Critics: Anton Ego and Mr. Cranky

There was a time when I didn’t know what a film or restaurant critic was. These were in the halcyon days of my youth, when I would go to restaurants or movies in New York City with my mother, the internet didn’t exist, and the only critics I knew about were “us.” [Of course, my mother, being a stage and commercial actress was well acquainted with reviews since the earliest days of her dramatic career, beginning in the 1920s (I think she appeared in an elementary school play at age 4), but she charitably kept me insulated from their mercuriality.]

We had successes and failures. As I have written about before, we loved Fonda del Sol, Xochitl, Mamma Leone’s, Proof of the Pudding, and many others.

We loved Peter Sellers as a comedian, but when we went to see “Only Two can Play,” my mother was mortified and I – at age 11 – was uncomfortable – we left the theater and mom demanded a refund.

Bottom line, we knew what we liked.

Then came the electronic age, with Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster, Yelp!, Wikipedia, UrbanSpoon (much better than Yelp, but sadly defunct), and access to reviews from hundreds of sources. And because these things are highly subjective and largely a matter of personal opinion¹, reviews varied widely from one pole to the other, and I often found that if reviews of a movie were negative I would come away from a movie I had enjoyed, wondering what the critics were talking about.

The best summation of a critic’s rôle I think I ever heard came in the beautiful soliloquy of Anton Ego in the dénouement of “Ratatouille,” for which credit must be given to the inestimable Brad Bird:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.

Over time I came to see that most critics indeed would shred films because negative publicity got more traction, more buzz, or in modern parlance, more clicks – and hence more exposure for their particular brand. (There were exceptions of course – Siskel and Ebert’s point/counterpoint usually gave a good feel for consensus, and the Deseret News’ Chris Hicks tried to be honest without being snarky, meaning that I usually found myself in agreement with his assessments.)

But without question, the most savage movie reviewer of all time was Mr. Cranky, otherwise known as Jason Katzman.

cranky

From 1996 until 2008, Mr. Cranky reveled in writing the snarkiest, most deprecatory reviews one could imagine. His rating scale was only negative, with “one bomb” being the best one could hope for:

bombs

I once wrote to him, asking if there were any movies he liked, and he responded, “I don’t like movies.” As I learned when his website came to a close, this was simply part of his online persona. Much was revealed in his departing essay, making clear that his efforts over time were less about shredding movies than they were about shredding reviews and reviewers in general. I reproduce the entire essay below:

Mr. Cranky says “Goodbye!”

MESSAGE FROM YOUR HOST: In the summer of 1995, Hans Bjordahl and I were sitting in a friend’s dining room drinking beer when he posed this question: “Do you have any good ideas for a web site?” Hans was the creative director for a small internet firm about to build its first internet mall. I was the film critic for a local newspaper. After a few more beers for creative inspiration, Mr. Cranky was born.
The site began building in October of 1995 and was launched in February of 1996. It was an instant hit and the mall’s most frequented property. Traffic skyrocketed within the first three months. Emails came in fast and furious. Some were actually furious – mad at Mr. Cranky for trashing some recent film. There were death threats. However, most emails were ecstatic, thrilled that finally somebody was out there not blowing smoke up the ass of Hollywood, but dragging it over the coals for its failures. Mr. Cranky received mention in “The New York Times”, “The Guardian”, and many, many others. We were the “Cool Site of the Week”. When books printed lists of the best movie web sites, we were on them. The phone started ringing with offers of advertising revenue and such.

Much of the reward for doing Mr. Cranky all these years has been the excitement it created. There was a lot going on during the 1990’s and we frequently found ourselves in the midst of all kinds of developments. We were flown to San Francisco and wined and dined by an up and coming Internet company. We had our pictures taken for the Hollywood issue of “Vanity Fair”. We found ourselves with an agent and discussing book deals. Like most things that seem “pie in the sky” when you hear them, most of them fizzled out. Like most things, the excitement was never met by the potential financial rewards that seem to be mentioned in the same breath. That being said, Mr. Cranky did turn into a pleasant hobby with a small financial reward at the end of the year.

