The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fast Food Nation

I'm not one of these "blame America for all the world's ails" types. But every now and then, I have a moment of clarity where it becomes abundantly clear to me why rest of the world hates America right now. And last week, I had one of those moments when I came across Taco Bell's advertising campaign for something it calls "the fourth meal. "

The ad campaign in question references Taco Bell's recent decision to extend its operating hours until 1:00, in an effort to lure the 18-34 crowd to eat its fourth meal of the day there. Now before I go off, I'm well aware that corporations will be corporations and that the firm's main goal is profits and not necessarily the well-being of its customers. I also understand the logistics of being in college stoned at 12:30 a.m., praying that Taco Bell is still open. In fact, I understand said logistics prolly a little bit better than I should.

But seriously, a fourth meal? I'm not even gonna' cite the "there are people starving in Africa" card because it's too obvious. But when the obesity rate of Americans is an obviously disturbing and growing trend (30 percent of adult Americans are considered obsese and 16 percent of children) it's unconscionable that Taco Bell would undertake such a campaign. The last thing Americans need is a fourth meal.

I'm not trying to preach or moralize, but rather point out the fact that it says a lot about American culture right now that we're supposedly at war, yet consumerism seems more rampant than ever. During World War II and WWI, Americans were forced to ration most material goods, and in George Bush's America of 2006, the idea of any sort of sacrifice is considered by most to be patently absurd.

Now I was against the idea of those McDonald's obesity lawsuits because if you're going to McDonald's you should know damn well that it's not good for you. But at least McDonald's never started an ad campaign telling Americans to disregard hundreds of years of three meal-a-day eating patterns to eat even more junk food. The sad thing is, I have no doubt that the ad campaign will inevitably work.

Still, it feels more than a little offensive that Taco Bell would be so blatant and so crass in their appeals. Sure, it's pretty easy for me to lob shots at big corporations like so many other bloggers do, but then again it also seems pretty easy to picture being impoverished and and knowing that one of the biggest corporations in the world actively wants to make a real problem even worse. In 100 years when historians will inevitably study early 21st Century American life, trying to analyze our zeitgeist, I think Taco's Bell ad campaign would be a good as a place to start as any. (well...that or the fact that Paris Hilton's song is actually getting major radio play) Perhaps then, Taco Bell will have moved on to ads for its 5th meal of the day.

In other less self-righteous news, Chappelle's Show finally concluded it's so-called "Lost Episodes," on Sunday night and as you've probably read elsewhere, the sketches were mostly a mixed-bag. But when the sketches did click, they were as good as the best that Chappelle had ever done. And out of any of them, the second half of last night's episode held up as exceptionally strong. The L'il Jon in love sketch was hilarious, but the last skit in particular was incredibly effective and a little sad.

For those who didn't see it, it chronicles Dave's first meeting with "Showbiz," which basically serves as an analog for The Wizard from The Wizard of Oz. During the meeting, Showbiz asks Dave what he wants to do now that he's become famous and what not. Dave informs him that he'd like to maintain his integrity and essentially keep it real. To which, Showbiz laughs at him and says " you are as funny as they say you are."

Soon after, Showbiz tells Dave how he needs to become a pitchman and get his own cereal, complete with a cheesy Saturday morning-esque commercial with a little white girl who screams "I'm rich bitch," after eating a bite.

The sketch itself was funny, but more than that it seemed to provide the best window yet into Chappelle's pre-departure psyche. I've tried to reserve my final judgment on Chappelle's decision to leave the show until I'd seen the last of these episodes. With that in mind, I think ultimately Chappelle made the right decision.

Clearly, the way in which he handled leaving the show was wrong. It was immature and hopefully it won't torpedo his career, because he still remains one of the funniest people in America. However, that final sketch clearly illustrated Chappelle's desire to maintain his creative integrity at all costs. It's all too rare for someone to turn down vast sums of money in exchange for their pride. The man clearly didn't want to put out lackluster work, nor did he want to exploit his newfound fame. And for that, he should be commended, not maligned.

I can think of about a million reasons to hate Entourage: it glorifies things that shouldn't be glorified, it can be wildly unrealistic and the characters often border on being complete stereotypes. And yet somehow, it remains the most watchable show on television. Now I've never described myself as an Entourage fan, the first season is one of the most overrated things I've ever seen and the only likable characters on the show are Turtle and Drama, but overall the show somehow manages to almost always stay afloat and for that it deserves praise, especially considering it seemed adrift at times earlier this season.

