Category Archives: Humor

This section is my attempt at being funny. Don’t take it seriously unless you’re seriously into humor.

The Four Horsemen of The Holiday Marketing Apocalypse

Every year starting around mid-September, we are faced with a serious threat to our psychological conditioning:  the over-marketing of consumer goods.  It begins slowly and sweetly with seasonal favorites then it suddenly jumps our bones and sends consumers into frenzies across the country as people are trampled in attempts to score the big sale.  The madness seems to revolve around four key players, or horsemen if you will, since their annual arrivals spell out media chaos and consumer-state doom. Grab a pen and take note–the “end of days” of the year is fast approaching and there’s not much time to prepare!

Pumpkin Spice Lattes – Famine

The Armageddon begins with pumpkin spice lattes (never thought you’d read that sentence, did you?).  Don’t let these hot, tempting, caffeinated pumpkin spice-infused abominations fool you:  they mean serious business and represent the first horseman of the holiday marketing apocalypse.  Pumpkin spice lattes remind consumers the holidays are just around the corner, priming us for the season of spending like trumpeters of war.  Before the leaves even begin to change every company and it’s mother corporation starts rolling out  pumpkin spice everything, from pumpkin spice waffles to pumpkin spice Jell-O, for the one time of the year it is acceptable to flavor our junk food with a type of squash.

Bubba Gump Pumpkin Spice Latte Flavor Food Drink Forrest
I think we ALL know who is to blame for this pumpkin spice obsession…

It all begins with the pumpkin spice latte and consumers eat it all up (err, sip it up).  We’ve become conditioned to making seasonal purchases each year and these sinister sippers get us into the buying spirit well before the winter holidays.  Need more proof?  Take a look at these 20 pumpkin spice products, including pumpkin spice pasta, and tell me people would buy them year-round if we weren’t already conditioned to seek out these products during the fall.  Aliens would have to assume pumpkins are the only thing we can get nutrition from between September and November and because of that, pumpkin spice lattes have earned the title of Famine, the first horseman of the holiday marketing apocalypse.  Once they roll out, the unholy procession of sales and advertising has begun…

Thanksgiving Weekend – War

No more “over the river and through the woods” for this holiday weekend–grandmother’s house can bite it.  The Thanksgiving Weekend is the largest retail event of the year thanks to Black Friday and Cyber Monday (and a little classical conditioning)–they even sound like doom incarnate, which makes them perfect for this list.  Black Friday is famous for inciting stampedes and fights between shoppers that have left people both dead and injured–right after practicing gratitude and counting blessings on Thanksgiving Day.  Yay, ironic violence! There’s even a site that keeps track of Black Friday deaths and injuries, so you know the annual advertisements are working.  Cyber Monday, on the other hand, only exists because office workers just couldn’t get enough shopping done on Black Friday so they continued their sprees at work the following Monday when they had faster internet access and could make back some of the money they were spending as they were spending it. “Just two more hours of browsing Amazon for Sally and I’ll have that extra fifty bucks to get Riley that new Grand Theft Auto game.” True story, and there are millions of people across the country conditioned into doing this. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are hailed as the biggest shopping days of the year–92 million people hit the stores last Black Friday while more than 131 million consumers shopped online last Cyber Monday, according to press releases by the National Retail Federation.   All in all, consumers spent about $57 billion last Thanksgiving Weekend (2013) according to the same press releases–though the numbers have been climbing for decades. In related news, the rising sales figures are inversely correlated with the amount of quality time families spent together to remember the Natives and how they saved the pilgrims’ sorry asses from freezing in the snow.

‘Murica!

Retailers spend all year preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday by creating marketing and advertising strategies, developing keywords to boost site traffic, buying ad space on Facebook and Google, planning floor layouts, developing sales, selecting their best merchandise and training their sales associates to kill–figuratively speaking.  Because retailers are constantly trying to out-compete each other to win relevancy in consumers’ minds during this crucial time of year (you know, when we’re supposed to be kind, spend time with loved ones and have good will toward others), the retail madness we call the Thanksgiving Weekend has been declared the Horseman of War.  It’s already too late to escape the holiday marketing apocalypse by the time this horseman arrives: door buster sales, red tag discounts, free shipping, gifts-with-purchase incentives and repetitive Christmas commercials are EVERYWHERE.  Your best bet for survival is to unplug from all media and lock yourself in the bathroom with a baseball bat, a yo-yo and one thousand granola bars.

Anthony Dodson Antwon Black Friday Cyber Monday Sales hide yo kids wife husband
Yes, this really does happen. Here’s one case and here’s another.