Even after the end of the Internet boom, Mr. Cranky still got by. We were excited to be picked up by “Redeye” in Chicago, a new type of daily directed at Gen Y. The feature was so well received that the editor of the Chicago Tribune mentioned it in one of her meetings. Google contacted us to assign our account its own ad representative – something they probably do for most accounts or groups of accounts, but still, it made us feel important.

Well, as they say, all good things…. Let’s face it, Mr. Cranky has been dying a slow death for a number of years now. It’s increasingly irrelevant, if not completely irrelevant. We’d rather sign off before that becomes the case and we’re probably already too late. Are there other reasons? Well, it’s not bringing in the revenue it once did. The time it takes to keep the site going is substantial. There’s too much other stuff to do. When I first started writing Mr. Cranky, I would sometimes see 8 movies in a week and make 6 trips to Denver from Boulder (70 miles RT). That was great when gas was $1.99. Now, not so much.

Before we retire Mr. Cranky, there are some questions that seem worth answering. Did one person write all the reviews? The answer: about 98% of the reviews were written by me, Jason Katzman. The other 2% were written by others, but mostly Hans, who took up the mantle when I was too tired or had a conflict. Not a single person ever figured out who wrote what even though we got many emails from people asking where “the real Mr. Cranky had gone”. In every instance, they were comparing two reviews I had written, just in very different styles.

Another question that was asked of me often was “Are there any movies you like?” I’m proud to say I never once answered that question and we never tried to pander to the people who just didn’t get it. Not only are there movies I like, I usually enjoy most movies in some way, shape or form. It’s actually pretty rare when I watch a film that has no redeeming value. Is there anybody out there who really thinks that I would spend as much time as I do watching movies if I didn’t enjoy it?

That being said, the reasons we started Mr. Cranky are more than simply “we like to make fun of people”. There are the simple ones, like we wanted to reject the culture of celebrity worship, which is utterly repulsive. Unfortunately, it’s only grown larger since Mr. Cranky started. During my time as a film critic, I did tons of interviews and went on lots of junkets. I can tell you, generally-speaking, most actors aren’t that interesting and aren’t that smart and will rarely tell you the truth about something, particularly what they think about another person in the industry (there are some exceptions, of course: John Sayles, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Guillermo del Toro come to mind. There are also the few stars one meets before they’re stars. I met Kate Winslet when she was 19, before the release of “Heavenly Creatures” and she told a story that I doubt she ever repeated).

A less obvious reason we started Mr. Cranky also emanates from some of these experiences. Film critics, in general (myself included), are full of themselves. They believe that their opinions actually matter. They also believe that somehow there’s a right and a wrong when it comes to film criticism. Mr. Cranky was started to thwart that notion by making fun of film critics and film criticism and pointing out that film writing could be subjective to the point of a critic who didn’t like anything. Besides, if these junkets proved one thing, it’s that most film critics could be swayed by nothing more than a plate of donuts (watching a group of largely fat film critics charge toward a free plate of food while in the midst of a junket in which they’re supposed to form unbiased opinions of the film is its own form of hell). And if the Internet has proved one salient Mr. Cranky point, it’s that anyone can be a film critic. The forums were put in place for just this reason. Mr. Cranky was the first site to invite the reader to challenge the film critic, in fact, to make that challenge a founding principle of the site.

And how could I depart without mentioning the site’s many fans – the Crankizens. There’s no doubt that the activity in the forums have powered the site over the years and become larger-than-life and something we never expected. Over the years, I’ve met a fair number of fans of the site and have been overwhelmed by it all. One of the people I met and befriended through Mr. Cranky is now a successful screenwriter in Hollywood. Early on, a fan from Perth, Australia embarked on a Mr. Cranky World Tour, visiting various places around the world populated by Mr. Cranky fans, culminating with a surprise visit by me in Los Angeles. Then there were the numerous Crankycons that spawned. I went to two: one in Toronto and one in Cedar Point in Ohio where I rode every roller coaster I was challenged to ride (keeping my cool on the world’s fastest, highest coaster, I might add). Heck, people met on Mr. Cranky and got married. I was truly humbled by the invitations and the interest in Mr. Cranky.

