Friday, August 27, 2010

McStupid Lawsuit By McDonald's McLawyers

McStupid Lawsuit By McDonald's McLawyers

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

It's understandable: if you own a company, you don't want people to confuse you with another company that sells a similar product with a similar name.

If you're Starbucks Coffee, you don't want someone calling theirs "Starbux." If you're Nike, you don't want another shoe company called "Nikey." And if you're Ford, you're going to have a problem with someone calling their car company "Fjord."

But if you're McDonald's, you're pushing it if you think people will be confused by someone sticking "Mc" in front of the name of their restaurant. Especially if the restaurant doesn't even serve hamburgers.

According to a story in The (London) Guardian, that's what McDonald's has done to a little restaurant on the Italian island of Sardinia. The all-beef bullies are threatening the tiny, family-owned restaurant with a lawsuit because restaurant owner Ivan Puddu named his restaurant McPuddu's.

Why does McDonald's have their McPanties in a twist? Because they don't want people to be "confused" by the "Mc" in McPuddu's.

McPuddu's is a pizza restaurant whose specialty is culurgione, a pasta shell stuffed with sheep cheese, potato, and mint. McDonald's is a hamburger restaurant whose specialty is a double-pattied hamburger served with a third bun, and Thousand Island/mayonnaise dressing, and you order it from your car.

"Over here, the parcels are made by hand on Sundays in Sardinian homes," Puddu told the La Repubblica newspaper. "They are good, old-fashioned and a family ritual."

McPuddu's is nothing like McDonalds, You'd think even the most brain-addled mouth breather can recognize that. But apparently, McDonald's lawyers cannot.

Or do McDonald's lawyers think we're that stupid? Do they think we're so dumb, we'd never realize that McPuddu's is a completely different restaurant from McDonald's? Do they think we don't even notice they're spelled differently? Do they think we're so moronic that we would accidentally order a sheep cheese-stuffed pasta shell when we really wanted a Quarter Pounder and large fries?

Idiot #1: Hey, there's a McDonald's. Let's have lunch there.

Idiot #2: Their name looks all funny. Did they change how they spell it?

Idiot #1: I don't know, I can't read.

Idiot #2: They must be having financial problems too. This place looks nothing like the regular McDonald's we just ate breakfast at four hours ago.

Idiot #1: That guy up there says they ain't got no Big Macs. Just sheep cheese-stuffed pasta. Do you suppose that's one of them new fancy hamburgers?

Sadly, McPuddu's doesn't have the money to fight the threatened lawsuit, and in order to protect his family restaurant, he nailed a plank over the offending "Mc" on his sign, and wrote "censored" on it.

However, the regional government has promised to help Puddu with the legal bills to help fight what one official called "one of the greatest corruptors of the palate in the world."

Puddu has become a rallying cry for Italian politicians and food campaigners, which is a shame, because shouting "Puddu!" sounds a little silly.

Carlo Petrini, president of the Italian Slow Food group, told The Guardian, "This is stupid arrogance. I am sure that in court, McDonald's would lose this."

This isn't the only time McDonald's has tried to bully other restaurant owners. According to the Food & Drink Digital blog, McDonald's made Elizabeth McCaughey (the "gh" is pronounced like an "ff") change her coffee shop's name from McCoffee, even though she'd had it for 17 years.

They were soundly defeated by Allan Pedersen who named his hot dog stand "McAllan," after his favorite whiskey brand, McAllan. The whiskey company said it was okay, the burger company was worried people would confuse a hot dog cart for a large multi-national restaurant chain. The courts ruled that people were smarter than McDonald's lawyers, and forced the chain to pay $6,900 in court costs.

But my favorite story was the 26-year losing campaign the giant has had against the McDonald's Family Restaurant in Fairbury, Illinois, operated by Ronald McDonald (his real name). The real Ronald has managed to prevail against the burger giant, and continues to operate his restaurant to this day.

