October 3, 2017 in 6,395 words

Henry Rollins: Thanks to Trump, the U.S. Is Sitting Out the 21st Century

Putin’s favorite chew toy, comrade Trump, might have finally bitten off a chunk of prime Americana that even he is incapable of swallowing.

In his recent live onstage intellectual crisis in Alabama, he appeared in support of U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, who faced off against former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, whom you might remember as the man who installed the Ten Commandments statue in front of the state judicial building only to see it removed. Trump, in a tour de force of loyalty but not really verbal multitasking, was able to show support for Strange and simultaneously toss him under the bus as he claimed that getting behind Strange was perhaps a mistake and that if Moore, Bannon’s favorite won, he would support him.

“If his opponent wins, I’m going to be here campaigning like hell for him. But, I have to say this … Luther will definitely win.”

The audience, dimly mulling over this act of poorly spoken duplicity, trying to make it something that it wasn’t, sounded like thousands of dogs chewing peanut butter.

Trump’s “speeches” are getting worse. He lashes out like a drunken man in a field of piñatas, sans blindfold. Whichever one he swings at and bashes, his audience cheers. One thing he understands when he’s talking to members of his “base,” as he was in Alabama, is that, like him, they’re not looking past the moment they’re in. They’re a perfect match. Trump, in an ever more desperate series of laterals — to distract from both the steady inroads by the relentless Mr. Mueller into his world of failed business dealings and the fact that he has absolutely no ability to lead the United States in a world he has almost single-handedly destabilized — aimed his crap cannon at the world of professional sports. Trump fucked up.

The Military Was Ready in Texas and Florida. What Went Wrong in Puerto Rico?

When Hurricane Maria struck, the U.S. military called off the huge resources it had mustered for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria’s landfall, the Trump administration’s military aid to Puerto Rico may not be too late if it can save lives and ease the suffering of millions. But it is undisputedly arriving in amounts too little and too slowly, in sharp contrast to recent responses around the world and, most recently, elsewhere in the United States during this hurricane season.

Over the past few years, the military has conducted textbook operations in Pakistan, Japan, Thailand and Haiti—pumping in massive amounts of aid after devastating earthquakes and hurricanes in those countries, no matter how rough or isolated the conditions. Just weeks ago, the military response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas was rapid and powerful. In preparation for Hurricane Irma, the Trump administration again ordered up an extensive military relief operation.

But when Hurricane Maria struck at full strength several days later—precisely as advertised, and similar in scale to Harvey—the U.S. military simply called off the huge resources it had mustered for Hurricane Irma. An inadequately small military contingent was left on its own for nearly two weeks to help with the damage. If there was a plan for disaster relief it was not publicly apparent. And on-scene commander—crucial in crises this large—was not appointed until nearly 10 days after landfall.

No less an authority than the three-star general who reversed the disastrous initial federal response to Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, retired Army Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré, said as much. “We’re replaying a scene from Katrina,” he said on National Public Radio about Maria on Thursday. “We started moving about four days too late.” That seems overly generous.

Life or death as Puerto Rico’s older people go without essentials

At Las Teresas retirement home, lack of power for lights and elevators means residents are stranded in the stifling dark two weeks after hurricane Maria.

A woman stands next to her apartment door at the Las Teresas retirement community, where about 200 elderly people live without electricity following Hurricane Maria in Carolina, Puerto Rico.

When the volunteers reached the second-floor landing at Las Teresas, a retirement community on the outskirts of San Juan, they found an elderly man in wheelchair sitting alone in the stifling dark.

He was a double amputee and was clearly in a bad state. It wasn’t clear how long the man had gone without food, but he sucked ravenously at a nutritional shake he was offered while a doctor started to examine him.

Four floors up, the team came across a white-haired woman in housecoat printed with dainty flowers. She was leaning against the partially opened window through which came the faintest of breezes.

“What do you need?” asked one of the volunteers. “Food, water, medicine?”

“All of them,” she replied faintly.

“You don’t have anything?”