At several times thus far, I've thought that the writers were on the verge of digging themselves into holes too deep to recover from: the obnoxious Dom character, the fact that they think that a guy like E could manuever his way into a three-some with two incredibly gorgeous women, the fact that charisma-deficient Vince turned into the biggest movie star on the planet.

However, just when they're about to go too far, the program always shifts course and stays interesting. Vince's decision not to do Aquaman 2, a plotline inevitably borrowed from Tobey Maguirre's almost-decision to opt out of the Spiderman sequels, is a great storyline. It serves to make the Vince character more likable than he should be and will allows the writers to keep suspense high. With Vince as the king of Hollywood, the only place they could've gone was down. But with his decision to pick art over commerce, they've succesfully complexified the character and kept the audience guessing. The show will never be an Arrested Development, a Seinfeld, or a Colbert Report, but it's always engaging. And for a television show, I couldn't ask for much more.

So I caught the big Flaming Lips, Thievery Corporation, Os Mutantes show at the Hollywood Bowl and thought about doing a full review before thinking better of it. Personally, I'm not all that vested in any of these bands and writing a long-winded review of it would bore me to write probably even more than it would bore you to read. But as I've never seen the Flaming Lips before, the show definitely left me pretty impressed. All the Flaming Lips gimmickry: Dancing Santas, Wayne Coyne in a bubble, streamers, confetti, balloons, the works, may be played out for some, but it was pretty cool to see for the first

If you haven't already seen the Lips, I highly recommend it. Their live show is easily one of the most original I've ever seen. I understand that this isn't 1992 so most of my readers are well aware of the Lips, but after having long found them overrated, I've finally began to understand the hype, even if Wayne Coyne's voice is shot.

The set list skewed heavily towards songs from their recent At War With The Mystics album, with a little Yoshimi and even less Soft Bulletin, but nonetheless, the crowd atmosphere remained one of the most buoyant I've ever seen. It's not the easiest task in the world to get tens of thousands Angelenos hyped and frenzied, but throughout the band's hour plus set, the Lips turned the Hollywood Bowl into a massive party, full of gargantuan white balloons being batted towards you and waving neon blue, purple and green glow-sticks. It might have been a little dumb, it might have clearly epitomized one person's explanation that due to the "Lips' overt whimsy and live spectacle, they caught a lot of Phish fans on the rebound," but the Lips live were pretty much impossible not to like.

If I had any complaints, it was that the set was much too short. Any band with a catalogue like The Lips should play longer than an hour and 15 minutes. Plus, just one encore seemed a little lazy, especially considering the show was supposedly being taped for a live DVD. Additionally, their insistence on playing mostly new stuff felt pretty lame, especially compared to Belle and Sebastian, the last act I'd seen at the bowl, who played nearly exclusively older material.

Other than that, my final complaint was that whether they want to or not, the Flaming Lips have an obligation to play "She Don't Use Jelly." I don't care if they're sick of it. I don't care if it's the only song that only non-Flaming Lips fans know. The bottom line is that if the song was good enough to get Steve Sanders to declare "I've never been a big fan of alternative music but these guys rock," after the Lips played the Peach Pit After Dark, than it should be good enough for the fans at the Hollywood Bowl.

On a related note, I wonder what kind of music Steve Sanders typically was a fan of. He always struck me as an EMF or a Jesus Jones sort of guy.

You Set the Scene, also wrote up a review of the show, which he found disappointing. He's certainly been to a whole lot more Lips shows than me so we were definitely approaching the performance from different angles. Read his take here.


At 10:55 PM, Blogger CrimeNotes said...

Did you read Fast Food Nation? I've eaten at one Burger King in the last four years, when I was stuck in an airport snowstorm and couldn't get home. You'll never feel like you need to hesitate before shredding these chains.

Plus, a bunch of my friends worked at Taco Bell when I was in high school. They put so many body fluids in the food that I can't touch the stuff.

On Entourage: I've generally hated this show. Nothing ever happens. It's about dudes high-fiving each other when they buy TVs and shirts. But this season has actually had plots and conflicts. Ari's the only character I find interesting, but in contrast to earlier years, I think it's watchable.

