Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The return of generic beer

Mmm, tasty!

I must spend way too much time in Wal-Mart. This will be the fourth time I’ve spoken of it in this blog. However, since I find solace in pushing my cart with the one bent wheel through the cookie aisle late at night, I’ll lay some more Wal-Mart inspired thoughts on you.

Wal-Mart, it seems has had some sort of marketing psycho-weasel squirm their way into the packaging design area. Whereas their store brand once had appealing graphics that seemed to be trying to evoke your senses that you were not buying the cheap store brand (when in fact you were doing just that) now they’ve channeled the late 70’s stagflation in full force.

“I tell ya brother, times are tough”

See, from the time of Nixon to Carter you could go down to the store and buy any sort of food in a UN approved plain white box with the name of the contents on it. Call it “playing the commodity market with food stamps” if you want but this stuff was everywhere. A savvy person could figure out who made it by such things as addresses, packing dimensions etc. It was all generally horrible and the only saving grace was that it was cheap.

“Hey, all they have on this damn island is an IGA store!”

This stuff all went by the wayside by the late eighties or early nineties as we all embraced the concept that we wanted to be rich or at least pretend like we were in our McMansions with the granite countertops and leased BMWs. Noodles became pasta and the plain white box that said “Macaroni twists” became Italian inspired “Rotini” with a nice drawing to imply your cheap ass carbs came from Tuscany.

Fast forward a decade or maybe two and we’re all having a big potluck at the CCC work camp with beans and rice. Seems that Wal-Mart’s branding committee decided that we’d feel like we were wasting our money buying fine Italian Pasta and maybe what consumers have a hankering for these days is a good ole box of the cheapest noodles we can find.

Hence the new look of the “Great Value” brand. Lots of plain white area with a diner style photo of what you can make with the contents. Add in the most boring font you can find and it’s gonna be a winner with the newly unemployed.

Sauce and noodles, now that’s sexy

PS: I hear Smiley Face is getting his notice too, here’s the new guy

“Don’t worry fellow Americans, everything’s gonna be alright…

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ever wonder what the USDA does?

I went down to Sams Club and instead of just getting the cheap milk and some chicken (not to be confused with Wal-Mart's really, really cheap milk ) I came home with the usually 150 bucks worth of stuff I really didn't need. One of the things I picked up was this "Kung Pao Chicken Kit".

To be honest, it's pretty tasty stuff, I recomend getting some next time you are frittering away your hard earned cash in Sam's.
Anyway, as I'm sitting there reading the box and realizing I've just ingested more salt than Lot's wife I notice this seal on the box.

Inspected for wholesomeness? What the heck is that??? I dunno but I'm glad our government is making sure it's not in my Kung Pao. I'd hate to come down with a bad case of "Wholesomeness".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The flattening of the bulls

Wal-mart gets a lot of crap from people in small towns for coming in and building a huge store that puts all the local mom and pop stores out of business. I’ve seen lines of protesters form over proposed Wal-marts and in some cases the giant retailer has even backed down.

However, this pales in comparison to what took place in Juarez Mexico. About a year ago while everyone was ducking for cover and worrying about the drug war Wal Mart decided they needed to open up a third Supercenter in the city.

So, in order to make a nice flat spot for the store, they bulldozed the bullring.

Yep, you read that correctly, “they tore down the bullring in Mexico to build a Wal Mart”.

Built in 1957, demolished to build a Wal-mart 2008

Apparently the bullring belonged to the Hurtado family and they own many bullrings throughout Mexico and have done this several times before. From what I was told by a guy I work with, the city was going to declare it a historic monument and the owners tore it down and sold the land before that could happen.

Lets hear it for the moneymen who tear down a Mexican cultural icon to put up an American icon. Do you think the locals feel like they’ve been sold out? No, all they see is the happy smiley symbol of an invader taking away a part of their identity.

Chinga la raza, viva Wal-mart!

As a final indignation to the old bullring, the whole complex (which includes a Starbucks) is named “Plaza Monumental” after the old bullring and sports a sign with the outline of the old ring.

All that remains from before is this now oddly out of place monument to the bullfighters and a bunch of out of date “tourist guide” web sites directing confused googlers to the parking lot of Wal-Mart.