And we don’t want to completely close the door on this whole thing. For dedicated Crankizens, there is one sliver of hope: August 31 is our deadline to discontinue the site, but also the deadline to see if there’s any last-ditch means of selling or saving it. We’ve had ‘big plans’ for Cranky 2.0 many times over, but other priorities (not the least among them our “day jobs”) have always intervened, and at some point you’ve just gotta break that cycle and put up or shut up. Serious inquiries along those lines (i.e. those backed by serious levels of funding or remuneration) should be directed to mrcranky@mrcranky.com. Until that time, there won’t be anymore reviews, but the site and the “Goodbye Mr. Cranky” forum will be open for fans to search and recall the past.

Thanks to Randall Gaz for keeping the site going all these years. Thanks to Holley Irvine for all her design work. Thanks to Hans Bjordahl for all the hard work and 12 years of a partnership that was 99% fun with virtually no conflict whatsoever. And most of all, thanks to all the Mr. Cranky readers past and present who made writing Mr. Cranky so rewarding. It’s been a pleasure. We feel like Mr. Cranky introduced a certain style into the Internet world and we hope to hear Mr. Cranky mentioned when the history of the web is written. If not, we’ll be sure to contact whoever is doing the mentioning and tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine as only Mr. Cranky can.

The site is now passworded, but thanks to the miracle of the Wayback Machine, all of Mr. Cranky’s reviews are still accessible; if it ever comes to the Zombie Apocalypse and our electronic information vanishes, 100 of his most snarky reviews were published in a dead-tree edition. The reviews are interesting to peruse, especially the one-bomb category – if Cranky “hated a movie less than most,” it was usually guaranteed to be pretty good. That said, we didn’t always agree. The most scathing review he ever wrote was of “I am Sam,” and I thought that was a pretty tender film. (Note: Don’t read it if you either like the movie or have a sensitive soul.)

Nowadays, Rotten Tomatoes gives one a pretty good idea of which way the wind is blowing. A movie can have good critic reviews but be reviled by the general public, or vice versa. But for myself, it’s rare that I’ll read a review one way or another and decide to see or not see a movie based on critics’ opinions; I’ll generally give more credence to how the movie was received by viewers.

And in the end, like Mr. Cranky said, there are few movies that I don’t like on some level or other. Only rarely do I see a film and say at the end of it, “I want those two hours of my life back.” The last one to do that to both me and my wife was “The Lobster,” despite its 87% rating at RT, but an earlier one I actually took the time to write up myself at my Livejournal was “A Sound of Thunder;” my wife agreed.

Mercifully, those are few and far between.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ My opinions about food are, in the eyes of many people, questionable. Visit my Banquet from Hell for a taste.

If you’ve lost a dog.

Last time it was cats. Really, though, any of these items are appropriate sentiments for the loss of a furry companion, who worm their way into our lives and our hearts with love, devotion, and affection, and who leave huge voids when they leave (always, always, far too soon.)


The House Dog’s Grave
Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

I’ve changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you,
If you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you’d soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no,
All the nights through I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read‚
And I fear often grieving for me‚
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying.
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope that when you are lying
Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.

No, dears, that’s too much hope:
You are not so well cared for as I have been.
And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided…
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

This one is especially relevant to those who have had to make the most difficult decision.

The Last Battle

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
and pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this–the last battle–can’t be won.

You will be sad I understand,
Don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
What is to come can hold no fears
You’d not want me to suffer, so.
When the time comes, please let me go.

Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree
it is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.

Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close–we two–these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

Author Unknown

Dog - I had a wonderful time.jpg

Link to original

Lastly a few words about the quality of these very good bois and girls:

Quality

If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can get going without pep pills,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can overlook it when something goes wrong through no fault of yours and those you love take it out on you,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion or politics…

Then my friends, you are almost as good as your dog.

The Old Wolf cannot see or speak any more because someone is chopping lots of onions nearby.

If you’ve lost a cat

“To my dearest friend”

Cat Angel

I stood by your bed last night; I came to have a peep.
I could see that you were crying you found it hard to sleep.
I spoke to you softly as you brushed away a tear,
“It’s me, I haven’t left you, I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”

I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea,
You were thinking of the many times, your hands reached down to me.
I was with you at the shops today; your arms were getting sore.
I longed to take your parcels, I wish I could do more.

