Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hello, Old Friend

I can't believe, in all this time, I've never given you my Doritos rant. Well, isn't this your lucky day.

In 1964, the Frito-Lay Company introduced a new line of corn tortilla chips called Doritos. Their first flavor was called Toasted Corn, which is a fancy way of saying Plain. I'm telling you this because I suspect that you, like most people, believe that Nacho Cheese was the first flavor, which is wrong, and is quite frankly stupid. (That's right. I called you stupid. No one's actually reading this, so I intend to let 'er rip.)

Don't believe me? Wikipedia totally backs me up. Don't believe Wikipedia? (Well, I suppose that's fair.) Maybe you'll prefer the in-depth company history found at Funding Universe. Still not satisfied? Well, tough. I'm right about this. I mean, honestly, how could the first chip be the flavored one? It makes no sense at all. It's like saying that Mountain Dew Code Red came first. I mean, come on.

And while we're at it, do not go saying that plain Doritos are called Tostitos. First off, you're an idiot. Second, Tostitos came out in 1979, 15 years after their superior big brother. Third, Tostitos are made with white corn and are flaky and flimsy. They can't compare to the bold taste and stronger structural integrity of the yellow-corn Dorito. And finally, shut up. They're totally different chips and you're wrong, Mr. Wrong Guy.

(Incidentally, whatever you do, do NOT go to the Doritos website in search of any kind of information. It's a cacophonous mess, trying desperately to be hip in a way that recalls the character of Poochie being added to "The Itchy and Scratchy Show" on The Simpsons. Believe it or not, you're actually better off with the amusing entry for Doritos at Conservapedia, which even notes popular criticisms of other Doritos flavors. I'm scared to read their entry on Sarah Palin, but a site that lavishes so much attention on snack food deserves at least one tip of the cap.)

To be fair -- which I really don't have to do, this being MY rarely-updated blog and all -- Frito-Lay brought this confusion upon itself. There is no dispute that Nacho Cheese is by far the most popular flavor, with Cool Ranch a very strong second. Toasted Corn, by comparison, doesn't even rank. Of course, it might do better if Frito-Lay would SELL THE DAMN CHIPS EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI. That's right, the flagship of the line, and you can't get it in half the country. Brilliant.

I love these beautiful chips, and I'm not alone. The blogosphere has several acolytes of the original flavor, and even the prissy experts at America's Test Kitchen rated them best in show. (The results are locked away in this subscriber-only article, but maybe I'll bust out the scanner and copy the page right out of the cookbook, just to prove it.) So the fact that I haven't lived somewhere where you can buy the damn things for almost two decades has really raised my ire on the subject. So much so that I occasionally call up the toll-free number to tell them what I think of their brilliant sales plan.

ME: Why won't you sell me these delicious chips that you make?

FRITO-LAY PERSON: There's not enough demand for it in your area.


Surprisingly, this approach does not work. And so I have been reduced to the occasional shipment of good ol' Plain Doritos from my father, but otherwise forced to relegate them to the Shelf of Beloved Foodstuffs I Can Get No More, alongside Hydrox cookies, Carnation breakfast bars, and the original five flavors of Life Savers.

Or so I thought.

The stunning happy ending to this story began last Tuesday, when I received a late-night text message from a former co-worker who had endured too many of my rants on this ridiculous subject. The message was a photograph of a pair of Toasted Corn Doritos bags sitting on a grocery store shelf.

I assumed he was in Texas.

To my astonishment, he was in a store right here in Chicago, only a few blocks from my home. After persuading him to sample them for himself (his verdict: "...that's a solid motherf****n corn chip"), I made a beeline to the store the very next day to see things for myself.

There they were. I bought two.

I have been gluttonously enjoying my chips ever since, and my confidence got another boost when I found myself in another supermarket here in Chicago and found them again. I'm a little nervous, because they could always go away again. But I'm starting to let down my guard. I think the Snack Lords have finally granted my wish. Toasted Corn Doritos are back, baby. Go buy some and celebrate.

I think I owe that toll free Frito-Lay person a call.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

THE HITCHCOCK PROJECT: #7 - The Farmer's Wife

Well, this is embarassing. I just finished watching #28 from the Hitchcock oeuvre, and since I haven't updated the project for ages, I wanted to check quickly to see how far I was backed up. And I look to see...5??? I haven't posted an entry since #5? Holy crap.

