Awful Cereal Hall of Fame: Grape Nuts

I don’t know if there’s a Hall of Fame for Awful Cereal. I get that typically halls of fame are reserved for honoring good things, not detracting from bad things. And I get that maybe it should be a Hall of Infamy, but at that point, we’re really overthinking this a bit too much, aren’t we?

Regardless of whether or not something like a Hall of Fame for Awful Cereal (HFAC) should exist or not, I would like to think we could all agree on the simple fact that the first entry in the HFAC would be Grape Nuts.

I have had the misfortune of eating Grape Nuts twice in my life. The first time was at my brother’s. I was crashing there for the night, and when the morning came, it was time for breakfast. His supply left a fair bit to be desired. I can’t remember exactly what was there (Cheerios? Shredded wheat?) but whatever it was, it was missing my usual go-to dependables. Cocoa Puffs or Cocoa Krispies. (If your cereal isn’t giving you chocolate milk when you’re through with it, it’s not pulling its weight.) There were, however, Grape Nuts.

“Aha!” I said to myself. “I’ve never tried those before. I like grapes. I like nuts. These are gonna be great.”

One bowlful later, I discovered it’s a miracle Grape Nuts haven’t been hit with a false advertisement suit years ago. They contain neither grapes nor nuts. In fact, they’re basically kitty litter, but I suppose “Kitty Litter” as a cereal name didn’t score as well in their consumer research tests, so they decided to lie instead.

Not that I’ve ever tasted kitty litter, in case you were beginning to have your doubts. I mean, I’ve tasted Grape Nuts now, which already makes me pretty suspect, so I wouldn’t blame you for being suspicious about my history with consuming kitty litter. But Grape Nuts look like kitty litter: small pellets. They smell pretty much odorless, which I believe is the point of kitty litter. And if you swapped them out with your cat’s kitty litter, I’m willing to bet Mr. Bigglesworth wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Needless to say, I didn’t have a second bowl.

And yet somehow I was suckered into trying Grape Nuts again. Years had gone by, and I was having ice cream at a friend’s house. The flavor? Grape Nuts. I stared at the flavor name in confusion. It was like calling something “Dog Vomit Ice Cream” and hoping that would somehow sell more cartons. Except my friend wasn’t just eating the ice cream. He was enjoying it. He even said it was his favorite flavor.

I am not above admitting when I am wrong, and what did I know? Maybe when you added cream and sugar to Grape Nuts and then froze them for a while, they turned into some kind of awesome flavorfest. Did I want to miss out on a thing like that? Maybe the batch of Grape Nuts I’d had was stale, or maybe my brother had accidentally put kitty litter into his Grape Nuts back in the day.

Reader, I tried the ice cream.

Again, I’ve never put kitty litter on top of my ice cream before, but if I were ever try such a thing, I’m fairly confident I couldn’t have a worse experience with that flavor than with what I put in my mouth that day.

Friends don’t let friends eat Grape Nuts. Period.

There are other cereal brands that belong in the HFAC. Original Cap’n Crunch has cut my mouth more times than I’d like to admit. Rice Krispies are borderline, because if you don’t literally inhale them the moment you add milk to the mixture, you’re left with Rice Mush. I’m not honestly sure what Apple Jacks are trying to accomplish, but whatever it is, they’re failing.

But they all pale before the horror that is Grape Nuts.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Plots that Annoy Me: Picaresque

I came to a realization last night while watching some Netflix. (Show of the moment? Money Heist, which I enjoy a lot of, but there are some aspects that bug me which will become clear as you read this post.) There’s a whole vein of storytelling that’s becoming more and more difficult for me to actually enjoy. I’m not saying I totally hate the trope and will never watch or read anything like it, but if a story’s going to pull it off, it’s going to take some very heavy lifting.

I’m talking about the picaresque. Actually just one slice of it, really. I have nothing against first person or realism or satire or criminal behavior by the protagonist. But the “series of events” bugs the living daylights out of me, especially when jammed together with the “little or no character development.”