I was with you at my grave today; you tend it with such care.
I want to re-assure you, that I’m not lying there.
I walked with you towards the house, as you fumbled for your key.
I gently put my paw on you; I smiled and said, “it’s me.”

You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair.
I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there.
It’s possible for me, to be so near you everyday.
To say to you with certainty, “I never went away.”

You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew…
in the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you.
The day is over… I smile and watch you yawning
and say “good-night, God bless, I’ll see you in the morning.”

And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide,
I’ll rush across to greet you and we’ll stand, side by side.
I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see.
Be patient, live your journey out…then come home to me.

Author Unknown

I learned early in life that the only solace for the loss of a cat is to get another cat. Despite the incredible hole these little furry creatures leave in our hearts when they go away, as they must invariably do, those holes can be filled by others, as has happened many times in my life. The following poem addresses that reality.

Stray Cat

Oh, what unhappy twist of fate
Has brought you homeless to my gate?
The gate where once another stood
To beg for shelter, warmth and food.

For from that day I ceased to be
The master of my destiny.
While he, with purr and velvet paw
Became within my house the law.

He scratched the furniture and shed
And claimed the middle of my bed.
He ruled in arrogance and pride
And broke my heart the day he died.

So if you really think, oh Cat,
I’d willingly relive all that
Because you come forlorn and thin,
Well….don’t just stand there…
Come on in!

– Francis Witham

cat hole

The Old Wolf, who has loved many small creatures, has spoken (and shed many a tear.)

Nigerian Scammers Still At It in 2018

Received in my spam folder just today, but I’m astonished that the stupid and the criminal are still trying these tired old campaigns, hoping to ensnare the foolish or the desperate. Be careful out there.

Image result for nigerian scammer

The bad English [as soonest as you contacts her] is a dead giveaway. Talking about money (that doesn’t exist) is a dead giveaway. Never respond to solicitations like this. There is no “Chashier’s Cheque” waiting for you. Ever.

Av.Bernardino Caballero.
Casi Piribebuy Bo San Pablo .
Presidente Franco.
Tel: 00595-61-572263
Fax: 00595-61-574599.
PARAGUAY.

Dear Good Friend,

How are you doing today, I hope you haven’t forgotten me? I am Dr. Youssef Bakary, the former manager at the Bank of Africa (B.O.A) Bank in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso over there in West Africa, who has contacted you some time ago to assist me in order to secure the release of a deceased customer’s fund into your bank account.

Though, you weren’t able to assist me up to the conclusion stage in that transaction by then, I am very much happy to inform you about my success in getting the fund transferred under the assistance and co-operation of a new partner from Paraguay.

Presently, I am in Paraguay for investment projects with my share of the total sum.

Meanwhile, I didn’t forget your past efforts, and attempts to assist me on the transferring of the fund, and I makes sure that you aren’t left behind or out from the benefits of the transaction. Hence, I have kept aside for you the total sum of: $1,675,000.00 (One Million Six hundred, and seventy-five thousand, Usa-dollars) in the ‘CHASHIER’S CHEQUE’.

My new partner and I have agreed to compensate you with that above said amount for all your past efforts and attempt to assist me in that past successful matters. I have appreciated your kind efforts at that time very much, so feel very free to contact the bank’s secretary via her below email address, and the name of the secretary of the (B.O.A) is MRS. CAROLINA ILBOUDOU.

And make sure that you instructed her on how to send the ‘CHASHIER’S CHEQUE’ to you, and please do let me know immediately you receives the ‘CHASHIER’S CHEQUE’ so that we can share the joy together after all the stress at the past times.

At the moment, am very busy here in Paraguay because of the investment projects of which my partner and I were having at hands presently, and finally remember that I had left an instruction to the secretary of the (B.O.A) MRS. CAROLINA ILBOUDOU.

Therefore, as soonest as you contacts her for the said ‘CHASHIER’S CHEQUE’ to be sent to you, she will surely send the ‘CHASHIER’S CHEQUE’ to you. Below is the contact of the secretary of the (B.O.A) Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso over there in West Africa .