I understand why a company needs to protect themselves against trademark violations. But I also think there is a line of reasonableness and rationality that McDonald's seems to cross again and again. Someone adding "Mc" to the name of a restaurant that sells hamburgers is a trademark violation. Adding "Mc" to your own last name of a small snack shop on an Italian island is not.

Otherwise, Scotland is in for one hell of a lawsuit.

(Disclosure: I happen to frequent McDonald's, because I like making an Arnold Palmer with their sweet tea and Minute Maid lemonade. That doesn't mean I support what they're doing to Ivan Puddu.)

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Day at the Museum

A Day at the Museum

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

"Okay, remember kids, this is a museum filled with very expensive items. You absolutely may not touch anything."

"The guards will arrest you and put you to work cleaning the toilets for a month."

"What? I'm just trying to keep them from touching any of the artwork."

"No, they know I'm kidding."

"Yes, I was really kidding, you guys. You knew that."

"Then tell Mommy you knew I was kidding."

"These are called Impressionist paintings, Buddy."

"No, not like Bill Hader. He's a comedian."

"No, he does impressions, he's not an Impressionist."

"Yes, Sweetie, I know that's what you call people who do impressions. But some words can have more than one meaning."

"It means a painting that sort of looks like the thing it represents. It doesn't look quite like it, and could never be mistaken for the thing it's supposed to be."

"Well then, yes, Bill Hader is an impressionist.

"What do you think about these still lifes over here."

"That's because it is a bowl of fruit."

"Well, that's Realism."

"Paintings that actually look like the thing they represent."

"Right, not Bill Hader."

"No, Buddy, not every still life is a bowl of fruit. That would be pretty boring."

"Well, see, the fruit is out of the bowl in this one. And this one has a candle next to it. And this one over here is a bowl of vegetables."

"Yeah, I guess they are pretty boring."

"Wait, how about this one of the farmer working in the field?"

"Yep, that's boring too."

"How about some sculptures? The Renaissance sculptures are in this gallery."

"Listen, kids, before we go in here, I want you to remember that these are all old, beautiful works of art. There's nothing wrong with anything in here, and I want you kids to be mature and grown-up about what you see here. Alright? Let's go."

"Shhhh! Buddy, don't shout in the gallery"

"No, not boobies. It's art."

"This is supposed to be the representation of the human body at it's purest, and we're supposed to appreciate the quality of art. It's not just 'boobies.'"

"Not until you're 18."

"Because boys stare at girls in bikinis."

"Not ever."

"Because no one needs a pierced bellybutton."

"These are urns, Honey."

"It's a vase, but without any handles. This one is a Mayan funerary urn. They're used to hold a person's ashes after they've been cremated."

"Yes, like Aunt Sally and Uncle Sid."

"No, she still has him on her mantle."

"I asked her once if he needed a refill from the fireplace, but she didn't think that was funny. She didn't speak to me for the rest of the day."

"No, actually it was the best Thanksgiving I ever had at her house."

"It says here that in Bavaria, a king's heart would be placed in the urn after he died."

"No, an urn isn't like a purse."

"What do you mean, like Carrie carries Ryan's heart in her purse?"

"Oh you mean, when I said she was carrying his — no, Honey, I wasn't talking about his heart."

"No, I'm not going to say what she's carrying."

"Because you weren't supposed to overhear the original conversation."

"Because you kids aren't old enough to know what I'm talking about."

"Yes, Sweetie, I know you figured it out."

"Yes, we know you figured out a lot of what Mommy and I talk about."

"Then why haven't you figured out why you can't get a bikini?"

"Let's talk about this in the car. Right now, I think we should go see — Buddy, stop saying 'boobies.' Other people can hear you."

"Hey guys, the map says there's a collection of Renoir 'figure studies,' whatever those are. Let's go see those. Maybe they'll help get your minds off nudity."

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Woman Thrown Out of Starbucks Because She Wouldn't Use Their Terminology

I knew Starbucks was a band of corporate drones bent on world domination, but to get the police involved because someone won't use their teminology?

A woman was thrown out of a New York Starbucks by police because she wouldn't use the Starbucks termninology when ordering a bagel.