She shook her head, and as the volunteer embraced her, she began to sob.

The humanitarian crisis which Hurricane Maria unleashed on Puerto Rico has affected all of the 3.5 million Americans who live on the island. But at the territory’s retirement homes, more than a week without drinkable water, electricity or communication has become a matter of life or death.

Trevor Noah responds to Vegas shooting: We do everything ‘to avoid talking about guns’

THANKS to Comedy Centrail and The Daily Show wiht Trevor Noah for making this program available to embed.

“The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah responded to the deadly violence in Las Vegas in his opening monologue Monday night, saying Americans are becoming “more accustomed” to mass shootings.

“I almost know how it’s going to play out,” Noah said in a clip released by Comedy Central. “We’re shocked, we’re sad, thoughts and prayers, and then almost on cue, people are going to come out saying ‘Whatever you do when speaking about the shootings, don’t talk about guns.’”

At least 59 people were killed and 527 others were injured when gunfire broke out at a country music festival in Las Vegas Sunday night.

Noah played a clip of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying Monday now isn’t the time for a debate on gun control.
“There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a press briefing.

“When is the time?” Noah asked. “And also, if you say after a mass shooting is ‘never the time’, you’ll never have the conversation in America, because there’s a mass shooting almost every single day. So when is the time?

This Is What a Real Middle-Class Tax Cut Would Look Like

Getting money into the pockets of ordinary Americans is easy. Why can’t the White House do it?

Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser to the White House, and Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, have struggled to explain Trump’s proposed tax cut.

If one takes the White House’s word for it, tax reform is all about a single goal—helping the middle class, not the rich.

Gary Cohn, the White House’s chief economic adviser, says the president’s tax cut is “purely aimed at middle-class families.” Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, promised Congress that tax reform wouldn’t benefit the rich. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the plan’s “entire purpose” is to lower middle-class taxes.

But the promises don’t fit the plan. As my colleague Annie Lowrey has written, the still-unfinished GOP policy would deliver half of its benefits to the top 1 percent, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC). Meanwhile, America’s poorest families would get a minuscule tax benefit—less than 1 percent growth in after-tax income. One in five Americans making the median household income would actually see a tax hike, particularly if they live in high-tax states and have lots of kids. (When Senator Rand Paul discovered this fact, he sharply criticized the plan on Twitter.)

Trump’s tax framework is even more friendly to the rich than George W. Bush’s famously regressive tax cuts. In 2008, the TPC estimated the distributional effects of several Bush tax cuts passed between 2001 and 2006. In the graph below, I’ve compared those results with the TPC-estimated effects of the Trump tax cuts.

6 Online Trolls Who Are (Almost) Too Creepy For Words

Although it started out as an experiment in friendliness and connectivity, the internet has since become a battlefield where you can get bombarded with death threats, dick pics, and worse, all because you disagreed with some blog post. But there were supposed to be rules. No pets. No elderly. No kids. You know, like the mafia. Except in recent years, it seems that not even children are safe from being used as hate-pinatas for the internet’s scum. For example …

#6. Creepy Men Are Hacking Baby Monitors (And Talking To The Kids)

Let’s picture the scene: It’s 7 p.m., you’ve finally put the baby down, and you’re about to enjoy your weekly two hours of uninterrupted sleep. Then, as you drift off to half-a-glass-of-wine dreamland, you hear it — an adult voice coming from the nursery. With a strength equivalent to 12 Incredible Hulks and wielding a throw pillow like a flail, you burst into the room to confront the intruder … who isn’t there. That’s when you realize: The voices, they’re coming from outside the house.

This isn’t the start of a horror movie, but what could happen if you’ve bought a WiFi-connected baby monitor or camera but forgot to change the default password. Some creepy asshole could easily hack into it and start sleep-harassing your child. One mother from Ontario was rocking her baby to sleep when eerie music started playing through the monitor and a possibly/definitely insane person told her they were being watched. In Houston, a nanny was startled mid-change by the monitor commenting that the baby had a “really poopy diaper.” When she confronted the parents about their little prank, they had no idea what was going on. In another case, one couple was awakened by the sounds of someone screaming at their baby to wake up, pausing only to cuss out the father when he moved to unplug the device.