Contact this below person immediately for your cheque:-

MRS. CAROLINA ILBOUDOU.
Secretary of the (B.O.A),
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Email Address: (caro.ilboudouu@outlook.fr )

Yours good friend,
Dr. Youssef Bakary.

Edit 7/18/2017 – I thought I’d tweak these cretins a bit.

I responded in my usual manner:

Dem no born u reach, onioburu. U no fit comot face, just skip along. Mugu no chop my dollar, chop only black powder and death from Olumba Olumba Obu.

If you’re not up on Nigerian pidgin, this says, in effect, “Don’t even think about it, you gong-farmer. You’re not worthy of showing up in public, away with you. You fool, you won’t get my money – you’ll only get cursed by Olumba Olumba Obu.” (Obu was the founder of The Brotherhood of the Cross and Star (BCS), a religious organisation in Nigeria. Obu was believed to have miraculous powers.)

And hilariously, I got a response – clearly the scammers don’t even bother to read any return messages they receive.

Attention: 

Thank you for your prompt mail been received by me, and also as you have contacted me for your confirmable bank Cheque of $1.675,000.00 United States dollars only. I was in our bank’s reconciliation department with the Cheque to confirm if the Cheque has expired or getting near to the date of expiration, and Mrs. Mary Ouattara, the directress of the reconciliation department of our bank here told me that before the Cheque will get to your hand that it will expire as I don’t actually know the exact day and when you will contact me for your confirmable bank Cheque, because it has been more than two weeks which your partner left the Cheque with me.


Therefore, I quickly told Mrs. Mary Ouattara, the directress of the reconciliation department of our bank to cash the $
1.675,000.00 united states dollars, and she has converted it into a cash payment since one week now and this is to avoid losing this fund under expiration of the Cheque as your ex-partner who dropped the Cheque has travelled for business trip, and might not return back here again as he said, and according to my personal decision, I decided to send the cash payment to you through dhl courier company in a consignment packaged as an African Clothes box because I cannot keep those funds with me to avoid any suspicious from my Bank.  

What you have to do right now is to contact the dhl courier company as soon as possible to know when they will deliver your consignment to you, but make sure you did not disclose the content to dhl because I told dhl that the content is African Clothes.


You have to quickly contact the dhl courier company with your home address and telephone number for the delivery of your consignment to your door step, but do not allow DHL Company to discover those funds in your consignment because I registered your consignment as African Clothes’ content.


HERE IS THE DHL COURIER COMPANY CONTACTS

The Dhl Office Manager’s Name:  Josaine Sawadogo Zagre.
The Dhl Office Of The Manager’s Telephone Number:  +226 74 85 38 20.

The Dhl Customer’s Service Telephone Number +226 50 311947 or +226 50 335171.

The Dhl Courier Company’s Customer care Email Address: 
servicedhlbfouaga@gmail.com 
The Dhl Courier Company’s Web-Site:  
www.dhl.com/en/bf/country_profile.html

Note this is very clearly, the dhl courier company does not know the content of the box, I have registered it as a box of African Clothes, they don’t know that the content is money, and this is to avoid them delaying with the box from delivering.

Make sure that you follow up these above instructions carefully in order to get your package (your fund) delivered at your door step in your country.


Congratulations!!!. Good luck as well. Contact the dhl courier service company right now for your consignment (your fund).


I will send to you in my next email your consignment’s Certificate of Deposit which I received from DHL Burkina Faso on the day which I deposited your consignment in their custody.   


Contact them right now!!!


My best regards,

Mrs. Carolina Ilboudou.

Secretary of the Bank.

I wrote to the indicated address, saying “I am supposed to contact you regarding the consignment of a box.” I’ll report back if anyone responds.

Be very careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Asking for health advice is a slippery slope

Diet Dr Pepper has been my poison of choice for decades. I drink the stuff by the tanker-load. In fact, if I could do this, I probably would:

Dr Pepper Do It Right

The other day, I posted this on Facebook:

facebook

I elaborated:

I know I’d be healthier without sugar, aspartame, caffeine, or carbonation. Plain water gives me terrible heartburn. It’s a puzzlement. (Note: I’m already on an H2 blocker for the GERD, which keeps the fire mostly put out, but it tends to flare up during the day on occasion.)

There are reasons for wanting to make a change.