According to the NY blog, the Gothamist, Lynne Rosenthal, a college professor, was nearly arrested after she took a noble stand against the corporate tyranny that is Starbucks. I've always refused to order a "grande" anything, preferring instead to ask for the more commonly known "medium."

But Rosenthal trumped my civil disobedience by making a stand over a bagel! (Good on ya, Lynne!)

The barista asked if she wanted butter or cheese, and Lynne said calmly yelled, "I want my multigrain bagel!"

The barista, incredibly, said she wasn't going to get anything, unless she said, "without butter or cheese."

Lynne told the New York Post, "Linguistically, it's stupid, and I'm a stickler for correct English."

Since she wouldn't bow to Starbuck's corporate-speak, the manager called the police, and they threatened to arrest her if she wouldn't leave.

Lynne may have felt humiliated by being asked to leave, but she has taken a larger stand that many of us can appreciate and applaud. Thank you, Lynne.

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Engaged? Engaged in What?

Engaged? Engaged in What?

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

A friend of mine told me today was his 22nd anniversary — five years longer than I've been married. It got me to thinking about when my wife and I got engaged. When we did it, it was a complete surprise.

I'd like to say it was one of those big romantic surprise engagement stories that people tell, like I proposed at a baseball game, or stuck the engagement ring in a bowl of ice cream, or even hired a Haiku skywriter to spell my message out to her.

"To my Beloved/Would you please become my wife?/Burma Shave."

But it wasn't that kind of surprise. We actually surprised everyone else.

We met in graduate school at Ball State University, and had been hanging around "as friends" for a few months. In fact, we were so good at appearing "as friends," that no one knew we had been dating since the middle of August. So good, in fact, that she didn't even realize it until September.

No matter where we went, no matter who saw us, everyone assumed we were just hanging out. Our desks in our office were right next to each other, we were typically seen at the library at 10 pm on a Thursday night, and we walked to every class together. Still, no one ever caught on.

We were engaged after Fall semester had ended, and she was going home for Christmas break. We had sort of been discussing the subject for a couple days. I say sort of, because our conversations were usually of the "if we did get married" type, filled with an unnecessary of disclaimers, qualifiers, and hypothetical situations from both of us.

"You know, if we ever get married — oh, not to each other, you understand. I'm just saying, hypothetically —"

"Oh, no, no, I completely understand. When each of us got married. Separately."

"Yes, separately. But for the sake of this argument, let's just pretend—"

"Yes, pretend!"

"—pretend that WE were getting married—"

"It wouldn't be so bad though, would it?"

"Well. . . no, probably not."

Pretty soon, these discussions turned more serious, and we dropped all pretense of hypothetical situations, and we finally agreed that I could ask her. (Yes, you read that right.)

The problem was, I didn't have an engagement ring. When the commercials say you should spend two month's salary on a wedding ring, I don't think they actually meant a graduate student's salary.

We were sitting in her apartment, having just completed our discussion about whether to get married (we had agreed that "no, it wouldn't be that bad"), and I reminded her that I didn't have a ring to offer her.

"We'll pick one up soon," she said. "Just use this one in the meantime." She handed me a ring that had belonged to her grandmother. The ring had been conveniently located on a side table.

I felt a little silly actually asking the question, since there was absolutely no surprise to it whatsoever, and I slid the ring on her finger.

For a brief moment, I wondered why she hadn't just stuck it on her finger herself. You know, cut out the middle man. But then I remembered that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, and held my tongue.

She said yes (which I was already expecting, after our three-day negotiation), and that was it. Now it was — literally — time to drive up to her parents house in northern Indiana, where I would then have to ask her parents for permission to marry their daughter.

I was so embarrassed to have to ask for her father's blessing without a ring, that it was all I thought about as we drove north. I was so deep in thought as we were talking excitedly about our new life together, I missed the turnoff for the shortcut to her hometown. We ended up taking the long way through Fort Wayne, and I decided that since we had a few extra minutes, we should stop at a jewelry store.

We promised that we were only going to look and get an idea of how much rings cost before we chose a ring together. We ended up walking out with an engagement ring and two wedding bands — all because I missed the exit.