This is one of the reasons I gave up on House so easily. It was a formula, and they were going to follow that formula again and again and again. This is clearly a successful pattern to follow, especially with serialized television. Matlock or Perry Mason, CSI or Law & Order, pick your poison. Back in the days of reruns, this was a perfect setup for a television show. Establish the characters, and have people come back week after week for the characters doing the same thing as last week, and it doesn’t really matter what happened last week. There’s a new mystery, and you solve that mystery.

For me to want to stick with something like that longer than an episode or two? It’s going to take some awesome storytelling. Some fantastic characters or some intriguing plots or a twist I haven’t seen.

I don’t mean to dismiss a whole swathe of pop culture. I really enjoy murder mysteries, and I’ve watched more than my fair share of Law & Order episodes. Sometimes they scratch an itch that just needs scratching. But what I really dislike is when a story pretends to be something else, but at its core, it’s just serialized fiction. When a story promises character development and sweeping plot developments, and it gives me layer on layer of the same. Me no likey.

What exacerbates the problem is when those series of adventures become too obvious. The skeleton of the plot seems to just unravel, and I no longer really care about who’s doing what, since nothing seems to matter. Some new adventure will always pop up. Money Heist has a favorite trick: point guns at people. It feels like every episode, somebody’s pointing a gun at somebody else. Often multiple people are pointing guns at each other at the same time. This is supposed to increase tension, but they’ve done it so often, the trick’s worn thin. Nobody ever actually gets shot. (Well, once or twice, but very rarely.) It’s just a thing the writers like to do to show just how serious things have gotten.

Not a fan.

In books, this all plays out more or less the same. The hero goes through a series of trials, but none of them really seem to matter. You don’t know what’s coming up next, and so they can’t really plan for anything. It begins to feel like they’re succeeding not because they’re particularly good at what they do, but that they’re lucky. Problems arise due to bad luck. They disappear due to good lucky. In the end, I just stop caring.

If it were up to me (and when I’m writing, it thankfully is), I would prefer stories that have stakes that matter. Where the audience and the protagonist are aware of the challenges they’re going to be facing. Sure, some of it’s up in the air, but they can at least think of a plan to overcome the odds. It can then turn out even worse than they’d planned, but they can then use the smarts and experiences they’ve experienced up to that point to throw a new, meaningful plan together and win the day. The past is connected to the present and the future in a tangible way, and the things we’ve read before feel like they pay off later on in the novel.

Am I asking too much?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

In Which Time Stops

I’m a fan of clocks. Noisy clocks. To me, a house isn’t really living until it’s got that steady metronome clicking away somewhere inside it. We’ve had a clock in our kitchen for years and years, and it’s comforting to me to have the noise always present. (Though I understand it drives some people crazy. Maybe I’m already there?)

A week or two into Social Distancing, my kitchen clock broke. It just stopped holding a wind. I imagine it’s a fairly simple fix, but there’s no where for us to take it at the moment to get fixed, and so the nice reassuring ticking coming from my kitchen has stopped for the time being. That’s the sort of detail you’d throw into a novel and be accused of being too heavy handed with your symbolism, but there you have it.

Time has stopped in my house.

(Well, not completely. I mean, I still have the grandfather clock going away, but it’s really better for chiming, not ticking. I can’t hear the ticking from my office.)

I can tell time is still moving forward. The plants outside my window seem to be growing alarmingly fast, and the lawn has already needed to be mowed twice. I’ve started actually scheduling some outside get-togethers, campfires and tennis and the like. Things you can do at least six feet apart. Tomas is going to be running with some of his friends again, and MC is working on learning how to ride a bike.

So the hallmarks of “today is different than yesterday” are returning, at least to an extent. But it’s still as hard for me as I imagine it is for all of you to remember just what day of the week I’m on. To Do lists help with that, as does my not-nearly-as-used calendar.

In an effort to combat the “one big long day” feeling, I’m trying some other approaches as well. Setting overarching goals and involving the family with them. For example, yesterday we marked out the path for a timed race: run down the road, touch a telephone pole, and run back. Who can do it the fastest? Daniela happily made up a chart for us to record our times. (Tomas did the whole thing in just over two minutes, but I’m proud to say I came in second. Granted, it was a minute twenty longer than it took him, but still. Not bad.) Maybe keeping track of those times will be a fun activity.