    1. Sugar: Sugary drinks contain about 10 teaspoons of sugar per 12 ounces, or about 150 calories. If I were to drink four or five of those each day, that’s an additional 600 to 750 calories a day on top of my normal caloric intake – and that adds up fast. I’m already about 30 pounds heavier than I would like to be, and I’d hate to tip the scales at over 300. Not only does it pack on the pounds, but it contributes to the development of insulin resistance via blood sugar spike and crash, and most of it comes in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is well-known for its deleterious health effects.
    2. Artificial sweeteners: My wife wants me to give up diet soda and switch to regular, claiming that Aspartame is worse for me than sugar. Scientifically, the jury is still out on that. The health-food world will tell you that it accumulates in your liver and takes six months to purge, or that it turns into formaldehyde above 86 degrees, or that it stimulates your appetite and makes you want to eat more, or a host of other very scary things. The FDA says its perfectly safe. Some of those claims have been soundly debunked, others are not so clear. Thus far, I’ve noticed no adverse effects [twitch twitch] other than those stubborn 30 pounds that don’t want to come off, so there may be something to that last one; the only two times I ever successfully released weight in my life, I had sworn off soda altogether.
    3. Caffeine: as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tea, coffee, alcohol, and tobacco are proscribed. But there’s an old joke that goes,

      “What’s the difference between an active Mormon and a lapsed Mormon? The temperature of their caffeine.”

      Caffeinated sodas are not officially taboo, although there are some in the Church who will tell you that you’re going to Hell if you enjoy the occasional Coke – these are the “Nazi Mormons.” But as much as I like that energy buzz, caffeine does tend to flog the adrenal glands, which can lead to adrenal fatigue syndrome. I know that I’d be better off without it.

    4. Carbonationbelch I love fizz. I find it refreshing. I was really hoping that YO₂ would become a commercial success, but apparently the rest of the nation didn’t resonate with the idea. 😢 The health buzz tells you that carbonation will leach calcium from your bones as it acidifies your bloodstream, but that claim has been largely debunked. If anything, it probably contributes some to my heartburn and some increased flatulence pfrrt. So if I were going to be 100% committed, carbonation would be off the menu as well.

Many people responded, and before anything I need to state that I’m grateful for their taking the time to share advice and suggestions. They did so (mostly) because they care – and I appreciate those sentiments. On the other hand, the value of some of those suggestions is questionable.

Three people took the opportunity to flog their multilevel products (and, concomitantly, business opportunities). One was iGalen’s “Emulin E”, made of skin of the grape, skin of the onion and green coffee, and gallic acid – claimed to be a “carbohydrate manager,” and very expensive. Two others recommended Prüvit, a costly ketogenic diet system. Both of these, in my assessment, are pure pseudoscientific woo, as are most multilevel health products. Also, in the MLM world, any time you can get someone to buy your products, you’re opening the door to recruiting them as a new distributor. I will give my friends credit for being truly concerned for my health, and for a firm belief that their products are God’s answer to everything that ails me, but there’s always that little bell ringing in the back of an independent distributor’s head that says 鴨が葱を背負って来る (kamo ga negi wo shotte kuru), a Japanese proverb that means “Here comes a duck bearing onions,” or rather, “Here comes a sucker ready to be parted from his money.” I drank that Kool Aid for far too long, which is the subject of another essay altogether.

Two people, despite my clarification, suggested switching to plain water. Either they didn’t read my comment, or ignored it. Yes, it’s really the healthiest solution, but clearly the most boring.

One suggested taking a cod liver oil pill or two for the heartburn, based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience. I’ve done that in the past, and it didn’t seem to help much.

One suggested a less sugar-intense cherry drink, since cherry (according to him) is an essential element of the Dr Pepper flavor. But even “soda light” will probably have more sugar than I want.

One suggested the new flavors of Diet Coke appearing on the market. I tried these and found them an improvement over plain Diet Coke, which tastes like panther piss. Another suggested Coke Zero, which I have drunk in the past and which is better than Diet Coke. But these are still diet soda with artificial sweeteners and caffeine.