She wore the engagement ring in the car, and then gave it back to me when we got to the restaurant, so I could show it to her dad when I asked for his blessing. I stuck it back on her finger after he said yes, and she's worn it ever since.

I still don't know why she couldn't have just kept it on that night. You know, cut out the middle man.

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Amazon to Block

I received an email at the end of the day yesterday from Stephanie Mantello, Senior PR Manager, Kindle for Amazon, in response to my previous post, Amazon Kindle Game "Every Word" Uses N-Word:

Just wanted to let you know we’ve done the following…

We have made the following post in our Kindle forum:

We have stopped distributing the game Every Word because it has been brought to our attention that the dictionary it uses does not block some inappropriate words. Once fixed, we will make the game available for download. We will also make available an updated version to customers who have already downloaded the earlier version.

It's nice to see that they're so responsive. Still, it would have been nicer if someone had asked the question, "do we know if it will block all the inappropriate words?"

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Amazon Kindle Game "Every Word" Uses N-Word

A lot of Kindle owners were very excited when Amazon Digital Services released two new Kindle games, Every Word and Shuffled Row. I downloaded them both a few days ago, and have been playing Every Word for a few days. The object is to take a 7-letter word and create as many words as possible from it.

I just didn't know the N-word was one of those words.

I was playing last night, and had nearly completed a board. The main word was GASPING, and I was missing one 6-letter word. Not wanting to leave an incomplete board before I moved to the next level, I logged on to an online Scrabble anagram generator to see if I could find it.

The generator gave me three choices: agings, gaping, paging. The game accepted gaping and paging, but had a word in between that I just wasn't getting.

Three different Scrabble generators gave me the same three words, so I decided to give up and see what the word was. I hit the button, and Easy Word filled in the missing word:

Did they just use the N-word in a Kindle game?! Hell yes, Amazon used the N-word in a Kindle game!

Normally, this is a humor blog, but I didn't find this in the least bit funny. As the proud father of two black children, that is one word that I find extremely offensive.

I don't know if Amazon Digital Services thought this was an acceptable word to include in their game dictionary, or if some hack programmer thought it would be funny to drop in, but using the N-word this way is wildly inappropriate and something I never would have expected from Amazon.


Amazon's Senior PR Director for Kindle, Stephanie Mantello, sent me a note that they had halted distribution of the game, were going to fix it, and then begin redistributing the game. They would also make an updated version of the game available to people who had already downloaded it.

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Impossibility of Cleanliness

The Impossibility of Cleanliness

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

Erik is out of the office this week, so we fired up the Wayback Machine, and are reprinting this column from 1997, with a few changes that 13 years of experience will reveal.

As I get older, I'm more concerned with cleanliness and neatness. (Not the rest of the house, mind you. That's still a free-for-all.)

No, I don't mean personal hygiene. My personal hygiene habits are beyond reproach, no matter what you may have heard about me or my feet. I mean, I'm more concerned with how neat and tidy my office is.

I'll admit this isn't major news, but if you saw my room when I was a boy, you'd realize what an earth-shattering change this is. You'd also know most guys feel silly saying the word "tidy," so you'll realize the sacrifice I'm making.

When I was a kid, I was a major, Class-A Number One slob. I thought neatness was for prudes with nothing better to do. (I have rethought this, and now think slobs lack motivation and self-respect.) My philosophy was "why put things away? I'm just going to need them again."

This is the same logic that many of us (me included) still use when it comes to making the bed each morning. "What's the point?" we ask. "We're just going to sleep in it again 16 hours from now."

It was great, because I could stand in the middle of my room and reach everything I owned. That, and I saved some valuable television time each week because I didn't have to vacuum the carpet.

Best of all, it guaranteed my privacy. I realized it after my mother said "I refuse to set foot in your bedroom as long as it looks like this." I had achieved every teenager's dream: a bedroom all to myself with no fear of anyone barging in uninvited.