The real daddy’s foot was later looking for that guy’s ass.

But possibly the worst case of infant cyberbullying was in 2015. One family started having some difficulties with their son, who was claiming that a man was talking to him at night. A slightly more nuanced story than “there’s a monster underneath my bed,” but the parents didn’t buy it. One fortuitous night, they caught someone whispering “Wake up little boy, daddy’s looking for you” to their son over the monitor they’d installed in his room. They immediately unplugged the device, though burning down the house and salting the earth would have also been a valid response.

Where’s the curtsy button? I test-drive the online Jane Austen role-playing game

Jane Austen’s works have been given the World of Warcraft treatment, but with dinner parties instead of dungeons – and gossip instead of guns. Our writer ties on her virtual bonnet and goes hunting for a suitor.

Young, single and ready to mingle … one of the Hatch family in the game Ever, Jane.

I had been travelling for two days with my aunt Amelia in her private carriage when upon arrival at the Fleckcot Glebe Inn, an establishment of some ill repute, Aunt Amelia received a letter that so altered our plans it leaves me in a whirlwind of mortification. My name is Flopsy McCanada, a Regency era girl of large oval face and low social standing. My aim? To find my way through the confusing customs and daily rituals of Jane Austen’s age without committing a major social transgression over tea.

I’m playing Ever, Jane, a virtual roleplaying game by Judy L Tyrer, formerly of Linden Labs, which created the seminal online world Second Life. As avid fans of Jane Austen, Tyrer and her team at 3 Turn Productions have worked to unify the worlds of Austen’s writing, from Lady Susan to Sense and Sensibility, turning them into Tyrehampton, a place where women in bonnets lounge about in day rooms and dissect their rivals.

“Gossip is our weapon of choice,” reads Tyrer’s Kickstarter pitch. “Instead of raids, we will have grand balls. Instead of dungeons, we will have dinner parties.” Ever, Jane, currently a free playable prototype, has strict social rules. To navigate its mazes of etiquette, my character keeps a Lady’s Magazine to hand. Drinks with characters are scheduled via requests sent by letter, while the importance of social conduct is reflected in the fact you have three buttons, each offering a different kind of curtsy or bow. “It was about finding out what the characters in her novels did,” says Tyrer, “coupled with the etiquette of Regency period.”

Status, kindness, duty … our writer’s alter ego, Flopsy McCanada.

Austen opens Pride and Prejudice with what are essentially the rules of Ever, Jane: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” she writes. “However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

A new book teaches kids of the internet age all the “lost words” from nature and outdoor play

Field Notes

What’s to become of kids these days, with their damn pocket computers and inability to differentiate between bird species?

The Lost Words is a new book for people worried the next generation will lose touch with nature. Written by Robert Macfarlane with illustrations by Jackie Morris, it’s a catalogue and spelling book for kids, where the lost words in question comprise vocabulary about flora and fauna.

The 128-page book is told through acrostics—for acorns and ferns, otters and kingfishers. On its own, a book about animals for kids is nothing new; it’s as old a concept as books specially for children. But The Lost Words has an unusual backstory that begins, as more books should, with a lexicographical quibble.

In 2007, Oxford released a new edition of its “Junior” dictionary, aimed at kids aged seven and older. A handful of parents and pedants were critical of which words had been dropped from and added to the edition. Words about nature—”moss,” “blackberry,” and “bluebell”—were gone, and in their place, “blog,” “chatroom,” and “database.” (“Saint,” “chapel,” and “psalm” had also been removed.) The dictionary made more cuts in 2012: “Cauliflower” and “clover” were supplanted by “broadband” and “cut and paste.”

