Archive | November, 2010

Ch-Ch-Ch- Chia!

30 Nov

November 30, 2010

The Chia Pet.

Everyone knows them , but does anyone actually own them? Have you ever seen anyone with a Chia Pet in their home? I haven’t.

And what actually is “chia”? It is a species of sprout in the mint family that is still used in Central and South America for some recipes. In North America, we know better than to eat anything that grows out of Mr. T’s head.

The Chia Pet was invented in Mexico, which on the one hand seems to explain everything, but on the other doesn’t quite explain enough. Meanwhile, the government has been so busy debating immigration from Mexico that it has totally ignored importation from Mexico. I think we can all agree, this has to be stopped. Enough already. I am sure that there are plenty of cheaply made crappy American products that can clog up store shelves rather than these things.

But really, who doesn’t love Chia Pets?

OK, I meant that rhetorically. NO ONE loves Chia Pets. No one wants Chia Pets and no one gives Chia Pets. OK, somebody is buying them. But who?

  • The slacker shopping for presents at Rite Aid the hour before Christmas.
  • The guy at the car wash on his way to see his kids for his court ordered visitation and who thinks he shouldn’t show up empty-handed.
  • The woman on her yearly visit to her aunt in the nursing home.
  • I don’t know.

I don’t get it.

Looked at as a statue, they are pretty silly looking. The original Chia Pet was a sort of four legged barrel that looked vaguely like a farm animal but they called it ram. That may pass for art in Mexico but here it looks like something your six year old niece made in art class and gave you for your birthday.  Looked at as a houseplant, they sort of look like weeds. Looked at as food, there must be something wrong with you, though I suppose a housecat might not mind munching on one. If you showed up for a blind date and saw that her house was decorated with Chia Pets, you’d run.

If the Chia Pet had remained stuck in the 80’s there might be a kitsch factor, but they’ve continued to update those things, right up to today, so they’ve taken away any nostalgia factor there may have been.

Here, courtesy of Wikipedia which is good for stuff like this but lousy for important stuff, like facts, is the list of Chia things:

1982 Wave 1 — Original Chia Pet (later called Chia Ram) introduced.
198x Wave 2 — Chia Bull, Chia Puppy, Chia Kitten, and Chia Tree introduced.
1993 Wave 3 — Chia Bunny, Chia Turtle, and Chia Herb Garden introduced.
1995 Wave 4 — Chia Pig, Chia Frog, Chia Hippo, and original Chia Head (later called Chia Guy) introduced. Chia Ram and Chia Bull discontinued.
1996 Wave 5 — Chia Elephant, Chia Kid, Chia Professor, Chia Clown and Chia Terra Cotta Herb Garden introduced. Chia Herb Garden discontinued.
1998 Wave 6 — Chia Cow and Chia Lion Cub introduced.
2000 Wave 7 — Chia Dinosaur, Chia Elmer Fudd, Chia Taz, and Chia Tweety introduced. “Watch-Me-Grow Chia Cards” included. Chia Mr. T issued briefly for TV Land promotion.
2002 Wave 8 — Chia Scooby-Doo, Chia Shaggy, and Chia Homer introduced. “Watch-Me-Grow Chia Cards” discontinued.
2003 Wave 9 — Chia Bugs Bunny, Chia Daffy Duck, and Chia Bart introduced.
2004 Wave 10 — Chia Shrek, Chia Donkey, Chia Garfield, Chia Cat Grass Planter featuring Sylvester and Tweety, and Gourmet Chia Herb Garden introduced. Chia Terra Cotta Herb Garden discontinued.
2006 Wave 11 — Chia Bear, Chia Alex and Chia Marty introduced, Chia Ram and Chia Bull reintroduced, Chia Kid, Chia Clown and Chia Lion Cub retired, Chia Alarm Clock included with all Chia Pets, Chia Heads and Chia Tree, Cuddly Chia Puppy and Cuddly Chia Cub introduced.
2007 — Pack-ins expanded to include Mini Chia Cuddly and Chia Watch.
2008 Wave 12 — Chia Po, Chia Tree with Star Light, and Chia Cat Grass Planter featuring “snoozing kitty” introduced. Chia Ram, Chia Bull, Chia Turtle, Chia Bear, Chia Elmer Fudd, Chia Bugs Bunny, Chia Daffy Duck, Chia Tree, Cuddly Chia Puppy, and Cuddly Chia Cub discontinued. Pack-ins include Mini Chia Cuddly and Chia Playing Cards. Chia Obama “Determined” and Chia Obama “Happy” released in April 2009, after normal selling season.
2009 Wave 13 — Chia SpongeBob, Chia Washington, Chia Lincoln, and Chia Liberty with Torch Light introduced. Chia Obama “Determined” added to normal production and selling season. Chia Turtle discontinued. Pack-in items in normal Chia Pets discontinued.