A friend of mine who is a longtime resident of Japan suggested mugicha, or barley tea. According to him, it’s easy enough to make yourself if you have the ingredients. Lots of flavor, no sugar, caffeine, or carbonation. My first wife lived in Japan for a year and a half, and her endorsement of mugicha was less than ringing if I remember correctly. But it sounds like a good option to add to a repertoire of more healthful drinks, and I will definitely look into this one.

A cousin said, “A glass of wine cures everything!!! Oh I forgot you don’t drink!!!” I’d get some of Uncle Carlo’s fat black home-made wine as a kid (cut with water, of course) at my Italian grandmother’s home, and I definitely developed a taste for it. Darnit. I wish I could take her advice.

One long-time friend suggested Sprite Zero or Diet Sunkist. I’m sure they are tasty, but still diet sodas.

Two people suggested San Pellegrino, Perrier, or LaCroix. Things of this nature may be my ultimate solution, or at least an intermediate step.

One friend of long standing suggested lime juice in cold water, which helped him through soda withdrawal, and another suggested water with a dash of lemon juice as a less-boring alternative to plain water. Maybe. I’ve thought along these lines, but I’ve noticed that citrus tends to increase the heartburn.

Another colleague suggested rooibos tea, either hot or cold. No caffeine, many flavored varieties available. Definitely worth a look.

Two friends suggested a healthy soda that uses stevia. Not a bad idea, but in my experience stevia is just not very good tasting. I’m looking for something that makes me want more of it.

One friend suggested Dry Soda. Looked at their web page – it looks like it has potential, but does not seem available anywhere close to where I live.

Another colleague suggested kombucha. I have reservations about this one. A physician at the poison control center wrote, “There are no scientific studies to support the many health claims made for kombucha tea. There are many reasons to be concerned about the safety of kombucha tea, despite its long history of traditional use.” Probably a pass, especially because kombucha can be mildly alcoholic and is often combined with green or black tea.

A knitting colleague suggested iced herbal teas. A good possibility, since there are so many flavors that I already enjoy, including peppermint, chamomile, and numerous blends.

The last suggestion was chai. Sadly, this one is out for me because of the Word of Wisdom.

Trying to find something that has neither lots of sugar, artificial sweetener, caffeine, or carbonation – something that tastes good – has proven to be a challenge. Right now, I’ve found some nice flavored seltzers at Hannaford that are refreshing and tasty. I’ll live with the carbonation issue for now. I might even consider getting a spritz bottle like I had in Austria in the 70s with those little CO₂ cartridges, but those aren’t cheap. Whatever I drink has got to be cold – that’s part of the deal. So at work, a thermos full of something good will hopefully help me stay away from the vending machines.

I’ll report back as time goes on if I find something really spiffy.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Yahoo Mail “Upgrade” scam

Found this in my mailbox just today, although it arrived last week.

Scam

The “Upgrade Now” link leads to “https://ravenbiotech.com/oluwamide/yahoo/image.htm,” but the link is now dead. Raven Biotech is a legitimate firm, but some scumbag somewhere managed to get onto their server and add the malicious page – probably designed as a phishing scam or drive-by malware downloading.

Never click on links in emails. Notice where the link goes by hovering your mouse over the link, and then visit the page directly.

If you’re not sure an email is valid, contact the company by phone.

Never provide sensitive banking, financial, or password information on the internet if you don’t know who you are dealing with. Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

A Mystery Shopper Scam

Be very careful out there.

Despite assurances from the Gummint that the economic crash of 2008 is over, a lot of people are still unemployed or underemployed and are looking for ways to make a living.

Here’s a scam that I followed up with via email, just to see what’s involved. It turns out to be a new twist on the old “bogus check” scam, but this one is very well-crafted and could fool a lot of people who are not suspicious.

This is the letter I received from “Customer Impact” in Bryan, Texas:

Scam letter

Notice all the “Endorsements”… naturally all bogus. Enclosed was this evaluation form for the “Mystery Shopper” jobs:

scam form

And lastly, the bogus check. There is no such company, the check is simply printed out on a commercial form, and if you cash it and send any money to the scammers for whatever reason, your money is gone and you could be prosecuted for passing fraudulent documents. It’s happened.

scam check

NEVER send money via Western Union or Money Card or other means to someone you do not know. Just don’t.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.