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pop culture there is no rhyme nor rhythm

Not that Twinkie is on its death bed. If anything, the Twinkie brand is probably the winner in this sad story of labor struggle, failed business and the eventual undoing of the 18,500 underpaid, overworked factory workers.

In the past week Twinkies have been the center of the public reminiscence because Hostess was said to file bankruptcy. I held my breath as the good news that Hostess and its workers were to start earnest negotiations came and then went. Sadly, it was announced an hour ago that Hostess has won the court approval to start selling its assets and more importantly, to start laying off its 18,500 workers.

We have all joked about how “Twinkies are forever”. Well, in this case, because of the sudden surge of attentions being paid to Twinkies, esp. in the social media sphere – now the arbitrator of brand marketability,  I do believe that some VC will quickly swoop in and pick up the venerable Twinkie Brand. In contrast, the workers will be left jobless and most likely fall into the life style of sustaining on cheap, unhealthy food such as Twinkies. The irony is alarming.

I was not going to jump on the wagon and eulogizing Twinkies exactly because I do not believe in its imminent demise. It will live. However, I came across this video posted by my good friend Ry

 

And it reminded me that I have written about the cultural obsession with Twinkies before. The following is from my 2009 post “Twinkies got a bad rep ’cause we find the name irresistible”.

 

In the American Pop culture conscious, there is this curious obsession with Twinkies.  One of the new exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is about Twinkies.  Putting our obsession with this oddity on view.

CIMG7562

A Twinkie was born

For once, let’s scientifically study the myth that Twinkies will never die.  Observe and report.  (I will visit MSI later again to check on the Twinkie that is on view there).

Of course, Twinkies are not the only food that are believed to be evil-incarnate.  Why such revilement?

My theory is that half of that ill-begotten fame came from the name, Twinkie.  What’s in a name? If it were called “Hostess Cream-filled Yellow Cake”, or, let’s say, Snow Puff, it would not have become such a legend, warts and all. Kudos to the marketing team that came up with this name that is now a major part of American pop culture.

Upon further investigation, I learned that the name Twinkie came from a chance encounter with a billboard:

In 1933, James Dewar, a baker at Continental Baking Company in Indiana, was inspired and came up with this name when driving by a billboard advertising shoes from the “Twinkle Toe Shoe Company”.

This is serendipity!  In our collective consciousness for food, Twinkies share a significant space with the shoe in Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush…  Ok. Maybe it is proven once again that I am easily amused. TOO easily.

 

Ode to Twinkies

‘Tis but thy name that makes thou irresistible;

Thou art thyself, though not a Twinkie.

What’s Twinkie? it is nor Monoglycerides nor diglycerides

Nor Polysorbate 60, nor Hydrogenated shortening, nor any other part

Belonging to proper CAKE. O, be some other name!

What’s in a name? that which we call a Twinkie

By any other name would induce as much grimace??

So Twinkie would, were it not Twinkie call’d,

Retain that dear longevity which it owes

Without that title. Twinkie, doff thy name,

And for that name which is no part of thee

Take all the cream.

This March (March 2012), I did go back to check on the Twinkie at MSI, and surprise surprise, it has not aged one bit. Sigh. Perhaps we should start putting Twinkie on our faces?

Twinkie on display (since October 2009) at MSI Chicago as of March 2012

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What makes reality real?

March 24, 2012

in random

I have not watched the new TV show Awake on NBC. I understand the story is about a police detective who “woke” up from a car accident and realized that he’s caught in two realities, or two dreams, or rather one reality + one dream. In one half of his life, his son died, whereas in the other half of his life, his wife. In order to keep both of his loved ones “alive”, he decided to keep living this dual existence, ignoring the clues threatening to expose one half as “fake”.

I am scared to watch it…

I’ve had realistic, vivid nightmares in which I kept on telling myself, “No, it could not be. This has got to be a dream. Wake up! Wake up!” but I could not wake up. Fear would quickly settle in as I realized (erroneously) that this was not a dream. I would cry out from the pang of despair, with real tears, in from my dream. Often the warm tears would startle me and I would wake up, completely disoriented. “It is a dream after all.” My relief however would soon be overtaken by fear, fear that maybe next time, I would not be so lucky. Next time, I would not have anything to wake up to.

On the other hand, I have never had a dream so enticing that I do not want to leave it. (Probably a sign for lack of imagination?) Yet, on some days, when I am wishing for a do-over, I felt I could somehow understand why “the wife” in the movie Inception felt that way about the limbo she was in. (I will stop here lest this becomes a spoiler… even though I assume everybody that wants to see the movie has done so already…)

Remember Cypher (played by Joe Pantoliano) in The Matrix? He basically said “Fuck this. Put me back in the dream because reality sucks!”

If a dreamscape is so real that you cannot tell, what makes it any less real?

 

You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. — Morpheus in The Matrix

 

“Which pill would you take: red or blue?” I get a headache whenever I think about this.

 

You would laugh if I tell you what started this whole debate inside my head. It was the song Video Games by Lana Del Rey playing in the car on our way home after watching The Hunger Games. Now, a digression…

I am one of those empathetic people that cannot help imagining myself in the protagonist’s place when watching a film — That explains why I cannot watch horror movies — therefore I watched The Hunger Games with heightened alarm. The games would be a nightmare I do not want to be caught dead (or alive or sleeping) in. I KNOW, if I were there, I would be the first one to die. And that thought alone makes me want to hide a piece of cyanid in my tooth cavity. (I never claim to be brave so there).

Ok. I am back on track. (According to The Husband, this IS how I talk in real life…) When I heard Lana Del Rey’s voice, I remembered the big brouhaha over her flop on SNL. There was so much hype around her first ever TV/public appearance, on SNL nonetheless, people were shocked (or perhaps even outraged?) to find the Internet sensation could not deliver the promise in a live performance. It appeared that she could not sing nor did she know what to do with her hands. I cringed for the first few minutes and had to turn it off. It was painful to watch. I will admit: I liked her musical videos. I liked her voice in the videos. I still do. The videos were expertly produced, looking and sounding fantastic. The out-of-proportion backlash against her on the Internet (The Internet giveth, the Internet taketh) following her SNL appearance made me wonder out loud:

So what if the persona Lana Del Rey is fabricated? You liked her when you thought she was real, what changed now that you know her daddy is rich and her lips may have been undergone some cosmetic surgery, and that her voice may have been digitally enhanced during production? What if she had simply stayed a virtual Internet sensation a la the Japanese virtual pop star Hatsune Miku: a synthesized presence that, understood by all partaking in it to be “artificial”, yet fulfills something the audience yearns for that is not achievable in real life.

 

Here is Hatsune Miku in all her digital bits performing live to thousands of screaming fans. She is so real that she stars in commercials for Google Chrome in Japan, and of course, for Toyota.

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