30 Days of Christmas – Conquest

Okay, we get it.  Christmas wins and it’s not going to let us forget that.  Instead, forget those lames Chanukah, Kwanza, Thanksgiving and Halloween.  And DEFINITELY forget the pagan origins of Christmas and how the holiday should really be celebrated sometime around September*.  Christmas is here and you jingle-heads better be ready for Santa.  To make sure we are, cable networks slam us with Christmas shows and movies that activate our psychological conditioning to make us feel unseasonably warm inside–just warm enough to remember uncle Greg and that sale on a coffee maker.  Don’t buy that?  Then take a look at two classic Christmas movies, Miracle on 34th Street and It’s A Wonderful Life, which are sure to include plenty of elements of capitalism and commerce, the Macy’s references being prime examples. Ever notice how many Christmas movies and shows involve malls?

The mental priming typically starts with Elf, because if there’s anyone who can catch us off guard and warm us up to indoctrinated consumerism, it’s Will Ferrell dressed as Peter Pan making paper snowflakes.   Then a clinically depressed Charlie Brown comes along followed by a Rudolph scorned, an irresponsibly naive Frosty, a forever-young Macaulay Culkin, Woodland Christmas Critters and that one elf who just wants to be a dentist.  The flood of nostalgic Christmas movies anchors us to our inner child and the holiday mindset simultaneously and now we’re fully ready to accept product advertisements and wait in long lines at malls (y’know, in concordance with the true meaning of Christmas?). Quick, somebody tell Frankie he’s going to put an eye out.

Will Ferrel 30 Days Christmas Elf Retail Funny Phaze 2 two

Valentine’s Day – Death

The retail holidays don’t end with Christmas or even New Year’s Day–they end with the last big retail event of the winter, which is Valentine’s Day.  Last year, consumers were expected to spend $17.3 billion on Valentine’s Day with $3.9 billion of that going to jewelry, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.  Turns out the day we equate to love and romance has quickly become a superficial display of affection to benefit Wall Street as we’re guilt-tripped into splurging on our significant others so we can be thoughtful and romantic for one day out of the year as we’ve been conditioned by society.

“Consumers can expect Cupid’s holiday to resemble the promotional holiday season we saw just a few months ago, as retailers recognize that their customers are still looking for the biggest bang for their buck.”  – Matthew Shay, NRF President and CEO.

But let’s be honest here, was Valentine’s Day ever really about love and romance?  First off, according to an article on History.com, Valentine’s Day has it’s origins in Lupercalia, a Roman-pagan fertility celebration featuring sacrificial cows and goats, women streaking naked through the streets while being slapped with raw animal hides and the story about Romulus and Remus is told, how they were raised by a wolf and became the founders of Rome.  So not much romance there, unless you’re into BDSM story time with raw animal hide and mammal blood.

There is a redeeming factor.  Valentine’s Day is named for Saint Valentine, who was executed by the Roman emperor Claudius for marrying young couples.  As the story goes, Claudius outlawed marriage for young men because he believed they made better soldiers if they didn’t have wives or families to live for and care about.  When he found out Saint Valentine was conducting secret marriages he had him executed…but not before the saint sent the first Valentine’s Day card in history to the jailer’s daughter, which he signed “From your Valentine.”

So at least there’s a silver lining.  However, because Valentine’s Day forces romance to make it an empty annual tradition and because it can also be the end of a relationship if handled improperly, Valentine’s Day has been deemed the horseman of Death. It annoys both single people and those in relationships equally, leaving a trail of marked-down candy and envious Facebook posts in its wake.  But on the plus side it’s passing means you survived the holiday marketing apocalypse and have a full five months of peace before Christmas in July arrives and brings with it the return of repetitive, tinsel-wrapped advertisements indicative of consumer-state doom.  So, congratulations?

*While this article makes a strong case Jesus was born on December 25, it doesn’t take into account that January and February weren’t added to the Roman calendar until 450 A.D.  That was about 150 years after the article claims Christmas was first dated in December, which would mean the date is still close to October after the two winter months were added. But I’m no expert…

Phenylalanine: Fun to say, but is it dangerous?

Doublemint Gum Phenylketonurics Phenylalanine
Phenylketonurics: Contains phenylalanine. This warning can be found on packages for many chewing gums, artificial sweeteners, and carbonated beverages.

If you’re like most people you probably don’t know what this chemical is, let alone how to pronounce it (feen – ill – ala – neen).  Chances are you’ve seen a warning about its presence in a product you’ve purchased, but is there a real danger behind it?  For 1 out of every 15,000 people in the U.S., there is.