Rise of the yimbys: the angry millennials with a radical housing solution

They see themselves as progressive housing activists. Critics call them stooges for luxury developers. Meet the new band of millennials who are priced out of cities and shouting: ‘Yes in my back yard’.

A pro-housing protest in San Francisco. Yimby groups take aim at space-hogging, single-family homeowners and confound anti-capitalist groups by daring to take the side of luxury condo developers.

When a woman stood up and waved a courgette in the air at a City of Berkeley council meeting this summer, complaining that a new housing development would block the sunlight from her zucchini garden, she probably felt confident that the community was on her side. After all, hers was the kind of complaint – small-scale, wholesome, relatable – that has held up housing projects for years in cities around the world.

She didn’t expect the wrath of the yimbys.

“You’re talking about zucchinis? Really? Because I’m struggling to pay rent,” retorted an indignant Victoria Fierce at that 13 June meeting. Fierce went on to argue that it was precisely the failure to build new housing that is causing rents to climb in San Francisco, to the point that she can barely afford to live anywhere in the Bay Area.

Fierce is a leader of one of a series of new groups that have sprouted up in cities from Seattle to Sydney, Austin to Oxford, lobbying not against development but for it. They say their lives are threatened by housing shortages and skyrocketing rental prices. Calling themselves yimbys, they are standing up to say “Yes, in my back yard” to any kind of new housing development. And courgettes be damned.

The movement is fuelled by the anger of young adults from the millennial generation, many of whom are now in their late 20s and early 30s. Rather than suffer in silence as they struggle to find affordable places to live, they are heading to planning meetings en masse to argue for more housing – preferably the very kind of dense, urban infill projects that have often generated neighbourhood opposition from nimbys (“not in my back yard”).

When Working From Home Doesn’t Work

IBM pioneered telecommuting. Now it wants people back in the office.

In 1979, IBM was putting its stamp on the American landscape. For 20 years, it had been hiring the greats of modernism to erect buildings where scientists and salespeople could work shoulder-to-shoulder commanding the burgeoning computer industry. But that year, one of its new facilities—the Santa Teresa Laboratory, in Silicon Valley—tried an experiment. To ease a logjam at the office mainframe, it installed boxy, green-screened terminals in the homes of five employees, allowing them to work from home.

The idea of telecommuting was still a novelty. But this little solution seemed effective. By 1983, about 2,000 IBMers were working remotely. The corporation eventually realized that it could save millions by selling its signature buildings and institutionalizing distance work; the number of remote workers ballooned. In 2009, an IBM report boasted that “40 percent of IBM’s some 386,000 employees in 173 countries have no office at all.” More than 58 million square feet of office space had been unloaded, at a gain of nearly $2 billion. IBM, moreover, wanted to help other corporations reap the same officeless efficiencies through its consulting services. Leading by example was good marketing.

Then, in March of this year, came a startling announcement: IBM wanted thousands of its workers back in actual, physical offices again.

The reaction was generally unsparing. The announcement was depicted, variously, as the desperate move of a company whose revenues had fallen 20 quarters in a row; a veiled method of shedding workers; or an attempt to imitate companies, like Apple and Google, that never embraced remote work in the first place. “If what they’re looking to do is reduce productivity, lose talent, and increase cost, maybe they’re on to something,” says Kate Lister, the president of Global Workplace Analytics, which measures (and champions) working from home.

Free bus passes for workers: Columbus’s big idea to relieve a congested downtown

Columbus is the first major US city to give downtown workers free public transport passes regardless of who they work for, and whether they intend to use them. Can the programme change the mindset of this car-centric city?

The downtown district in Columbus, Ohio, faces a parking crunch: few spaces for its 43,000 workers.

One of the problems faced by the US city of Columbus is simple to articulate but hard to fix. Parking pressures in the centre are forcing businesses further out, and the question for downtown businesses is how to get people out of cars and on to public transport.

With a population of 860,090, Ohio’s state capital is now the 14th largest city in the country and after Chicago, the second-biggest in the midwest. It has grown by 28% (from 668,808) since 1997, and it is easy to see why; Columbus has a large university population, a growing arts scene, old money foundations spreading wealth and attractive older neighbourhoods in the centre.