Luckily for the city of Juárez, the older Plaza Balderas bullring had yet to be paved over so it’s been brought out of retirement and pressed into service once again.

PS: There is a wonderful hole in wall restaurant near downtown Juárez called “El Tragadero”. It’s a dingy place filled with even more weathered old men but when you start looking at the yellowed artifacts covering the walls you can see history. It’s the preferred eatery of the “Toreros” and the walls are covered with newspaper clippings, signed photos and other bullfighting memorabilia from long ago. Go there next time you’re in Juárez (just be careful of the airborne “lead pollution”)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More weird Mexican trucks

Here’s another bizarro home made truck I pass a lot on the way to work.

This is made from a mid 80s Toyota LE van, possibly the only vehicle that could give a Volkswagen Bus a serious challenge for the title of “World slowest vehicle”.

By chopping off the roof and adding aluminum diamond plate to the sides a bed was formed. The builder reworked the sliding doors with some hinges from a hardware store to swing open. This gives the truck several ways to be loaded, with the back tailgate or from the side.
Of course, no pickup in Mexico is complete without conveying the notion that the owner is a real vaquero (cowboy for you easterners) so some cattle guard style roll bars were installed with what seem to be mid 70s Ford LTD hubcaps to simulate wagon wheels on the sides.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The greatest car thread anywhere on the internet

I've never really mentioned the H.A.M.B. before and if you don't know what it is by now then this blog entry probably isn't for you (especially if you're one of those lawyers or insurance companies that keeps googling my post about the MCS fire).

The H.A.M.B. is the brainchild of Ryan Cocharan, a typical gearhead with a few extraordinay skills. For over a dozen years, his Hokey Ass Message Board has been the go to place for all things hot rod. Or maybe I should amend that. All things "traditional" hot rod.

Aside from hot rods, it's a facinating window into Americana and the period of time from the 1930s to the mid 1960s. No thread on his forum exemplifes this better than this one. I encourage you to just click at random somewhere in the middle of the 375 plus pages of this and get lost in time. Consisting of mostly old family photos from the contributors, it has some truly amazing photos that you'll never see in Life's archives or anywhere else except the H.A.M.B.

While it's centered around cars, it is at the same time so much, much more.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cash for clunkers, but where are the clunkers???

So yesterday in a self abusing exercise I decided to drive behind my local Pontiac & Chrysler dealers and see what people are turning in as clunkers.

What I saw truly makes me sick. Top of the list is this very nice looking BMW 735i. Someone seriously drove this into the Pontiac dealer and drove out in one of their discontinued shitboxes???? PEOPLE – What the fuck are you smoking????

“You know, this leather interior is too nice, I’d rather sit on some scratchy cheap ass cloth and listen to the engine strain in a rebadged Korean built G3”

Across the street, some idiot got rid of this Mercedes in exchange for a Dodge Caliber or PT Cruiser. No, it did not have a bad paint job – those streaks on the hood were caused by the overheating engine as they murdered it. The grille? That appears to have been taken home as a trophy by some service guy as it’s been carefully removed.

I’m not a big fan of using a pickup truck to drive around in all the time but I own one and it’s real nice to haul things in. Mine is a 1969 Chevy C-20 bought from the state of NC in a sealed bid auction for the princely sum of $503.99. It’s state yellow and rust colored and has a toolbox bed with diamond plate welded in the floor. Not very attractive but it does the job.

Far less attractive than these “clunkers” for sure. Of special note is the nice Chevy Stepside with the custom paint job. Paint that was blistered off the hood as it was blown up under the most wasteful government program ever conceived by city dwellers who want your ass on a bus.

No rust, I live in the desert!

Who’s definition of “piece of shit” does this fall under?

There’s going to be alot of lonely boats out there

This old Ford was super clean, in fact it looked like it had just been painted.

Another BMW, that just sucks. BMWs are great cars.

America is now the “land of the bailout”. Can’t run a bank? “No problem, we’ve got a government program to bail you out!” “Mismanaged your auto company?” No sweat, just sign up here for your bailout. “Can’t afford to put gas in your big 'ole car when its $4 a gallon?” Well, here’s $4500 to put toward a new one.

What a wasteful society we’ve built ourselves…