I’ve always wondered about this chemical and what exactly it is.  When I was a kid, my older sister and I would see warnings similar to the one in the picture above and we’d laugh at the seemingly carefree name.  PhenyLALAnine.  We were cool kids, if you couldn’t tell.  Since then I’ve read a little about it in anatomy and physiology books, but never really looked into it until I was doing some leisure research on organic chemistry last night (because I’m still that cool).

Turns out phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that is produced naturally in our bodies and it is mainly found in the breast milk of mammals.  It is one of the common amino acids used by biochemists to form proteins and it is sold as a nutritional supplement that acts as a pain-killer and antidepressant.  The body converts phenylalanine into tyrosine (another amino acid), then into dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and melanin (skin pigment).  Let’s take a quick look at these chemicals to gain a greater appreciation for phenylalanine before moving on further.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has several functions, one of which is playing a role in reward-motivated behavior that involves pleasure-seeking and gratification.  This neurotransmitter triggers our pleasure centers and motivates us to seek rewards.  Cocaine and amphetamine copy the effects of dopamine on the brain, which is what makes them so addictive and why they cause depression when users are going through withdrawal.  In fact, scientists found that not only do people going through depression have lower levels of dopamine in their brains, but that taking a single sip of beer can trigger dopamine release in order to activate our pleasure centers to motivate us to repeat the pleasurable experience in the future.

Epinephrine, or adrenaline, is a hormone released when our bodies go into a “fight-or-flight response.”  It increases heart rate and opens airways, but is also associated with fear and is typically floating through our bloodstream and our brains when we are afraid.  Moreover, recent research suggests adrenaline also enhances our long-term memory — especially with memories involving arousal or fear.

Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is also released during a fight-or-flight response.  Like epinephrine, norepinephrine increases heart rate.  However, it also affects attention levels, increases blood flow to muscles, and brings more oxygen to the brain.  It also is thought to play a role in learning and decision-making by detecting alterations in patterns:  norepinephrine levels spike during instances of uncertainty and emotional arousal.

Melanin is skin pigment.  The more you have the darker you are.

So what does this mean for phenylalanine?  Is it an ingenious marketing ploy?  In ridiculously high doses, chewing gum with phenylalanine can theoretically relieve pain and make you happy.  Then once converted into dopamine, the “reward-center” of your brain is activated in the same way it is stimulated by cocaine.  And now you’re addicted.  But the buck doesn’t stop there.  Your heart rate increases as some more phenylalanine is converted into norepinephrine and you realize there was an alteration in your life pattern.  A disturbance in the force, if you will.  Just what kind of gum is this?  You take a look at the nifty package labeling and see the name of this magical gum.  Some more phenylalanine converts into epinephrine to give you an adrenaline rush and increase your long-term memory so you’ll be sure to remember  what brand of gum gave you this wonderful minty sensation.  Remaining phenylalanine converts into melanin and now you have a nice bronze or ebony tan going on.  Hell yeah.  Your self-esteem goes up a few points and you can hardly believe there is a gum company out there that wants you to be this happy and this satisfied with its product.  Thanks phenylalanine!

No, that’s not the reason for the warning.  Turns out, the warning is for people with phenylketonuria — a medical condition that inhibits phenylalanine metabolism in the body — not for people with overactive imaginations.

Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a genetic disorder that, when left untreated, can lead to mental retardation, seizures, neurological problems, mood disorders, behavioral problems, and growth deficiencies.  Because PKU is an autosomal recessive trait, both parents must have the gene to pass the disorder onto their offspring.  PKU occurs at a rate of approximately 1 in 15,000 births in the United States.  Turkey has the most frequent cases (1 in 2,600 births) and Finland has the least frequent (less than 1 in 100,000 births).   Infants are typically tested for PKU at birth.  Treatment of this disease involves adhering to a special diet that restricts meat, eggs, nuts, cheese, legumes, bread, corn, and artificial sweeteners that contain aspartame — though most foods have phenylalanine in them.  Amino acids that derive from phenylalanine may be supplemented, including tyrosine, so patients can still receive essential nutrients and synthesize the hormones and neurotransmitters that come from tyrosine (dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and melanin) though gene therapy may be an option in the future.

It’s an interesting disease.  People who have PKU must avoid phenylalanine but still take in some to continue developing normally.  Doctors try to help them reach an “optimal health range” of phenylalanine within the first 10 years of their lives to help promote healthy development.  If they take in too much phenylalanine, it builds up in their bodies and blocks important amino acids responsible for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis from entering their brains.  This can cause mental retardation in developing individuals and a slew of other problems for all patients.

