When conspicuous consumption becomes ridiculous consumption

I’d never heard of the website Defector until a few days ago, and didn’t realize that a gentleman named Drew Magary has been creating a hilarious annual “Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog” for several years now.

So thanks to my friend Daniele for putting the 2020 Hater’s Guide on my radar.

From the Defector website – Illustration by Jim Cooke

It is, hands down, the funniest piece I’ve read all year. Bitingly sarcastic, and laugh-out-loud (yes, an actual LOL!) funny.

The language is a bit salty, but Williams-Sonoma has earned every curse word with their exorbitantly priced wares.

Look again at that price. Now lemme add a few more gratuitous exclamation points. A H!!!U!!NDRED G!ODD!!!AMN D!!!!OLL!!!ARS!!!!!!! For a box of Hungry Jack, a squeeze bottle, a spatula, an obligatory tartan tchotchke, and some goddamn syrup. Now I’m a pancake enthusiast, so I know that the market for pure maple syrup is highly volatile. But for $100, I could drive to Vermont and tap a maple tree MYSELF to get the goods.


Read it and weep – because you’ll be laughing so hard you’ll be crying.

BTW, my exhaustive research (i.e. typing “Defector website” into DuckDuckGo’s search box) has revealed that Defector is a bunch of… defectors from Deadspin.

The Tom Petty Diet

You hear a lot about “eating clean” these days.

But what are you feeding your brain? Check out this clip from the Broken Record podcast — it’s an episode with Tom Petty’s daughter Adria, and she talks about how her dad fed his brain and nourished his soul:

I love that clip! First of all, I love Tom Petty, and I think this clip helps explain how he was able to continue to make great music for 40 years.

“He would feed the well with only this really, really good information, and take all the rest away. He didn’t really take a lot of noise and negativity into his diet.”

Adria Petty, talking about her father Tom

[Semi-sidebar: The Broken Record podcast is great if you’re a music fan. You’ll find interviews with established artists like Bruce Springsteen and Santana, and up-and-coming artists like S.G. Goodman and Deep Sea Diver. If you’re a Tom Petty fan, you’ll love the episode with Adria, as well as the interviews with Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. Check it out.]

Even if you’re not an aspiring rock star, there’s a lot to learn from TP on how to “eat clean” for your mind, your heart and your soul. It’s way too easy to binge on empty calories… endlessly snacking (or doomscrolling) on tweets, spending hours at the all-you-can-eat Facebook buffet, sucking down pop culture listicles, stuffing yourself with “reality” TV, bellying up to the 24/7 news bar. There are countless temptations that can consume endless hours of your time on earth, and they mostly just weigh you down with “noise and negativity” as Adria put it.

Instead, take a cue from Tom Petty, and read a good book, watch a classic movie or a documentary, listen to some great music.

If you eat clean, you’ll feel better.

Wally-World… or zero degrees of separation

40 years ago, the movie Stripes started shooting in Louisville, Kentucky. And my buddy Walter was in it – he shot a scene with Bill Murray.

Walt’s scene is one of the first ones in the movie – he and another kid get in Bill Murray’s cab, then run away without paying the fare when they reach their destination.

White pants were “in” back in 1980!

A TV station is Louisville published some archival footage of the 1980 news story about the movie production. Wally’s interviewed in this clip:

You’d think that brush with stardom would be enough for one person. But no, that’s not how Walter rolls. You see, when Wally was just a wee lad, his parents were close friends with another family that had a son a year or two older than Walter. Kid’s name was Tom. Tom Cruise. I hear he turned out to be quite the party boy in high school.

Walter has a picture of him and Tom Cruise together, from Wally’s 6th birthday party.

Walter also was a high school football star in Louisville. And he’s been an attorney, a teacher, a football coach, and a border patrol agent. He’s packed a lot of action into his 56 years.

Ol’ Willie Shakes is right, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”… but in my next life, I want Walter’s agent.

He had all the answers

Alex Trebek passed away Sunday. We all know him as the longtime host of Jeopardy. But we old timers also remember him as the host of The Wizard of Odds and High Rollers.

Comedians have been parodying him for decades.

I’ll admit, I took some shots at him… to me, he sometimes came across as pompous or condescending. I thought “heck, it’s easy to be a know-it-all when you have all the answers written down in front of you.”

But I do think he softened up over time. And think about this: every show was different, and featured more than 60 clues, across all sorts of categories. Alex really had to know his stuff – and he used his voice and diction more than any other host in game show history. Every word of every clue mattered.

Pat Sajak can phone it in on Wheel of Fortune, because every show is rather rote. If you’ve hosted one Wheel, you’ve hosted ’em all. In fact, that show could arguably go on without a host. But Alex Trebek had to know the categories, the clues, the pronunciation, he had to do math on the fly for daily double wagers… he made it seem easy, but there was a lot of prep work involved.

Like there’s no Tom Tomorrow

Yes, I’m a 55-year-old man who still loves reading comic strips. And I’m not ashamed of that at all. (Mainly because I don’t read the crappy strips like Marmaduke. I have more discerning tastes.)

If you think comics are for kids, I suggest you read the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

This Modern World, a weekly political comic strip by Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins), is consistently funny and thought-provoking — a tough combo to pull off.

I used to read This Modern World in the local alternative weekly until budget cuts caused the paper to drop it. Now I subscribe to Sparky’s List, Tom Tomorrow’s subscription-based weekly email that includes the weekly strip as well as some notes about the work and other musings on life. It’s $10 for six months – a bargain at twice the price. If you don’t care to spare the ten spot, you can check out each week’s strip Mondays on the Daily Kos or Tuesdays on The Nib.

Make fun of me all you want for reading the funny papers. I don’t care, I’m still gonna read ’em. You may think it’s a waste of time, but I sure don’t.

Ladies’ man

It’s been several weeks since Carl Reiner passed away, but I recently read a brief blurb in Parade Magazine (of all places!) by comedian Judy Gold that highlighted something I’d never really considered before: the fact that he wrote a part in The Dick Van Dyke Show for a female writer on the fictional TV show within the show.

Just one more reason to love — and respect — this titan of comedy.

(The full Judy Gold feature is here. She has a new book out called Yes I Can Say That and also makes several other reading recos.)

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