But its transit problems are evident. The freeways into the city are packed at rush hour, and the downtown business district faces a car parking crunch, with few and expensive spaces for the 43,000 workers.

In other cities reducing the availability of car parking has been effective in getting more people to use public transport, but in Columbus it has prompted businesses to expand to suburban areas, where rent is cheaper and there is plenty of parking. Out of 844 employees in the downtown district, just 6% commute using public transport.

“We saw the vacancy rate growing downtown, and a large part of that was because parking spaces were becoming too expensive for the businesses and their workers,” says Cleve Ricksecker, executive director of Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District (SID), a private group working to improve downtown Columbus. “But it was the lower-paid service workers in the hotel and restaurant industry who were paying more than $1,500 a year on parking.

“Commuting to downtown was becoming financially stressful in Columbus. So we needed a solution that would be quick and simple.”

South Korea Phones the North Twice a Day

No One Answers

Every day, South Korea’s Unification Ministry sends officials to the border village of Panmunjom to call North Korea at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. For more than 18 months, the North hasn’t picked up.

As North Korea steps up its nuclear weapons tests and threats, the Unification Ministry, dedicated to improving relations with the North and eventual peaceful reunification, faces an almost existential crisis.

Not too long ago the ministry was one of Seoul’s most powerful departments. It had central roles in engineering two historic summits between the leaders of the two Koreas and launching joint economic projects in the 2000s. That is mostly gone after nearly a decade of hard-line conservative rule in the South, and a rapid expansion of missile and nuclear weapons development in the North.

The nuclear problem has become much larger than just a Korean Peninsula issue. North Korea has launched midrange missiles over Japan and flight-tested intercontinental ballistic missiles, confirming fears that it’s close to its goal of building a military arsenal that can target the United States and its Asian allies.

An on-demand sex health startup is anonymously helping Nigerians have more safe sex

Sex In A Box


In Nigeria, like many conservative societies, open conversations about sex pretty much remain taboo. As such, getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) at clinics or purchasing condoms at retail outlets still attract looks of disapproval, or scorn in extreme cases.

The downside is that it’s also difficult to talk about important issues such as safe sex. But with her startup, Florida Uzoaru is hoping to change that.

In January, Uzoaru launched Slide Safe to discretely deliver STD test kits and sex products, including condoms and lubricants, on demand. The big goal, she says, is to increase sexual consciousness around safe sex and frequent testing for sexually transmitted diseases. With 3.2 million adults living with HIV in 2016, Nigeria, alongside South Africa and Uganda, accounts for almost half of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa every year.

The startup operates on the largest university campus in Lagos to ensure that students have easy access and plans to expand by partnering with hotel chains across the country. “The market demand for the test kit is very high,” says Uzoaru. Looking to avoid long waits in clinics for tests and a possible lack of discretion, customers are more comfortable buying Slide Safe test packs instead, she says.

Why do we feel so guilty all the time?

Food, sex, money, work, family, friends, health, politics: there’s nothing we can’t feel guilty about, including our own feelings of guilt.

I feel guilty about everything. Already today I’ve felt guilty about having said the wrong thing to a friend. Then I felt guilty about avoiding that friend because of the wrong thing I’d said. Plus, I haven’t called my mother yet today: guilty. And I really should have organised something special for my husband’s birthday: guilty. I gave the wrong kind of food to my child: guilty. I’ve been cutting corners at work lately: guilty. I skipped breakfast: guilty. I snacked instead: double guilty. I’m taking up all this space in a world with not enough space in it: guilty, guilty, guilty.

Nor am I feeling good about feeling bad. Not when sophisticated friends never fail to remind me how self‑involved, self-aggrandising, politically conservative and morally stunted the guilty are. Poor me. Guilty about guilty. Filial guilt, fraternal guilt, spousal guilt, maternal guilt, peer guilt, work guilt, middle-class guilt, white guilt, liberal guilt, historical guilt, Jewish guilt: I’m guilty of them all.

