Saturday, 22 January 2022

k-e-double l-o-double good

To varying degrees of success, our Artificial Intelligencer Janelle Shane (previously) has put several generative adversarial networks through the paces to see how they might re-interpret breakfast cereal American style. The more sophisticated third generation autoregressive language model DaVinci seemed to understand the task best, concocting the highly plausible Eggo Nut Frosted Strawberry Pancakes with confetti sprinkles, but other models did not seem to grasp what’s part of a complete breakfast with “Orb Crumpets” or the unpalatable “Original Cool Ranch Cheese and Dried Cranberry Oatmeal.” More at AI Weirdness at the link above.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

endianness

In what sounds like a passage out of Gulliver’s Travels (which etymologically speaking, it does and I think about the Big-Endians when I put eggs in the egg-cooker for breakfast on the weekends and sometimes have difficulty telling which way goes up) the little-endian method of day-month-year described the sequence of expressing dates (numerically) in most European countries. In German dots are used as separators to indicate ordinal numbers, “der zweite erste” for the second of January for example or the 2.1.—and while a leading zero for days of the month under ten is permissible in Switzerland or Austria, the grammatical rules particular to Germany do not allow for it. The format leading year-month-day, going from general to specific, is called the above big-endian method and used in China and much of Asia and the style employed in the United States, uniquely, month-day-year, is called middle-endian, used as an auxiliary method by virtually no other polity.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

7x7

the lady and the dale: a con-artist and the “car of the future”  

the lovers, the dreamers and me: after a five-year hiatus Snarkmarket makes a return to analyse and discuss two songs from The Muppet Movie—via Kottke and RSS reader 

tennesee tuxedo as a school-marmish cereal cop: children’s animated breakfast commercials often touted dark, authoritarian narratives  

i don’t want to be carrot man but i am carrot man: a delightful vintage guide on making costumes 

act-out: one hundred eighty-five German stage, television and film stars stage mass coming-out in support for greater representation and gender diversity in roles, via Super Punch 

like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves into motion: Trump’s legal defence wraps up a bizarre, specious rebuttal  

the witch of kings cross: a dramatization of the persecution that a sorceress and healer faced in 1950s Australia—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump

Saturday, 5 December 2020

crunch berries or pipe to any meal

After a rather lengthy discursive discussion on the naval officer’s rank inflation and ensuing “stolen valour” accusations lobbied against him, we are treated to a rather interesting anecdote on how the cereal—thanks to a give-away inside—was formative for the landscape of information technology and the invention (see also) of the smart phone.The prize was a plastic bo’sun whistle—a boatswain’s pipe (giving us also the phrase “pipe down,” the call used to dismiss the crew members not on watch), which accidentally introduced a whole cadre of kids to phreaking by producing a tone that matched the US telephony monopoly’s control signals that regulated the lines and sounding the whistle at the right moment hijacked control of the system, allowing sophisticated adolescents the ability to place free calls and avoid tolls. Graduating from this parlour-trick, enterprising pirates began creating kits called “blue boxes” with all sorts of whistles and bells to take control of the phone lines. Two entrepreneurs had their first collaborative venture making such devices were Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

Monday, 29 June 2020

o-double-good

File under justice deferred—I suppose—and perhaps voter disenfranchisement made right but the South Korean branch of a cereal giant is releasing a green onion (์ชฝํŒŒ ) flavoured version of one of its signature brands in response to the results of an online “election” held back in 2004 in which breakfast fans held a run-off ballot between duelling candidates Chekkie and Chaka—with the former pledging to bring more chocolate to the cereal and the later added scallion.
Sixteen years ago, Chaka, according to exit-polls, pulled into an early and decisive lead, leading the cereal company, rather nonplussed with the prospect to purge over forty-thousand votes from the results, citing security reasons. The company (see previously) had committed similar election tampering in its Japanese market too by again siding with chocolate even though wasabi was the people’s choice by a landslide. Advance taste-testers of the limited edition that will be available in supermarkets from 1 July laud this small victory for democracy and a good idea (I wish we could annul this orange drink and I know where my partisan affiliations lie) but find that the cereal lacks the distinctive savouriness, umami (๊ฐ์น ๋ง›) that the real article conveys