Imagine if these individuals could no longer synthesize dopamine to feel pleasure, gratification, or motivation.  Couldn’t synthesize serotonin for happiness or epinephrine for adrenaline.  Weren’t aware of their disease and because of their diets, stopped developing mentally at the age of 10 or 15.  These are serious consequences for people with PKU if they don’t monitor their diets or heed those little warnings on packs of gum and artificial sweetener.

So now you know more about phenylalanine than you probably ever cared to know.  It’s an essential amino acid that is important for human development and is the source for many hormones and neurotransmitters that promote healthy brain chemistry.  But for those with PKU, it is a stack of dishes in a continuous balancing act:  too much or too little can lead to disastrous, life-changing results.

Think about that the next time you see this warning somewhere and you’ll be reminded of just how lucky you really are.  I guarantee it will put your life into perspective and make your day that much better.

EDIT:  From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. at Mayoclinic.com —

If you don’t have PKU, you probably don’t need to worry about harmful health effects of phenylalanine — with certain important exceptions. Aspartame in large doses can cause a rapid increase in the brain levels of phenylalanine. Because of this, use products with aspartame cautiously if you:

  • Take certain medications, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, neuroleptics or medications that contain levodopa
  • Have tardive dyskinesia
  • Have a sleep disorder
  • Have an anxiety disorder or other mental health condition

If you aren’t sure if phenylalanine or aspartame is a concern for you, talk to your doctor.

7 MiO flavors you won’t see in stores

MiO:  It's like a roofie for your water

 

MiO, it’s like a roofie for your water (so the above ad says).  This portable pocket pod allows you to spike your water with a refreshing blast of fruity flavors wherever you go, so never again will you look at your bland bottle of liquid lameness in disdain (Bam!).  But as long as we’re spicing up our glasses of water while doing our best Emeril Lagasse impressions we might as well have some fun with it.  Here are 7 MiO flavors you’ll never see in stores:

 

Beer flavored MiO1.  Beer flavored MiO-  While it sounds like a good idea on paper, beer flavored water sounds horrible when said out loud.  The lack of carbonation will just make the water taste like flat beer, the kind that can be found sitting on a beer pong table the morning after a party.  That doesn’t sound too appealing.  And at least stale beer can render one fully inebrieted, like its freshly cracked-open cousin, fresh beer.  Beer flavored water just teases our pleasure centers and makes them all giddy at the prospect of getting intoxicated, only to take that excitment away and replace it with the taste of stale beer.  No thanks.  Besides, we already have near-beer for anyone who likes the taste of America’s favorite hop-flavored beverage, but not the buzz that comes along with it.

 

 Bacon flavored MiO2.  Bacon flavored MiO-  Mmmm, bacon.  Bacon is great by itself or with just about anything else, especially more bacon.  However, drinking bacon doesn’t sound as great.  Maybe you could use a bacon flavored MiO as a syrup to go over your bacon.  (Did I mention I like bacon?)  In all seriousness, a bacon flavored MiO can be useful for adding some extra flavor to gravy, basting a Thanksgiving turkey or ham, or squirting over your dog’s food for an occasional treat.  Then again, I like the idea of drizzling it over my bacon.  Because we all know there’s nothing better than bacon flavor enhanced bacon.  Except beer, perhaps.

 

Chocolate flavored MiO3.  Chocolate flavored MiO-  It has been used to flavor everything from milk to roasted ants, so why not water?  H2O is bland as it is, and in today’s age of flashy cars and facial tattoos there is nothing worse than being bland.  Water is due for a reinvention, and chocolate flavored MiO may just be the answer.  But even if chocolate never becomes a MiO flavor at least you can buy some Hershey’s Syrup in a semi-portable bottle.  It even has a nozzle.  You can be a visionary and carry your chocolate syrup everywhere you go, always ready to chocolatize your water at a minute’s notice and share the love with others, bringing back the 60’s in style.

 

Starbucks Coffee flavored MiO4.  Starbucks Coffee flavored MiO-  This wouldn’t be a bad addition to the MiO family; caffeine, Starbucks, water and a bottle could be a very successful combination.  So successful that somebody may end up getting sued.  Now that’s success.  On the other hand, having the great flavor of Starbucks under your command could lead to delusions of granduer.  You may demand your friends and family to refer to you as “The Barrista,” charge people $4 for a shot from your MiO and start carrying around a tip jar that you insist isn’t pretentious (it is).  But if Kraft does decide to come out with a Starbucks coffee flavored MiO they may need to readjust the design for the dedicated coffee drinkers who would rather drink this water enhancer straight from the container.