Thankfully, there are those who say they can save us from guilt. According to the popular motivational speaker Denise Duffield-Thomas, author of Get Rich, Lucky Bitch!, guilt is “one of the most common feelings women suffer”. Guilty women, lured by guilt into obstructing their own paths to increased wealth, power, prestige and happiness, just can’t seem to take advantage of their advantages.

“You might feel guilty,” Duffield-Thomas writes, “for wanting more, or for spending money on yourself, or for taking time out of your busy family life to work on improving yourself. You might feel guilty that other people are poor, that your friend is jealous, that there are starving people in the world.” Sure enough, I do feel guilty for those things. So, it is something of a relief to hear that I can be helped – that I can be self-helped. But, for that to happen, what I must first understand is that a) I’m worth it, and b) none of these structures of global inequality, predicated on historical injustices, are my fault.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Prepare to spend a while; it’s The Long Read,


Joel B. asks: Do people really wrestle octopus?

Arising out of the peace and prosperity of the post-war world, in the middle of the 20th century Americans threw themselves into a variety of weird fads, with goldfish swallowing, pet rocks (see: How Did the Pet Rock Fad Start?), streaking, dance marathons, and sea monkeys (see What are Sea Monkeys?) among the most popular. One that received less attention internationally, but whose participants and spectators ardently loved, was the curious case of octopus wrestling.

At the time, the general perception of giant octopuses was that they were fearsome predators of the deep. As such, wrestling one seemed the height of manliness. As for the developed sport itself, it was pretty much like it sounds, involving men hunting out an octopus’ lair and then wrangling the cephalopod out and up to the surface by hand.

That said, according to accounts from early practitioners of the sport, it was inspired by a much more bloody pastime- octopus hunting, which was the subject of an apparently widely-read story published in Modern Mechanix, “Octopus Wrestling is My Hobby” (April 1949).

In the article, author Wilmon Menard describes in great and brutal detail a hunting expedition he took to the South Pacific, in which he and his native guides found, caught and killed octopuses, including one that Menard described as “a huge monster with 25-foot tentacles.”


Ketchup: The All-American Condiment That Comes From Asia

Although tomato ketchup is ubiquitous today, the condiment was once made from many diverse ingredients — walnuts, oysters or, in this instance, strawberries.

There probably isn’t a more American condiment than ketchup. Millions of Americans douse their french fries, hamburgers, hot dogs and other favorite foods with it every day. The ubiquitous tomato-based sauce has been a staple in American cuisine for over a century, with surveys finding that 97% of kitchens in the United States contain a bottle.

Given those facts, many Americans may be surprised to learn that ketchup’s origins aren’t American at all and that tomatoes were introduced to the mix relatively late in the sauce’s history.

The story of ketchup is in many ways a story of globalization and international trade. On his blog The Language of Food, Stanford University professor Dan Jurafsky comprehensively traces the tangy condiment’s long journey from Southeast Asia to China, then to Europe and, eventually, the United States.

Depending on how it is translated, ketchup’s predecessor was known as ke-tchup, kôechiap or kê-tsiap in Hokkien Chinese. It referred to a pickled fish brine or sauce from the Fujian province of China and Southeast Asia. As Jurafsky notes, “Fermented food products have a long tradition in Asia.” Later, vegetables like beans would also be fermented and made into pastes, and Hokkien Chinese traders would bring these sauces to Malaysia and Indonesia, where they were known by the names kechap and ketjap respectively.

How Was Ketchup Invented?

It is a dynamic red concoction. At once savory and sweet, with just the right amount of puckering twang, it is slathered and squirted onto our favorite foods.

Even the most barren of refrigerators has a lingering bottle that clatters with the whoosh of an opened door. It is the hero of American condiments: ketchup.

