December 2007

Last night I dreamed I was Jim Halpert. At least, I dreamed I worked in a large, boring office building where Pam was the secretary. And at the end of dream, Pam was sitting on my lap and we were watching a movie.

That’s when I heard my sister in the bathroom and woke up.



Celestial Seasonings
The Dork Who Changed the Sleepytime Box
Boulder, CO

Dear Sir or Madam,

The redesign of the Sleepytime Tea box is keeping us up nights. Where did the bear cubs go? What happened to the peaceful scene of the bear family, with Daddy Bear nodding off and the little bears nestled snug in the quilted bed? The original design was as comforting and iconic as the tea itself. Why tamper with it? Without the bear family, something is missing–not just from the box but from the tea itself. What was a soothing evening tradition, a last vestige of comfort and tranquility in an overwheliming world, has been supplanted by hollow corporate self-promotion.

We liked Beth Underwood’s original scene. We don’t much care about your “all-natural legacy” and corporate horn-tooting for veteran tea experts who “source” materials from around world. We know the tea is good. We like the aroma. We like the taste. That’s why we bought it. But we also liked the Bear family and the homey scene. The new design betrays your company’s legacy, your loyal customers, and spirit of the tea itself. For shame, Celestial Seasonings. For shame.

Bring the bear family back!


The Robinson Family

Or, if you’re one of those secular humanist culture warriors, Happy Holidays!

Every time I come home for more than a couple days, the wheezing, sneezing stuffiness starts. I’m all congested and I get sinus headaches and my voice sounds funny, but the worst part is definitely my lungs rattling. Every times I exhale a deep breath I can feelings moving around in there. I know it’s a sign of impending bronchitis or worse. My solution? Don’t take deep breaths and try not to think about it. Also, spend as little time in the house as possible. I think it’s pet fluff that sets me off, so if I minimize my exposure I should get better. If only I could find somewhere else to sleep.

mountain don't

A dark, dreary cityscape, filled with riot police in armored cars–a world ruthlessly dominated by shadowy corporate superstructures.

This Orwellian dystopia isn’t the setting of a new novel or Hollywood blockbuster; it’s the theme of Mountain Dew’s new marketing campaign, an integrated media blitzkrieg featuring television commercials, online advertisements, and a computer game.

You’ve really got to see it for yourself, but the basic storyline is this: authoritarian “corporate barons rule the city with an iron fist,” stamping out creative expression and, apparently, forcing the oppressed population to drink the same old boring soda. Things look bleak, but fear not! There is hope. A ruggedly handsome young man with urban chic fasion sense can free the can overthrow the corporate lords, free the people, and “restore the sole of mankind” by designing a new flavor of soda pop called “the People’s dew.” After the game, “fantasy becomes reality” as Pepsi releases the new drink.

Pepsi was careful to avoid giving its customers any meaningful control, of course. Players don’t “design” the new soda. They exercise their creative freedom by choosing from a few preselected options (say, blue razberry or red cherry?). The released product won’t be the one selected by the players, it will be “recognizably similar.”

In other words, Pepsi has kindly invited you to feel like you have a choice in what sugary, artificially-colored, mediocre soda they put on the shelves so you’ll feel invested enough to actually buy it, even though any resemblance to your original selection will be purely coincidental.

So come on people! Let’s fight back against our corporate masters and design them a soda! That’ll teach ’em.

God bless PDX for free wifi. It’s appalling that some restaurants, airports, and even coffee shops actually expect you to pay for internet access. But not PDX. You can count on just about everything in Portland, at least everything in the public sphere, to be sensible, useful, and at least a little socialist.

I’m killing time before my standard flight to Denver, the layover on the way home. It’s always a little disconcerting to sit in a metal tube for a couple hours and then step out onto completely different terrain. Portland is wet and cloudy today as always, but even in the airport it’s vibrant and diverse. The city always feels like it’s quietly pulsing

In a few hours I’ll be in Oklahoma City, my eyes stretching across miles of endless cow pastures. Oklahoma has no pulse. I don’t mean it’s dead, exactly, just that it’s still. It will be a clear, cold night with stars shining and headlights slicing through the prairie from the highway.

Enough poetical stuff, I’m going to make a list!

The Biggest Differences Between Oregon and Oklahoma

  • Alcohol: In Oregon, you can buy six point beer in the grocery store. Hell, you can buy WINE in the grocery store. It’s amazing the whole state isn’t dead from alcohol poisoning.
  • Coffee: In Oregon, you’re never more than a two minute walk from a decent cup of coffee. In Oklahoma, you’re a ten minute drive from a cup of acrid gas station slime. But we do have Starbucks.
  • Friendliness: Portland is actually one of the friendliest big cities I’ve met, but I doubt there’s a better place on the planet to have car trouble than rural Oklahoma. Not only will every other driver stop, they’ll probably know something about cars, too. I very much doubt you could say the same about the I-5 corridor.

I never miss home until I’m almost there.

Can you beat level 44? Didn’t think so.

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