 

KFC Chicken flavored MiO5.  KFC Chicken flavored MiO-  Nearly everybody loves chicken, whether it’s crispy, grilled, or topped with mashed potatoes, gravy, shredded cheese and sweet corn.  And why stop the frenzy there?  Introduce this southern delicacy to your rehydration so you can honestly say your water “tastes like chicken.”  Or, like the bacon flavored MiO, drizzle it over your chicken for chicken flavor enhanced chicken.  Squirt it over your dog’s food so your pet can get in on the fun.  A practical alternative would be dripping it on top of a plate of heinous cooking, turning a culinary abomination into a delicacy in a matter of seconds.  Just don’t let your significant other catch you in the act.  Then you’re going to have to share your MiO, which is blasphemous to its namesake (“mio” is “mine” in Spanish).

 

Coca Cola flavored MiO6.  Coca Cola flavored MiO-  The beverage of choice among polar bears, Coca Cola could be another practical MiO option.  Of course it faces the same carbonation issue as beer flavored MiO, but that’s when Coke’s versatility shines through.  Bring a Coca Cola flavored MiO to a party and you’ll always have a chaser nearby.  Is your Jack Daniels too strong for one of your guests?  Break out your Coca Cola MiO for a quick mixed drink.  If you ask for a Coke at a restaurant and the waitress tells you they only have Pepsi, you no longer have to settle for less:  have her bring out some club soda and dazzle your friends with your Coca Cola MiO as they scornfully drink their Pepsis.  Just don’t tell anyone you have ‘coke’ in your pocket, or you may find yourself in an entirely different situation.

 

Tru Blood flavored MiO7.  Tru Blood flavored MiO–  Oh Sookie.  Unless Kraft signs a deal with the True Blood execs this vampirish beverage won’t be gracing your water with its presence.  But imagine the possibilities.  You could sneak a couple drops into an unsuspecting Twilight fan’s water and watch them scream in fear of their water turning to blood.  Then you can laugh at the irony of someone who idolizes vampires (and wants to marry one) being afraid of the sight of blood.  Or you could dye your hair black, wear all black clothing adorned with chains and spikes, and hang out by your nearest Hot Topic, offering patrons some of your Tru Blood flavored MiO in exchange for them never shopping at Hot Topic again.  Between taking sips of Tru Blood flavored water from your finest glass skull goblet you can rant about consumerism and how so called “mouth breathers” ruined your favorite Friday hang out spot.  And that’s where the possibilities take a stake to the heart and die.  For now fang bangers are just going to have to make do with the standard bottles of Tru Blood, which are becoming harder to find.  Besides, only posers water their fake blood down.  Or drink fake blood.

Couple smooches during Vancouver riot

Couple Kisses during Vancouver Riots
"Make love, not war"

Yet another iconic ‘kissing couple’ picture has surfaced, but instead of a sailor stealing the breath of his girl, this one features a kiss in the middle of a riot.  In case you haven’t heard, there was a riot in Vancouver after the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanely Cup final.  But since no one pays attention to hockey or Canada, I’m going to talk about the picture.

The photo quickly gained popularity after it surfaced on the internet, becoming the ‘posterchild’ for the “make love, not war” slogan.  The couple (Scott Jones and Alex Thomas, thank you Facebook) went to the game together and after the riots broke out found themselves in the path of charging police.

Alex was hit by a riot shield which knocked her to the ground and Scott came to her aid.  The photographer happened to look over when Scott planted one on Alex, and now they’re famous.  Jones’ father reported that the couple is attracting media attention from all over the world asking about the events that led up to their famous kiss.

And the best thing about it all?  They haven’t been a couple for long and Scott is heading back to his home in Australia after the two of them take a trip to California.  Their story is serendipitous, almost like fate brought them together for that one picture, which will probably remain one of their favorite photos when they’re old and gray.

Not seen in the photo are burning cars, shattered windows, and looting mobs.  Hockey is a pretty big deal up there.  However,  despite the violent outburst our neighbors to the north showed class by cleaning up the city the next day and writing apology notes on pieces of plywood boarding up vandalized businesses.   Previous night rioters and abstainers alike pitched in to clean up garbage, debris, and their conscience in the streets of downtown Vancouver.

Finally, somebody can say “We’ll always have Canada” with a straight face.

Bw