Archive for the ‘No right to be good’ Category

Wed 18 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: It's a trap!, No right to be good, Over!

Best and worst chain stores in Manhattan

Best: Recently I went to Bed Bath & Beyond on Sixth Avenue in Chelsea. Apparently, the staff there is trained to personally say hi to each customer. Every employee I walked past – whether stocking the shelves or moving carts around – looked up, made eye contact, said “Hi,” and then went back to work. It wasn’t creepy, it wasn’t annoying, it was just friendly. There are other signs this is a well-managed store. It’s enormous and very busy, yet somehow always clean and orderly. I shop there because it has a whole section of inexpensive pharmacy products, including the best price around on razor blades (which are free to grab off the shelf, not locked in a glass case like at CVS, et al). It even has a section of reasonably priced organic groceries. This store has no right to be good, and is anyway. It overturns the conventional wisdom that big box stores fail in Manhattan.

Worst: Years ago, during my first-ever visit to New York City, my friends and I walked to Macy’s Herald Square, rode about 11 flights of escalators, and rode them back down. “The World’s Largest Store” functions adequately as a tourist attraction, but as a place to buy stuff, it’s a debacle. Its floorplan is chaotic, its pricing is erratic, and its salespeople are surly. Macy’s is constantly mailing me 25%-off coupons that seem like good deals, but have fine print so complicated you need the help of an accountant to understand all the exclusions. Twice now I’ve walked out of the store in mid-purchase because a coupon wouldn’t scan, and a sales-clerk blamed it on my failure to be functionally literate. (Am I the first person to think “Menswear” means “men’s clothes”?) And no, I don’t want to save ten percent with a Macy’s card! Macy’s? Over! Happily, in this city I have lots of other options.

Wed 17 Dec 2008 11:38 pm   //   Posted in: Food & drink, No right to be good

A cereal for our times

So brilliant! So stupid! Why did it take them this long to think it up?

Coming soon: Just Raisins!

Mon 7 Jul 2008 9:35 am   //   Posted in: Movies, No right to be good

Pixar can do no wrong

Gerritt and I went to see WALL-E over the weekend. Like people have been saying, this movie is a lot better than any description of it makes it sound. A post-apocalyptic robot love story told as a Disney-Pixar cartoon? Yeah, it sounds bad on paper, but somehow this film got made and the world is a better place for it.

I want to talk about the ending credits. In the movie, humans have been living in a Wal-Mart space ship for 700 years. They have forgotten how to make art. The ending credits shows the re-evolution of human art after they have returned to Earth. It runs from cave paintings to Picasso, but with robots tucked away in most the paintings, as if they are no more unnatural than trees. It’s one of those great ideas that feels like something you’ve always had in the back of your head, but at the same time seems like it’s never been done before.

Thu 3 Jul 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: No right to be good

Freezing saves bad chocolate

I think of Hershey’s Miniatures as the Chevrolet of candy. Good enough, but nobody’s first choice.

Somehow (thanks to a church event where we had a surplus of candy) I ended up with a bag of these little chocolate bars in my apartment. A few weeks ago, when it was very hot, I tossed them in the freezer to keep them from melting. I forgot about them until a few days ago, when I rediscovered the frozen candy and started snacking on it.

Wow! Frozen Hershey bars are better than they have a right to be. Who knew you could turn iffy chocolate into something wonderful just by freezing it?

Sun 20 Apr 2008 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: No right to be good, Technology

My TVs are so converted

TV Converter box coupon

Since I don’t subscribe to cable, I’ll need a converter box to keep getting over-the-air TV when the digital switch happens next year. This has to do with making more spectrum available for big telecom companies that are paying billions of dollars to the government.

Throwing us a bone for this inconvenience, the government is offering $40 coupons to offset the cost of digital converter boxes. I got my coupons in the mail last week. I wondered: Would all my channels come in crystal clear? Or would I now get no TV whatsoever?


Wed 27 Feb 2008 7:00 am   //   Posted in: No right to be good

The funniest thing I have seen in a long time

Garfield Minus Garfield

So simple, so much more than the sum of its parts.

Sat 9 Feb 2008 10:03 am   //   Posted in: Food & drink, No right to be good

You have no right to be good!

What’s the difference between a guilty pleasure and something that has no right to be good?

A guilty pleasure is something you can’t enjoy without also feeling bad about. It could be something you like but that’s unhealthy, or that fills you with shame. Think meat loaf. Or Meat Loaf.

But something with no right to be good starts out no ambitions to be great, but achieves greatness by accident. Since it is genuinely good, it is no cause for guilt. It’s when low art crosses into high art, or when a corporate production machine somehow blunders into something sublime. Like Rufus Wainwright recording “Hallelujah” for the movie Shrek.

Campbell’s condensed tomato soup is a great example. Somebody once told me that the paper-mill-like odor in Tacoma, Washington, (the “aroma of Tacoma”) was actually the smell of the Campbell’s tomato soup factory. I don’t think that’s true, but it seems believable enough. Campbell’s tomato soup is a marvel of food science, a recipe for gelatinous red slime that probably hasn’t changed since the 1950s. But it is the absolute apex of tomato soup, and no one has ever improved upon it. Served with a grilled cheese sandwich on a winter day, it’s the prefect lunch. Why is this stuff so wonderful? It has no right to be good!