So anyway, these might get a little shorter for a while.

My endeavors on The Hitchcock Project are unavoidably doomed. We've already had to skip The Mountain Eagle on account of it not existing anymore. Now I've had to bypass #6 on the list, Downhill, because I can't find a copy of the thing anywhere. The closest I've come is a 5-minute clip on YouTube, and that clip doesn't make me very optimistic about the quality of the film as a whole. So I won't see them all. But that's okay. And you know why it's okay? Because I DO get to see movies like The Farmer's Wife, and that's more than enough punishment to make up for what I've missed.

The Farmer's Wife is ostensibly a comedy. It's a very Hitchcock kind of comedy in that it opens with someone on their deathbed. This somebody is the wife of farmer Samuel Sweetland, who urges him, before breathing her last, urges him to remarry. Sweetland, being a taciturn and very country-English sort of fellow, doesn't even want to be in the room, let alone contemplate taking a new bride. But anyway, she dies, and once Sweetland realizes that his wife is really gone, he resigns himself to making the rounds of his small village and hunting up a new wife.

Now, remember that this is supposed to be a comedy. Well, naturally, a sad widower isn't going to do the trick. So in order for this to work, our farmer is going to have to make a complete ass of himself. Well, goal achieved. After a rather charming little piece of filmwork in which Sweetland imagines each of his potential suit-ees sitting in his wife's chair, he rushes off to each of them, pretty much demanding that they marry him on the spot. This, needless to say, does not go the way he anticipates.

So Hitchcock's got a real uphill battle going here. We can't sit around feeling bad for the hero, because then we won't laugh. The flipside, though, is that he turns into a domineering bonehead, which means we end up feeling more sympathy for his dead wife because she doesn't have to deal with him anymore.

There is someone else we feel sympathy for, and that's Sweetland's housekeeper, Minta. It's pretty obvious to anyone watching that these two are meant to be together, but Sweetland can't know this, or else there's no movie. So we have to watch him consistently overlooking what's right in front of him, and once more, it's hard to find it funny.

This is best exemplified by the film's climax, when Sweetland has been rejected by all the women in town, and he finally figures out his maid should be his wife (since she's cooking his food anyway), and he's forced to go to her hat-in-hand, saying that if he he rejects her too, he'll understand. This is our arc: our protagonist starts emotionally-stunted, quickly develops into a big jerk, and finishes pathetic. Comedy, ladies, and gentlemen. Comedy.

The past couple movies serve as a harbinger for things to come in The Hitchcock Project. British cinema of the 1920s and early 30s is obsessed with class, and cheerfully sexist. These are the movies people wanted to make, and evidently that people wanted to see. So it's wrong for me to judge these movies too much on this basis. But I'm going to anyway, because it's an attitude that really makes them -- well, not unwatchable, per see, but definitely tiresome. And if The Farmer's Wife has anything going for it, it's that the movie is trying to have a laugh at attitudes which will soon become outdated. But I still didn't like it, and McGilligan can call it "charming" in his book as many times as he pleases, but he's not changing my mind.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD: Judy's Turn to Cry

We're proud to introduce a new feature today, in which we over-analyze some pop song that we overheard in a 7-Eleven or showed up on the iPod or just randomly got stuck in our head. Because when you haven't posted anything in about a year, they're all new features.

The Song: "Judy's Turn to Cry"
The Singer: Lesley Gore
The Songwriters: Edna Lewis & Beverly "Ruby" Ross

'Cause now, it's Judy's turn to cry
Judy's turn to cry,
Judy's turn to cry
'Cause Johnny's come back (Johnny's come back, come back) to me

It's hard to believe, but in the early days of pop music, the mobsters in charge were even more mercenary than they are today. This manifested itself in the kinds of songs they rushed into the marketplace on a regular basis. Real chintzy, money-grubbing stuff. Gender switches (The Temptations' "My Girl" is actually a response to the charming-but-still-inferior "My Guy" by Mary Wells), answer songs (observe this stupefying reply to Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"), and, of course, the sequel song. And that's what we have here.