Friday, 13 December 2019

luciatรฅg

According to tradition martyred on this day during the Diocletian persecutions of the third century, the solemnity of the Feast of Saint Lucy of the Greek colony of Syracuse in Sicily was somehow translated from her native Italy to darkened, northern climes to become a major Advent celebration in Scandinavian lands.
She is depicted wearing a crown of candles so as to free her arms up to carry as many provisions as she could to fellow Christians hiding in the city’s catacombs to hold mass in secret and evade capture and punishment to navigate the passages and locate her community. Until calendar reforms that didn’t take effect in Nordic countries until the 1800s, Saint Lucy’s Day fell on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year—to which she brings light and traditionally marked the beginning of Yuletide. Festivities include choosing a local representative for Saint Lucy and an early morning, pre-dawn procession of children—it being also customary to barge into one’s parents’ bedrooms, even the visiting Nobel laureates still in town since the honours usually fall around the same time being treated to the special intercession, and being served a breakfast of Lussekat, baked buns flavoured with saffron. The day is bookended also with Lucy’s counterpart, Lussi the Witch taking flight and bringing general mischief and possibly misfortune for those who didn’t finish holiday preparations and obligations in a timely manner (see also here and here) from Lussinatta until Christmas.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

fresh from battle creek

We enjoyed indulging this vintage advertising campaign from the Leo Burnett Agency for Kellogg’s Variety Pack of cereals—promising to “settle all differences” with “…the choose-it-yourself breakfast”—with a cast of characters defined by their opposition. The six print ads, executed in a style evocative of other fabulist artists, include a little rhyming parable, though there’s no proper attribution to be found from the ad agency that created the Pillsbury Doughboy, Charlie the Tuna, the lonely Maytag repairman, the Jolly Green Giant—and recently the subject of controversy for product placement on Wikipedia, using the forum as a vehicle to sell outdoor apparel. Much more to explore at Box Vox at the link up top.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

grรธtmelet or the breakfast of champions

We enjoyed learning of the great Norwegian Porridge Feud of the mid-nineteenth century that was sparked by “scientific” thought encroaching on traditional foods. Domestic science—which did not always ascribe rigorously to the scientific method with opium and cocaine and sugar considered safe active ingredients or breakfast cereals promoted as a remedy against autoerotic excess and has a history of crazes, ulterior motives and a rather spotty reputation—sought to overhaul kitchen-witchery and folkways.
The first perceived assault came in the form of a cookbook that presumed to tell housewives that they’ve been making their porridge (grรธt) and other staples wrong all along, authored by the well-meaning Peter Christen Asbjรธrnsen (under the pseudonym Clemens Bonifacius—the Gentle Helper). Would you have taken sides? This controversy, seen by many to be a grave insult to homemakers but alternately drew many to companion the new science, forwarded the debate between traditional wisdom and expert application in view of the evolving realities of the way we live and eat—both ushering in a greater variety for Scandinavian diets but also the ills of processed and refined foods.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

retcon

Since first discovering the Maximum Fun network of podcasters about a year ago, I’ve been very pleased with all the series and shows that I’ve ended up subscribing to and have found myself especially enchanted with the wit and wisdom and pop-culture reach of one of the newer offerings, Story Break. Three professional Hollywood script writers get to take a break from the usual industry fare of the safe, sellable or filmable and spend an hour brainstorming, developing and finally pitching a movie based on a pastiche of odd premises, like the Kellogg’s Cinematic Universe with breakfast cereal mascots receiving the Marvel superhero treatment.
If you find yourself already exhausted with the existing holiday special line-up and can summon your imagination to limn out the festive scenario the crew is given, you will definitely want to check out their latest pre-production piece, Sleighrunner. The original arc of narrative began with a hegemonial on-line retailor kidnapping Santa Claus, first to take out the last vestige of competition and then to harness Kris Kringle’s unrivalled, perfect logistics and distribution set-up, which the company’s fleet of delivery drones and virtual omnipresence cannot match. Conceding, however, that the corporation already dominates the holiday, the writers take a different angle and have the online retailor not satisfied with capturing the commercial side of the holiday season but also aspiring to make Christmas magic real for all by raising a drone army of Santa’s Helpers capable delivering their presents in person at the appointed hour, arriving in reindeer drawn flying sleighs. A glitch happens however during the first test-flight and the prototype, sentient robot Santa crashes to Earth and no longer can access his original programming not realise that he’s a replicant (tagline: Naughty or Nice – They All Run). Hunted down by a legion of drone Santas and accompanied by a young child who found the castaway robot who believes him to be the real Saint Nicholas, our malfunctioning robot learns about commercialism and the true meaning of Christmas and in some sense does become the real Santa. Or something—nonetheless, it’s a movie I’d watch.