But until my clock is fixed, literally and figuratively, I don’t think things are going to feel back to normal. Maybe I should teach myself how to fix it . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Zoom-o-Rama

I’m in all-day Zoom meetings today and tomorrow, so no real time to craft anything noteworthy on the blog. I did take some time this week to figure out just how much I’m on Zoom these days. This week? 37 hours, and nine of those hours I’m in two Zoom meetings at the same time. So when I feel like I’m in one eternal Zoom meeting, I suppose there’s a good reason for that.

All of those 37 hours aren’t just for work. Some are church-related, some were for the online RPG group I did Tuesday evening, but the vast bulk of them are for work. I don’t know how much Zoom the rest of you are doing, but if some of you out there are doing even more than I am . . .

You have my pity.

My current eight hour Zoom fest is launching back up again now. I don’t think I’ll have time to post tomorrow (more Zoom), so have a great weekend everyone. Catch you on Monday.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Art of the Compromise

One of the things I dislike most about our current state of politics is how much it’s taken on the trappings of sports. I love me some sports, but we’re not playing a game with the country. This isn’t a situation where the Democrats face off against the Republicans to see who wins it all. It’s also not reality television. The ratings don’t matter, and arbitrary metrics are pretty much worthless.

We’re all in the same country. We all have to live with the choices we make as a nation. But these days, politics feels like it’s becoming more and more a situation where you need to not just defeat “the other side.” You can’t be happy until you’ve crushed your enemies, seen them driven before you, and heard the lamentations of their women.

Right now, there are two polemically opposed sides to the debate on the pandemic and economic catastrophe we’re going through. On the one side, there are people who are convinced we all need to stay inside and not come out again until 2025, and then only if we can be encased in a large plastic bubble at all times. On the other side, we’re not doing our patriotic duty until we go outside right this instant and start licking every object in sight (to show dominance over the virus), ideally while eating a Big Mac and spending money on a complete set of Make America Great Again his and hers pajamas and maybe shooting some guns into the air at the same time.

Obviously I’m taking those two sides to the extreme, but the point is clear. All of us fall somewhere between those two opinions. But the thing about living in a country with other people is that both sides matter. Even if you wished they didn’t. Even if you dreamed of a day when that other side just magically disappeared from the face of the earth, they’re still here, and their opinion still matters. They still vote. They’re still represented in Congress by people who agree with them.

So the only way we’re going to get anything useful done is through compromise. And it would help a lot if people stopped treating compromise like a dirty word. As if when you compromise on something, you’ve betrayed your base, or sold your soul. Of course, it doesn’t help that there are media outlets on both sides of the aisle ready to holler and shout about what a catastrophe the compromise is, and how it betrayed everything that was decent about this country. But if the compromise is any good, both sides of the news media will be upset about it these days.

I get that it’s easier to use a “they’re evil” brush to paint the people you don’t agree with. They’re either a bunch of corporate suits trying to drain the last drop of money from our working class, or a bunch of communist anarchists bent on robbing the good citizens of our nation. And yes, I believe there are people acting in bad faith on both sides of the aisle, but no, I don’t believe people walking around with Nazi flags are “generally good people.” The best I could say about such individuals is that they’re wildly misguided and dreadfully ill-informed.

I watch these Senate hearings, and I’m disappointed. Let down that even in this crisis, we’re still bickering over asinine things like “did we do a good job with testing?” No. I believe we can categorically state that we did a pretty awful job with testing, because if we’d done a half-decent job, we wouldn’t be where we are now. When you’ve already flunked the course for the year, why waste time debating whether or not you studied well for the midterm? Pick yourself up and move on.

I think we need to start opening up the country at a reasoned, measured pace. Faster than some would like, and slower than others would like. I think if people would just wear their masks and give each other some space, there’s a lot we could start doing. This insistence on no masks and no distancing and “this pandemic is fake” is frustrating to say the least, but it’s more frustrating because somehow wearing a mask has become a political statement. In our rush to prove how right one side is over the other, we’re throwing common sense out the window.

And I suppose that’s all I have to say about that.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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