Here is their latest ad:

“The Special Edition Proud to be American (made in Mexico) Chia Series.”

What better way to honor the founding of our nation with a Chia George Washington? (He was, of course, famous for his wooden teeth and houseplant hair.) Or the freeing of the slaves with a Chia Lincoln featuring nappy Chia hair? (And why not a chia beard while they were at it?) And a Chia Statue of Liberty? This is what our immigrant forefathers dreamed of seeing when they came to America?

(There are also a pair of Chia Obamas which I modestly decline to comment upon, out of fear of insulting the Chia.)

Somehow, these things are big sellers. Are they all just given as gag gifts? Lousy Secret Santa presents? Stocking stuffers for people you don’t like? I don’t see the appeal of a small bust of an orange dinosaur with green grass growing out of his head sitting on my shelf.

It is also worth noting that the same company makes The Clapper.

Here is the original Clapper ad in which the old woman seems to clap off her pacemaker:

In 2011, watch for the Chia Mr. Blog, which points and laughs at you as it grows.

A Little Bit of Skinner (4)

28 Nov

November 29, 2010

Our November series of A Little Bit of Skinner wraps with another story chosen by the author himself. Remember, if you’ve only read these stories, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet, as all of the Flash Pulp tales are available as audio downloads in iTunes. Check ’em out for yourself. Click on the links below and see what everyone else has been talking about. Don’t be left out! I WILL tease you.

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Seventy-One.

Tonight, we present Sgt. Smith and The Last Stop, Part 1 of 1


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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the ranting of Captain Pigheart.

Thrill to the dangerous incompetence of his crew; swoon at his romance with anything that will have him; cackle gleefully at the results of both.

Buy the tales, as told by the Captain himself at CD Baby.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, we present a letter, as written by the hand of Sgt. Smith, telling of one strange evening, and a stranger encounter.

Flash Pulp 071 – Sgt. Smith and The Last Stop, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


It was 1944, and there was a war on, but, as you know, I was forced to abstain from the service of my country, as I was short my tongue. Still, there are things a man can do to help his nation, and I was willing to do them. I probably wouldn’t have been so eager if I’d known your Ma at the time, but in those days the life of a mute wasn’t always the easiest, and, being 16, I was slightly stupid with my need to make a place in the world.

That’s how I found myself riding the rails. The age of the hobo was coming to an end, some would say it already had, I guess, but you could still find old timers hopping trains and coasting from sea to sea, if you looked hard enough at the shadows.

I was supposed to be watching the cargo cars for Japanese saboteurs, of which there never were any as far as I can tell, but every now and again I’d stumble across some gray whiskered fellow in patchwork pants, usually with a bottle under his arm.

The night I met Yancy and Poke was a cold one – I’d spent some of it chatting away in the caboose, keeping close to the heater, but I was young and hardy, and my duties weighed heavy even if I’d done the rounds a hundred times previous without turning up so much as a kimono or plate of sushi.

Yancy and Poke weren’t Nipponese, obviously, I doubt they’d ever had a home address beyond America-in-general.

They’d crammed themselves between a double stack of crates, and when I first came across them, I thought they were doing something mighty inappropriate.