Friday, 10 March 2017

honeycomb hideout or finding buzz

Dispiritingly, the bee mascot is missing from the cartons of a popular breakfast cereal brand to highlight the seriousness of the plight of bees around the world, as Super Punch corroborates. The cereal box prize of this campaign is wildflower seeds to help bring back the bees and a raft of educational material on what individuals can do to improve their local ecology. I do hope that this send the message that sticks with especially young breakfast-eaters that we can indeed do something and bring back the bees.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

tate & stevens or puppet master

Neatorama reprinted a classic article from Mental Floss about the founding father of spin and public relations, an Austrian-American marketing executive and nephew twice-over of Sigmund Freud by the name of Edward Bernays, who used his uncle’s techniques to influence public sentiment in his clients’ favour. Bernays was active from the 1920s but spent much of his later years in the 1970s recanting and trying to undo some of the more unwholesome beliefs he’d peddled. Planting suggestions with third party authorities, like politicians and the medical establishment, Bernays was able to bewitch the public with guiling arguments touching health, sanitation and patriotism that are still mostly intact and sacrosanct today.
Initially, Bernays was under contract of government and social organizations and helped promote better race relations with the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and helped make venereal disease a less taboo subject and got people to practice precaution and seek treatment. This same manipulation, however, stoked public fears over the Red Scare and communists witch-hunts, arguing that Machiavellian controls and enlightened despotism were necessary for managing a democracy, and successfully propagandized the creation of so-called “banana republics,” contributing to the over-throw of governments in Hawaii and throughout Central and South America to create a business environment more friendly towards US fruit exporters. What was done specifically for business interests, though, has become an unbuckable legacy and tugs on the marionette strings of the individual as a consumer and civic animal. At the behest of certain cigarette manufacturers, Bernays tied-in marketing with the underswell of women’s liberation, convincing suffrages that smoking in public were “little torches of freedom” and would only help their fight for equality. Enlisting doctors and dentists, he managed to persuade Americans that a hearty breakfast was essential (for a flagging other white meat industry, maybe giving a foothold some fastfood chains to come as well) and that tap water should be fluoridated for healthy teeth (for mining concerns that were at a loss what to do with the fluoride by-product of making aluminum and steel). General notions about whiter-than-white hygiene and overly aggressive sanitation probably proved good for the chemical and pharmaceutical companies too.

Witnessing the rise of fascism in Europe, however, Bernays realized that propaganda could be just as easily turned from promoting harmony to subvert order and later that shilling for the tobacco companies had negative consequences for a lot of people and worked to rectify (with a known patron base of over four hundred political figures and industrialists, it seems selectively) some of those wrongs. Many of these grounding beliefs refuse to be disenchanted and I wonder what clientele may not have been disclosed and by holding onto misconceptions, who else might be using the same effective manipulation tactics presently.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

tv tray or serialization

As a little kid, I can remember being very engrossed, as I think a lot of kids were, at the breakfast table with the ingredient lists and nutritional information on the back and sides of cereal boxes.
 Letting my coffee cool a bit this morning, I wondered if people, especially kids, indulge in this sort of distraction. I bet parents would regard this innocent distraction more welcome than the chamber music of texting or the private dinner-theatre of web-browsing. I’m guilty too, not always able to pull myself away from the screen (it’s funny how so much of our time is spent staring at quadrilaterals—cereal boxes too—but without even seeing the rectangular frame. I do continue to pour over food labels but the message has changed a little: the names of the additives don’t seem quite like a sea-monkey kingdom potion (although not everything need be a sinister let-down and there’s some magic yet to be found in preparation and the recipe but there are more hacks and fillers rather than kitchen-witchery) and thinking about the provenance, packaging and the poly-lingual labeling is more interesting. I suppose, in the end, there’s not too much difference in how one chooses to take one’s morning briefing.