In the U.S., 97 percent of households report having a bottle at the table. How did a simple sauce come to be so loved by America? It turns out ketchup’s origins are anything but American. Ketchup comes from the Hokkien Chinese word, kê-tsiap, the name of a sauce derived from fermented fish. It is believed that traders brought fish sauce from Vietnam to southeastern China.

The British likely encountered ketchup in Southeast Asia, returned home, and tried to replicate the fermented dark sauce. This probably happened in the late 17th and early 18th centuries as evidenced by a recipe published in 1732 for “Ketchup in Paste,” by Richard Bradley, which referenced “Bencoulin in the East-Indies” as its origin. (See “How a Food Becomes Famous.”)

But this was certainly not the ketchup we would recognize today. Most British recipes called for ingredients like mushrooms, walnuts, oysters, or anchovies in an effort to reproduce the savory tastes first encountered in Asia. Mushroom ketchup was even a purported favorite of Jane Austen. These early ketchups were mostly thin and dark, and were often added to soups, sauces, meat and fish. At this point, ketchup lacked one important ingredient.

Is there a better ketchup than Heinz? Without the shelf space, we’ll never find out

Crashing Condiments

Condiments are ripe for disruption.

The first step to disrupting the supermarket condiments aisle is to show up on the shelves.

In most American grocery stores, options for mayonnaise and mustard are few. When it comes to ketchup, it’s even more scant. Shoppers typically have three choices: Kraft Heinz, Hunt’s and the store brand. It’s a tightly controlled market, but one small New York company aims to upset the decades-long condiment stasis.

And it may have a fighting chance.

In five years, Sir Kensington’s, the brainchild of a couple 2008 Brown University graduates, has carved out shelf space in boutique food shops, natural food grocery stores, about 200 Safeways and all Whole Foods Market locations. It will get its biggest opportunity in September, when the brand’s mayonnaise will be tested among shoppers in 10 Northern California Costco stores.

If Costco shoppers like it and the big warehouse store commits to ketchup, mustard and stocking the brand in up to 460 more locations, it will be a game changer for Sir Kensington’s. It will also show that Hunt’s and Kraft Heinz no longer dictate America’s condiment tastes.

The Ketchup Conundrum

Mustard now comes in dozens of varieties. Why has ketchup stayed the same?

Many years ago, one mustard dominated the supermarket shelves: French’s. It came in a plastic bottle. People used it on hot dogs and bologna. It was a yellow mustard, made from ground white mustard seed with turmeric and vinegar, which gave it a mild, slightly metallic taste. If you looked hard in the grocery store, you might find something in the specialty-foods section called Grey Poupon, which was Dijon mustard, made from the more pungent brown mustard seed. In the early seventies, Grey Poupon was no more than a hundred-thousand-dollar-a-year business. Few people knew what it was or how it tasted, or had any particular desire for an alternative to French’s or the runner-up, Gulden’s. Then one day the Heublein Company, which owned Grey Poupon, discovered something remarkable: if you gave people a mustard taste test, a significant number had only to try Grey Poupon once to switch from yellow mustard. In the food world that almost never happens; even among the most successful food brands, only about one in a hundred have that kind of conversion rate. Grey Poupon was magic.

So Heublein put Grey Poupon in a bigger glass jar, with an enamelled label and enough of a whiff of Frenchness to make it seem as if it were still being made in Europe (it was made in Hartford, Connecticut, from Canadian mustard seed and white wine). The company ran tasteful print ads in upscale food magazines. They put the mustard in little foil packets and distributed them with airplane meals—which was a brand-new idea at the time. Then they hired the Manhattan ad agency Lowe Marschalk to do something, on a modest budget, for television. The agency came back with an idea: A Rolls-Royce is driving down a country road. There’s a man in the back seat in a suit with a plate of beef on a silver tray. He nods to the chauffeur, who opens the glove compartment. Then comes what is known in the business as the “reveal.” The chauffeur hands back a jar of Grey Poupon. Another Rolls-Royce pulls up alongside. A man leans his head out the window. “Pardon me. Would you have any Grey Poupon?”