But now that I've developed a "fixation," as some people call it, I find that I can't stand even the slightest mess in my office. I have to stop whatever I'm doing, straighten up the thing that's bothering me, and continue with what whatever I'm working on.

Some people, like my wife, in-laws, parents, and complete strangers, laugh at my little eccentricity and call me anal-retentive. I prefer the term "tidy," "extremely neat," or even "slightly compulsive," — OH GOD, THERE'S DUST ON THE COMPUTER! SOMEONE GET THE VACUUM! — but I'm not neurotic about it or anything.

That's not to say that my wife is a slob. Far from it. In fact, she was the one who made me this way, although she denies any responsibility for any of my neuroses, as do my parents (although my therapist said to expect that).

When we first met at college (my wife, not my parents), I was a typical Guy. I never put anything away, and I had two piles of laundry: Not Too Dirty, and Oh $^&*!, Don't Wear That Without Washing It! I never made the bed, never put anything away, and only washed the dishes I was going to use for that particular meal.

However, through a lot of love, support, and threatening to throw away my dirty dishes, she finally helped me to grow into the neat and tidy person I am today.

However, keeping things organized is pretty difficult when you have a two year old running rampant through things. Since we bring our daughter to work, she plays in either my wife's or my office. She has a stash of toys in both places, and will play with them while she is with us.

I am currently trying to teach her to pick up after herself, and we usually play a few rounds of "Hurry And Put The Toys Away Or Daddy Will Go Crazy-Ape Bonkers" before she goes down for her nap, and again before bed time. But most times, she usually runs off, or my wife lectures me about letting her be a kid, and it can slow a 2-year-olds development if you make them keep their rooms spotless, blah blah blah.

My wife says she has gotten used to the mess, and accuses me of being overly compulsive. I happen to know this isn't true, as I found her one time, curled up in her chair, rocking back and forth, mumbling "cleanliness is next to Godliness, cleanliness is next to Godliness" over and over.

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Monday, August 02, 2010

IndyCar and Helio Castroneves Prove That Fame and Popularity Help You Avoid Punishment

I just saw that IndyCar hero Helio Castroneves was fined $60,000 — or as Helio calls it, "money I found in my couch" — and placed him on probation for his outburst at the Edmonton Indy race on July 25th.

Helio was black flagged for blocking his Penske teammate, Will Power, but instead of taking the drive through pit penalty, he was docked 20 seconds, which dropped him to 10th. The call resulted in, what Bill Zahren over at called, "Helio losing his shit." That's when Helio grabbed two different IndyCar officials by the collar, shook them, and shouted at them.

I understand his outburst, although I think there are rules about physical contact that just need to be honored. But Randy Bernard, CEO of IndyCar said something that rather disturbed me.

"This is a very serious matter and we weighed all options, including suspension. But we felt suspension would hurt the fans more than anyone else. Fans have paid their hard-earned money to watch the best drivers in the world and many bought their tickets for upcoming events with the expectation of watching Helio."

In other words, if Helio wasn't a big-name racer, he would have been suspended. What kind of message does this send to everyone else? If you're famous, you get a free ride? If you're not one of the Big 7, you're on thin ice?

Do I think Helio is a good driver? Yes. Did he deserve the fine? Absolutely? Suspension? No, because while he was out of line, he wasn't out of hand.

Randy Bernard said, and I agree, that "(Helio) is a great ambassador for this sport and we know his actions after the race in Edmonton are not indicative of his normal behavior."

Absolutely. I'm a big Helio fan, and appreciate all he does for the sport. But Randy Bernard may have just created bigger problems by admitting there is a separate standard for top-notch drivers than there are for lesser drivers.

What do you think? Suspension? Fine? Nothing at all? Watch the video and let me know your thoughts.


Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Phone It In Sunday: Sassy Gay Friend: The Giving Tree

This is the final Sassy Gay Friend from Second City. Hopefully they'll be back with some more episodes, since these are freakin' awesome. Maybe a Sassy Gay Friend: You've Got Mail.

(I never read To Kill a Mockingbird, so I had to read about it on Wikipedia.)

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.