Oh, when Judy left with Johnny at my party (my party)
And came back wearing his ring,
I sat down and cried my eyes out
Now, that was a foolish thing

In case you're not up to speed, Lesley (our narrator) is recapping the plot of her first hit, the outstanding "It's My Party". The short version: at her own birthday party, she found out her boyfriend was with another chick. So she's sobbing, and clearly people are telling her not to, and she's basically telling them to bite her, which is awesome.

Also, you have to love those dancers in that clip. Hey, let's all do the Weep-Like-A-Little-Girl!

'Cause now, it's Judy's turn to cry
Judy's turn to cry,
Judy's turn to cry
'Cause Johnny's come back (Johnny's come back, come back) to me

That last line in the chorus is our first cause for concern. Johnny's come back, has he? Hey, Lesley? Remember back in Verse 1? When you said all the crying was foolish? I was kinda hoping it was because you figured out what a loser Johnny was. Judy was wearing his ring, honey. He's a dog. You don't take that man back. You move on.

Well, it hurt me so to see them dance together (together)
I felt like making a scene
Then, my tears just fell like raindrops
'Cause Judy's smile was so mean

Oh boy. She feels like she needs to explain the crying. Serious self-esteem issues. Lesley, it's okay. We've all been dumped. It hurts. We sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, we drink too much, we stop posting on the blog that we'd only just promised to start posting on again after a year. It's natural. You don't owe us an explanation.

But now, it's Judy's turn to cry
Judy's turn to cry,
Judy's turn to cry
'Cause Johnny's come back (Johnny's come back, come back) to me

As a general rule, sequels in all formats -- movies, books, carbonated beverages -- blow. And songs are no exception. But there are always exceptions, and from a musical standpoint, "Judy's Turn to Cry" is a sharp piece of pop music. I heard it today while enjoying my first Patty Burger, and was impressed how quickly and deeply it buried itself in my brain. And how I began deconstructing the whole thing while waiting for the damn 146 for forever. And how it made me return here, for god's sake. So kudos, Edna & Beverly "Ruby". I'm back.

(Instrumental Break)

And yes, I am a little link-happy, thank you very much. Sue me, I'm a little out of practice at blogging. Or writing in general.

Oh, one night I saw them kissin' at a party (a party)
So, I kissed some other guy
Johnny jumped up and he hit him
'Cause he still loved me, that's why

Aw. No, no way. Are you serious? This is the reason? Oh, this is wrong on multiple levels:

- So first of all, our Lesley turns out to be a slut. "Oh, you're with Judy now?" she says. "Well, then I'll just kiss this random guy." "Whoa! Well, hey there, Lesley. I'm Chad. Nice to meet you. Say, I know we've only just met -- and exchanged saliva -- but maybe sometime you and me could stop by the soda shop for a cherry phosphate, or even just go to a movOWWWW!"

- Not only that, but evidently she gets turned on by jealous violence. Sure, her boyfriend started passing out jewelry to some broad, but he's willing to start throwing haymakers the moment you try to get on with your life? Oh, yes, take this boy back.

- Why was I never at these parties? Where were MY random hot kisses? Followed by MY painful broken noses?

- What in the hell does Johnny have to be jealous about anyway? JUDY'S WEARING HIS RING! God, I hate Judy!

- He still loves you? Just so I understand: he hit this guy because he still loves you. He, who gave his ring to Judy, still loves you. And assaulted someone to prove it.

There it is, everybody. This is the moment that the Lifetime Movie was born.

- And just what do you think Judy's gonna do now, Lesley? She already stole your boyfriend once. She clearly has unlimited gall. You don't think she's gonna pull this crap again? You are caught in a vicious cycle, and you have to get out.

- Also, the way she has to cram in the last two words at the end is really sloppy, in a funny way.

So now, it's Judy's turn to cry
Judy's turn to cry,
Judy's turn to cry
'Cause Johnny's come back (Johnny's come back, come back) to me

Poor Lesley. She's a classic victim. First, Johnny dumped her -- without even telling her, mind you -- and she blamed herself. Then, even though he was unworthy of her, she schemed to get him back. Her plan worked, in the process revealing her beloved to be a feckless thug. I do not see things working out for Lesley and Johnny. In fact...

Fun fact: Lesley Gore is an out-and-proud lesbian. So there's always hope that she'll record a song about ditching Johnny and putting on Judy's ring.