Wonka… a HUGE underground success. MTV covered it. MTV turned me into an international sneaker celebrity.

HR: If you were trapped in an elevator with Phil Knight, what would you say to him?
AC: I’m trying to organize a special meeting with Phil Knight. We will talk sneakers over some good Japanese tea.

HR: Do you know any sweet shoe trivia?
AC: Michael Jordan rocked Converse. The first Air Jordan was banned by the NBA. Michael Jordan wore them anyway, amassing fines—up to $5,000 a game.

Arby’s Offers New, “All Natural” Chicken Sandwiches.
Wednesday March 01st 2006, 9:22 pm
Filed under: consumer action

According to a February 27 press release, Arby’s has begun offering “Arby’s Chicken Naturals™, made with 100% all-natural chicken.” What exactly does “100% all-natural” mean? Does that mean all the chicken meat in their sandwiches is now guaranteed to come from real, actual chickens that were alive at some point? Or are they actually trying to imply that the chicken in, say, an Arby’s Chicken Bacon n’ Swiss sandwich, is now going to be organic?

The press release goes on. “By starting with chicken in its most natural form, we have created a better chicken sandwich.” [quote from Doug Behham, Arby’s President and CEO] Other leading fast food companies offer chicken breast sandwiches with up to 29.3 percent of solutions made of various elements including water, seasoning (salt, spices and spice extract), oil, modified food starch, sodium phosphates.”

That’s all well and good, but they never get any more specific in the release than saying the chicken will now be “100% all-natural” or that they are now “starting with chicken in its most natural form,” which is, I can only assume, an actual living chicken. That’s very encouraging.

Interestingly (sort of), in the January 3, 2005 press release announcing the test marketing of said “all-natural chicken,” they say that other fast food companies offer chicken sandwiches with “up to 27.1 percent of solutions made of various elements…” That’s 2.2 percent less than the most current press release! Has the allowance for water, seasoning, oil, modified food starch and sodium phosphates gone up in the past year in the fast food chicken sandwiches we know and love, or is this a distortion of fact perpetrated by the Arby’s marketing machine?!

I intend to find out.

Stay tuned.

Hot Tamales Knows What Gets Hot Americans Hot
Thursday February 09th 2006, 3:01 pm
Filed under: consumer action

Hot Tamales have issued their first ever “Report on What is Hot in America,” a veritable geyser of important statistics based on a random sampling of households in America. The study reads like a who’s who in Hollywood… from 1998:

Hottest Female Celebrity: Angelina Jolie

Hottest Male Celebrity: Brad Pitt

Hottest Musical Artist: Mariah Carey

Hottest Family: The fucking Osbournes.

Hottest Politician: Bill Clinton

America also, apparently, hates “stupid people,” “bad drivers,” and “bills.” On the other hand, America enjoys “friends and family,” “sports and exercise,” and “video games.”

If you love Hot Tamales brand candies as much as I do, you might want to know that it’s not only normal people like us that love the spicy cinnamon burst of Hot Tamales brand candies – celebrities love them too! Madonna, Lindsay Lohan, Lara Flynn Boyle… hell, Mariah Carey even calls her FANS “Hot Tamales!”

The survey was conducted by International Communications Research in January. According to the Press Release, “In order to participate, respondents were between 18-29 years of age.”

Wait a minute. So anyone between 18 and 29 in America can determine what’s “hot?” And it doesn’ even matter if the people surveyed regularly enjoy Hot Tamales brand candies? What then, I ask, does this have to do with Hot Tamales?

“The Just Born candy company is our client, and they contracted us to do the study for them,” said John DeWolf, a representative from International Communications Research. They do this, apparently, “to raise awareness of their brand and publish the data. It’s not your typical market research thing here,” he said.

So what, you ask, is the absolute hottest thing? What is the one thing above everything else that’s got all of America shitting themselves with excitement? Something even more exciting than, say, Hot Tamales FIRE – the newest addition to the Hot Tamales family? When asked what they’ve learned is the hottest thing in America, DeWolf doesn’t pull any punches. “Honestly,” he said, “we do so many studies here… We don’t have time to sit down and study the data… unless we’re contracted to do so.”