At 11:07 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I've read parts of it, the writer actually went to Occidental but was much older than me. It was definitely horrifying. And I didn't even want to get mention the fact that Taco Bell has poured more money into right wing causes than any company outside of Domino's. It's founder was to the right of Attila the Hun (though the current scion of the family is now a major donor to liberal causes). Just figured it was a diff topic altogether.

At 2:08 AM, Blogger Douglas Reinhardt said...

It's like I told a friend the other day. The worst episode of "Chappelle" is about ten times funnier than the best episode of that Carlos Mencia show.

I've seen the Flaming Lips and it was one of my greater moments in life and that's probably why I'll never see them again. Won't be as good.

On Shadow's new album for a moment, I just never thought DJ Shadow would try to be trendy and want to be like RJD2 really bad. Shadow made an RJD2 album

At 2:13 AM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I've been meaning to write a fake news post for the last three weeks entitled: World's Least Funniest Man Challenges Carlos Mencia to a Stand-Up competition. Sadly, I had nowhere to go from there, other than to continually repeat that Carlos Mencia might actually be the least funny human being ever. Rosie O' Donnell does not count in this competition however.

At 2:42 AM, Anonymous silawe said...

I counted and figured out that I have seen the Flaming Lips over 20 times the last, well over many years. More than I care to admit. Of all the bands I have loved no band compares to them. I have shown them nothing but complete love and loyalty.(even when Wayne's brother was in the band and they were kinda terrible.)
Sadly last night will probably be the last time I will ever see them.
You could not be more right about there song selections. In addition to She Don't Use Jelly they should have played Waitin' For A Superman which was their first hit in the U.K. and topped the college charts here.
If you could have only seen them touring with Dinosaur Jr. or when they did the cassette tape shows.
The good ole days.

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous ill zill said...


There is one human being who is actually LESS funny than Carlos Menica, Colin Quinn and Adam Sandler post "Big Daddy."


Please do a post on Jimmy Fallon and his inability to make it through an entire Will Ferrell sketch without cracking up on live TV. Also, you can include his unfunny, unmusical music/comedy album. And how he was able to get on the field with Drew Barrymore in St. Louis when the Red Sox won the World Series. He is the least deserving "funny celebrity" of all time.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Ty said...

I would argue that Taco Bell is doing a service to weight concious Americans everywhere. It is widely accepted that to lose weight a person is better served eating 4-6 small meals throughout the day rather than the standard 3-meal lineup. They are simply packaging that sound nutritional advice in a way that appeals to the younger generation, the kids who are "too cool" to listen to a traditional nutritionist.

As our fine Pres. Bush points out, it is irresponsible to judge the success or failure of any given campaign in its own time. Mark my words, in 100 years historians will declare Taco Bell as the single most effective force in slimming down America and democratizing the Middle East.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Sylvia, the fact that you wrote the words "you could not have been more right" on my blog...warms my heart. I can't wait until I discuss my love for the Golden Smog album and perhaps actually go two for two in your book in correct opinions. I wish I had seen the Lips back in the day, I finally understood the big deal about the band. i think to be fully appreciate that band it's imperative to see them live.

Zill: While Fallon is inarguably one of the last funny people on the planet, he still beats Mencia by the pitcher's duel of 1-0, meaning he was only funny one time ever: those old Nomah red sox sketches were pretty good. Then again, I'm always a sucker for making fun of Red Sox fans.

TY: As always you are correct. I'm completely wrong, Taco Bell is doing its part to spur the economy by providing even more service jobs. Obviously, they're just doing their part to keep unemployment low while blue-collar and relatively high paying manufacturing jobs go overseas. Thank you Taco Bell and thank you again Ty for your sage advice.

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Sandro said...

Weiss...I can clearly recall one time at college when we were looking for a Taco Bell in Glendale after the Talib-Kweli show, and we were both greatly dissapointed when we showed up 30 minutes too late. Problem solved!!! The fourth meal has arriveddd!!!

At 2:38 PM, Anonymous miss s. said...

well leave it all to stupid andy dick to ruin the lips show - i saw them at jimmy kimmel last night and wayne profusely apologized for the shortness of the set - apparently andy dick is helping with their dvd and caused a rucus and made them re shoot some scenes - probably because he is a stupid moron. yeah i'm sure that's it... And that's why they didn't play 'She Don't Use Jelly' but they made up for it last night by playing that as well as some other delights.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Sandro do you not remember that I found us a 24 hour Taco Bell that night and our prayers were answered. The one on Glendale Ave. Natch


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