In the cities where the ads ran, sales of Grey Poupon leaped forty to fifty per cent, and whenever Heublein bought airtime in new cities sales jumped by forty to fifty per cent again. Grocery stores put Grey Poupon next to French’s and Gulden’s. By the end of the nineteen-eighties Grey Poupon was the most powerful brand in mustard. “The tagline in the commercial was that this was one of life’s finer pleasures,” Larry Elegant, who wrote the original Grey Poupon spot, says, “and that, along with the Rolls-Royce, seemed to impart to people’s minds that this was something truly different and superior.”

What’s the Difference Between Ketchup and Catsup?

Ketchup and catsup are simply two different spellings for the same thing, a modern, Westernized version of a condiment that European traders were introduced to while visiting the Far East in the late 17th century. What exactly that condiment was and where they found it is a matter of debate.

It could have been ke-chiap from China’s southern coastal Fujian region or it could have been kicap (a Malay word borrowed from the Cantonese dialect of Chinese, also spelled kecap and ketjap) from Indonesia, both of which are sauces based on brined or pickled fish or shellfish, herbs and spices. Whatever it was, the Europeans liked it, and as early 1690, they brought it back home with them, calling it catchup.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

We must—once and for all—end the lies we tell ourselves about the Second Amendment.

Hurricane Maria brought everyday life in Puerto Rico to a standstill — destroying roads, cutting off water, and turning the lights out on 3.4 million people. Nearly two weeks later, there have been some signs of progress – most of the island’s gas stations are open, and its main highway is clear. But about half of Puerto Rico’s residents still don’t have running water, and almost the entire island is without power.

On top of everything else, Puerto Rico is also struggling to keep order in the post-hurricane chaos. Cops in Puerto Rico have been working 12 hour shifts, with almost no days off. Many of them patrol the night, after the island-wide curfew kicks in and the streets go dark.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

Stephen commends the victims and first responders of the tragic Las Vegas shooting for their immeasurable courage. Now we need courage from the President of the United States.

President Trump spent the weekend attacking Puerto Rico and the Mayor of San Juan due to what he views as unfair criticism.

‘We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy’ author Ta-Nehisi Coates has his own definition of ‘whiteness’ and it has nothing to do with one’s race.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

Seth Meyers addresses the shooting in Las Vegas and Congress’ inaction on gun control legislation.

Seth Meyers’ monologue from Monday, October 2.

Seth takes a closer look at the very real consequences of electing a lazy, ignorant racist as president.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

Modern movie ghosts seem pretty considerate. Like, the ghost from ‘Sinister’ seems like a pretty patient babysitter. Who wouldn’t want that?

Max trying to get someone to talk to him by making his noises and using his sweet voice.


Koi Division Is the Fish-Themed Joy Division Cover Band the World Needs Right Now

Los Angeles is home to more than a few pun-based parody bands that seem like “high”-deas made incarnate. Perhaps you’ve encountered Mac Sabbath, a fast food–centric Black Sabbath cover band with songs such as “Frying Pan” and “More Ribs.” Come winter, you might come face to face with the sinister Krammpstein, a Krampus-themed Rammstein tribute act.

Now, a new contender has breached, hailing from the deep, dark depths of the ocean floor. Meet Koi Division, the fishy Joy Division parody band of your surrealist dreams.

The post-punk act that is Joy Division rarely lends itself to humor. Their very name is controversial (it’s a Nazi reference). Their lyrics are dark and their history is mired in tragedy, as lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide at just 23 years old on May 18, 1980, the evening before the band’s North American tour was set to begin. His bandmates — guitarist/keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris — would go on to form the new wave group New Order.

Koi Division, however, is a much lighter affair. Donning black clothes and plastic fish masks, they wind their way through Joy Division covers with modified lyrics that explore the daily, often baleful, goings-on of the sea. Their shows incorporate a bubble machine and display a beachy version of the iconic Unknown Pleasures album art behind them. Though it might seem as if they’re mocking, there is a reverence behind the humor.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?