“Hey – what’a’you doin’ in there?” I thought, pinning them with the flashlight the railroad had handed me. It was years later that I realized just how lucky I was that no one pitched me from the train during those dark hours.

Poke was lying across Yancy’s lap, and, over the rattle of the tracks, I could hear one of them crying and one of them dying in slow rasps.

Yancy probably couldn’t make out my face over the glare of the light; with the look on his own, I figure he must have thought he’d been caught up by a hardliner railroad dick.

“Mister, mister, please, my friend, he ain’t gonna make it much longer, just let us ride.”

Well; I had a whistle, and I had my flashlight, but those were about the only options the company had given me. I couldn’t speak to tell him I’d give him a pass, and blowing the whistle would have brought Old Mike up from the caboose with his clobbering stick at the ready.

I pulled out my notepad and scratched a quick message, but Yancy only looked at the paper in despair – you don’t find yourself having to hop freight because of a great education.

I didn’t have much else to offer them, but I felt bad – Poke was obviously in rough shape, his face was a mess of bruise and hard life, and I didn’t want to just flip off the light and leave them to the dark.

I dug out the last thing I had in my pockets: a Kit Kat chocolate bar I’d been saving as supper. I snapped off two of the ridges and handed them to Yancy.

The next few hours were a life’s worth of learning. I mimed my silent disposition to Yancy, who introduced himself and his companion, and he had no problem accepting it. To fill the time, he started talking, and I’d long finished my half of the meager meal before I realized the hour.

He told me of his travels with Poke; about the cities they’d seen built and fall apart, the moonshine they’d drunk together, even about the small town cop who’d beaten Poke to an inch of his life, ending their journeys.

Maybe it was the kindness I’d shown him that made him tell me, maybe it was the fact that he himself was not long behind Poke for the Lord’s judgement – either way, he let slip where they were headed, and that he needed to watch out for the great gnarled Douglas-fir with only the eastern portion of its limbs that would soon be after the down-slope of McClucthie’s hill.

It’s hard to say how, but before I knew it, the three of us were at the open door, and, as the engine began to grind around the sloping grade that marked the bottom of the incline; as we spotted that huge and awful tree; the three of us jumped.

I don’t know how Yancy had planned on carrying Poke along the path through the underbrush, if it hadn’t been for my flashlight and youthful exuberance I’m not sure either of us could have managed it. As it was, after an hour of pushing aside the thick green, we came across a hillock in a clearing, on top of which sat a low fire with a lone man huddled close.

I hadn’t fully believed what the hobo had been telling me back in the rail-car, but seeing that beacon set my body trembling. The patchwork man tending the flame didn’t bother to look up as we passed, and Yancy wasn’t willing to stop after getting so close.

There wasn’t a free place to rest my light that didn’t touch on bleached white bones or rotting flesh. I hadn’t smelled anything on the approach; Yancy had told me the wind always blows westward over what he called the hobo graveyard.

Some of the dead had signs on their chest; names or dates or scratched final messages; some had died sitting; some had taken the time to lay themselves down with arms crossed.

After a while of strolling through that open air sepulcher, I flipped off my light.

Some things are best left little seen.

I didn’t know where we were going, but Yancy led on. After a time he sat himself down, then motioned for me to rest Poke – who’d been limping along on my shoulder, muttering deliriously about his mother – beside him.

Yancy shook my hand, and I turned to leave them to it, trying hard to focus on the firelight as I picked my way back. I grabbed a ladder onto the next train to slow for the grade, and, once I got to the yard, I spun a tale to Old Mike that I’d fallen overboard after a lurch.

I’ve never seen a newspaper report mentioning the hoard of bones and bodies, and I’ve often wondered whatever happened to that self-made cemetery. Did the last man pick up a shovel and lay them all under?

At Eighty-Two I’m unlikely to sneak onto an iron horse to find out, and I’ve a terrible feeling I’d just find a subdivision with no history anyhow. Still, sometimes, when the wind blows to the west, I find myself wondering, and my legs longing to ramble.


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