Nov 29, 2011

Chia Obama

I've been on a roller coaster ride of emotions in the last two days. When I saw a Chia Obama advertisement on the tv yesterday, I first  thought I had somehow switched to a Saturday Night Live skit, then, after realizing this was for real, I thought Chia Obama was one of the most racist things to come down the pike in ages. Evidently I don't watch the right tv channels and I entirely missed Chia Obama's earlier introduction into the marketplace and its subsequent 2009 recall from Walgreens' and RiteAid stores nationwide.  Now Chia Obama is baaaack.

You all know the Chia empire, right?  The most famous is the cute little sheep that grows green sprouts in place of wool, but the product line also includes a Chia Homer Simpson, Chia Shrek, Chia Spongebob Squarepants, and many other little ceramic animals and characters onto which you spread the contents of the seed packet and wait for the fun to begin.

A Chia Obama just didn't seem to fit alongside Chia Homer Simpson (although it's simply called Chia Homer so I guess we could have hoped it was that Homer).  However, Chia Obama is part of a patriotic packaging quartet;  Washington, Lincoln and the Statue of Liberty are the other elements.  (Can I use the word 'elements' when discussing Chia products?)

So, is parent company Joseph Enterprises' Obama innocuous or racist?  No Chia Bush or Clinton was ever produced.  There was never a Daddy Bush sprout grower.  Why create a presidential Chia now, in the term of the first African American president ever?  And if this is intended to be a racist product, is there a demographic that wants both the Chia of Lincoln, the president credited with freeing the slaves, and a racist depiction of Obama, the first African American to run the country?

I think the most worrisome aspect of the Chai Obama is that it doesn't look like Obama at all.  It looks like some white guy's idea of 'generic black guy.' Lincoln is a pretty good likeness and Washington is shaped so his green hair forms the shape of the wig in all those paintings.  The Obama design, however, seems to have been produced by the B team.  Lady Liberty's not so hot, either.  I can't believe I'm discussing the quality of the design of a Chia!

I say, if African Americans are going to be thrown into the dubious honor of being made into these late night, $19.95, cheapo, wacko, products, I nominate Don King.  Now that's a guy whose hair just begs to be parodied in a Chia. The white team could be more spot-on as well.  How about a Cosmo Kramer Chia or a Mayor Perk, the former Cleveland mayor who caught his hair on fire?  Maybe Joseph Enterprises could develop a red sprout that grows in the center of his head to create a bigger and bigger flame. Or Chia could ride The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo's popularity wave and do a mohawk Chia a la Lisbeth Salander. Marie Antoinette Chia, anyone?  I just wish they'd leave our current president out of the lineup.

Nov 9, 2011

Texting 1,2,3, Texting

Cell Phone Etiquette is simple.  Ask yourself this question: If you were not involved in this conversation, would you want to listen to it?  If the answer is no, then don't have your conversation in public. It's that easy.

Let's consider a couple of examples:

You're having lunch with a friend in a nice restaurant when an employee calls to ask you where to find a file.  Extremely boring conversation.  Take it to the curb to tell her/him to look in the back of the file near the window.  No, not that window, the other window.  No, the second drawer down, in the back, way in the back.  Better yet, text your employee.  No one wants to hear your filing system.

You need to tell your daughter the details of a manicure/pedicure appointment for the two of you. Boring! Go outside and tell her the time, place, etc. Wait, I'm having a thought, what was it?  Oh yes, text her!  We don't want to hear that you had to take a slot at 2:00, not at 2:30, like you had wanted, that her dad says hi, that you took the dog to the vet today and Winkers is feeling a bit better but still has to take his pills for that urinary difficulty.

That area all around you, where people are milling around, crossing streets, sitting in cafes, having lunch, shopping, is called 'the world.' It is where people are living their lives.  Let them.

There are, of course, exceptions. Say you have inside information on who in the PTA has had Botox.  Wonderful public conversation!  Sit in this booth right behind me.  Please speak loudly and slowly. Spell any names that are unusual or long. This would also be a good time for speaker phone.  Other appropriate public conversations include where you keep the key to the safe, where you got a great bargain on shoes, when your company will IPO, your son's score on the SAT, and a secret cure for cancer.

Now, I have a cell phone, and I am as addicted as everyone else.  I love my phone!  I love being able to check my email when I'm not home, let a friend know I'm running late, find the best route to an unfamiliar place, etc.  You would have to pry my cell phone from my cold, clenched fingers. And it took me a while but I finally got the hang of texting. It's silent.  It's private.  It doesn't ruin the ambiance for fifteen to twenty feet in every direction.

I think we have a generational problem with cell phones.  The younguns do not stand around shouting into their phones.  They text.  They mumble.  They can still hear at that age!  We middle-aged and elderly folks are wandering around like drifting boats shouting every detail of our boring lives into the little gadgets in our hands.  It's not the young ones whose phones go off in concerts and lectures, either.  It's the technologically inept. So folks, find someone who can teach you to text and how to use the many other functions of your phone, like turning the ringer to vibrate, or we may have to start mass producing Max Smart's cone of silence.

Nov 7, 2011


Besides telling me in which countries all you lovely people live, my stats page also shows me some of the search phrases people have tried that have led them to Is It Just Me.  The winner, in my book: "Who would you rather do Eddie Izzard in?" which led the inquisitive soul to my "Would You Rather" post.  Dear Reader, I hope you've found the answer to your question and I hope you're still reading Is It Just Me. 

Nov 6, 2011

Buon Appetito

How much money in tips do you think is involved in a waiter sporting a believable foreign accent?  Because every Italian restaurant I go to is staffed by waiters with absolutely charming, thicker-than-Bolognese accents.  Could there possibly be any adult males left in Italy with all of them over here waiting tables and speaking Italian?  The numbers defy the odds. 

Now, I wouldn't be so suspicious except for the following.  For years we frequented a lovely little Italian restaurant in Palo Alto; Palermo.  The stocky maitre d' would greet my husband with a handshake and a pat on the back, give a warm buonasera to all of us, tease our delighted young children, and generally make us feel like he had been awaiting our return and only ours since the last time we dined there, kind of like a dog with his eyes riveted to the door handle in the late afternoon.  It was a comfortable restaurant, never pretentious, and the waiters were all tall, dark, and had rich Italian accents.  They sprinkled Italian words into every sentence. It was buono this and prego that.  We were totally charmed.

Then, one day, without warning, Palermo was gone. Poof!  A Thai restaurant was soon in the space.  And here's the rub.  A few months later we dined at another Palo Alto restaurant, an American restaurant, and were pleased to see approaching our table one of the old Palermo crew. Our faces were open and happy with recognition as he neared our table to take our order.  He looked up when he reached us and his homegrown Brooklynese, "What can I get for ya?"  He saw that he had known us in another time and place.  We saw that we had been played. It was as though the curtains had parted and the Wizard was openly working the smoke machine and shouting into the microphone.  

Still, it had been a good time, that little piece of Italian playacting.