Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Papaya Queen and the 2008 Presidential Campaign

It isn't too early to start thinking about the 2008 Presidential campaign, and at Papaya Queen the discussions are already underway. In 2004 we endorsed Joe Lieberman -- "Connecicut's Great Democrat." When he lost in the primary we endorsed Kerry. In 2000 we endorsed Bill Bradley before he lost to Al Gore in the primary, then endorsed Al Gore. Before that, Papaya Queen endorsed Paul Tsongas, Michael Dukakis, and George McGovern. Those we the old days, though, and the new management wants to back a winner. Part of the idea is to be able to post a sign that says "Papaya Queen picks a winner and packs a great weiner." They are thus discussing the idea of backing McCain on the idea that he might actually win. I think that this is part and parcel of the "anything-to-make-a-buck" mentality that is sweeping America. Getting behing a Presidential winner early is big business, but to me it's a matter of principle. The Papaya Queen hot dog is the purest, most unadulterated food known to man, and it should make no compromise when it comes to core principles. Hot dogs are for libertarians and our politics should be too. McCain could win, but so could Clinton or Bloomberg or Edwards. The person being overlooked in all of this is Jerry Brown. He has demonstrated his electability and the time is clearly right for a comeback. Brown has been into the store before and takes his dogs with both mustard and onions -- a delicious choice, and a choice free from government intervention.

Hawaiian Crickets and the Death of New York Radio

People who know me know that I have very few possessions. I own two books, watch no television, and spend several hours each day meditating of practicing Yoga. When I have free time, I listen to the radio. One of the striking things about radio in New York City is that modern rock is almost absent from the scene. One can hear pop and hip hop on Z-100 and classic rock on 104.3, but K-Rock is now all talk. WPLJ is the only station where one has even the faintest chance of hearing Gwen or any of the other modern bands that I enjoy including Green Day, The Arcade Fire, and the Foo Fighters. This is great music -- with Gwen and No Doubt -- the greatest, of course, and people love it. The question is: where has it gone?

The answer in today's paper is suggested by the recent history of Hawaiian crickets. Male crickets on Kauai have a problem: their distinctive chirp can attract a parasitic fly. Their numbers declined throughout the 1990s, when this parasite first arrived on the scene. Recently, though, they have been surging and the reason is that the males have lost the protiberance that creates the clicking sound. This is a great illustration of something Professor Skinny taught me at Columbia: nature works fast. The crickets evolved in less than 20 generations.

Radio isn't so nimble. It takes time to change formats. And while DNA encourages (or dictates) that organisms take all kinds of chances -- because even if one fails it is of benefit to the group -- stations are more risk averse. There might very well be a market for an all-Gwen station -- I am quite sure there would be -- but the chance is too great. Given that talk radio is tried and true, the station managers are assured of a consistent if not overwhelming return without the risk of venturing into new territory. But they should learn a lesson from the crickets and stop rubbing their wings together or, more accurately, just trying anything that might work.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Gwen Stefani Dolls Have Got Some "Wicked" Style

Knowing of my long-standing and now somewhat public interest in all things Stefani, several of my colleagues at the Papaya Queen have asked me my opinion about the soon to be released, limited edition, Love Angel Music Baby fashion dolls. Just yesterday, Garcia and I were out at lunch and he asked me, "What do you think about the dolls?" (in Spanish, of course). Needless to say, I am a fan. I like Cool Gwen, Bananas Gwen, and am a particular fan of Tick-Tock Gwen with her blue pinafore dress. Barbie is an ancient icon that establishes a dangerous body ideal for young girls; the time is appropriate for a change.

I have only two misgiving about the release. The first is the unfortunate name of the distributor Huckleberry Toys, which unfortunately evokes the sad-sack and slightly bufoonish Huckleberry Hound of cartoon yesteryear. The more serious concern is with Ms. Stefani's increasing reliance on "wicked" as a complimentary adjective. For example, she said in connection with the release of the dolls, "The Harajuku Girls and I wore such wicked costumes we had to share them with the world again." She earlier used the term to describe the Harajuku girls in "What You Waiting For" where she proclaimed, "You Harajuku girls, damn you've got some wicked style." This image repeats on LAMB in "Harajuku Girls," where she says, "Harajuku Girls you got the wicked style." Girls is capitalized in the lyrics to the song "Harajuku Girls" but not in the lyrics to "What You Waiting For." This is a trifle. My greater concern is with the increasing reliance on the colloquial sense of wicked. It teaches poor grammar to American youth. I propose "distinctive" as a subtitute. This works quite well in each of the songs. For example, in "What You Waiting For," the verse would go:
You Harajuku Girls (capitalize for consistency)
Damn you got distinctive style
The new word preserves the meter and adds a nice consonance between "distinctive" and "style."
With this minor reservation, I offer the Huckleberry/Stefani dolls my complete endorsement.