Culturally Discombobulated

Tag: America

Any color as long as it’s green.

In an obnoxious tradition (not rooted in Ireland), Americans feel entitled to “playfully” pinch you if you’re not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day; yet punching them back and deriding them for cultural appropriation is somehow not considered “playful”. American social rules are difficult for a foreigner to navigate at times.

Not that St Patrick’s Day in the US has anything to do with Ireland. No, this is a holiday run purely for the benefits of an avaricious if imaginative food coloring industry. In the early 60s finding themselves with an excess of unwanted FD&C Green No.3 and Fast Green FCF, the decision was taken to illegally dump these chemicals into the Chicago River. Fortuitously they happened to do this on the weekend of St Patrick’s Day. Never the sharpest, the people of Chicago assumed this was deliberate and celebrated accordingly. Spotting a market for their green dyes, the food coloring industry have since then been convincing various brands that in order to fully embrace the Irish spirit they need to make full use of green coloring – despite the only thing green you’ll eat in Ireland being mushy peas. How else to explain the likes of these?

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The Shamrock Shake is McDonalds’s misplaced and diabetic-inducing effort to US-Irish relations. It was popularized in the 1970s by McDonalds character / marketing brain fart, Uncle O’Grimacey. Pathetically, 85% of Americans believe Uncle O’Grimacey is what people in Ireland actually look like.

Maternal Tea Party

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Mein Mutter is visiting. That involves one thing and one thing only – tea. My mother, like many a little English woman, is to tea what Tony Montana is to cocaine. In a week how much damage will she do this box of 100 tea bags? Place your bets now.

Wholesome American experiences #34: Kraft mac and cheese

Today we debut an irregular feature in which the author for the first time experiences something that might be considered typically American.

In a decision I’ve immediately come to regret, I’ve just had my first experience of a Kraft mac and cheese dinner.

I now feel awful, like I’ve taken part in some classified scientific experiment – only without the bonus of my beneficiaries receiving compensation from the government in thirty years time.

This wasn’t food. This was a sad simulacrum of food. The future as perceived by the 1950s.

I’ve got the warm, cheesy sweats, man. It’s a cheese powder-induced fever. I’m also pretty certain I’ll be pooping out something orange later this evening.

p.s. America, mac and cheese – like lasagna or coq-au-vin or the KFC value chicken bucket - should not be considered appropriate as a side dish.

p.p.s. Comments about British cuisine will be heavily moderated.

America 101: #117 March Madness

What is it?

Sufferers of the March Madness syndrome.

March Madness is a social phenomenon that occurs primarily throughout the continental US during the NCAA basketball tournament. It involves groups of people who normally show little interest in sports developing an intense, all-consuming attachment to college basketball for three weeks.

Annually affecting thousands of people, March Madness is not a one-off event, there are documented cases of it occurring each year since the syndrome was first recorded in 1939.

March Madness is understood as a mass psychogenic illness in which the rapid spread of the syndrome’s signs and symptoms originates from a nervous system disturbance involving the afflicted developing a sudden interest in brackets, decorating their office cubicles in their college colors, and feelings of intense anxiety while watching a sports team they haven’t given a shit about during the regular season.

In 1988, Professor M.G. Boyle of Berkeley recorded an extreme version of March Madness in Durham, North Carolina centered around a mysterious figure known only to researchers as K. Boyle’s study showed that in this case the mass hysteria – under the prompting of the enigmatic K. – developed into a fully developed mass psychotic breakdown lasting far longer than the normal three-week period of March Madness and involving the entire undergraduate intake at Duke University. Those afflicted temporarily lived in a tent city, covered their bodies in blue and white paint, pronounced their loyalty to K. and repeatedly made a fucking annoying hand gesture they called “the hex” against the opponents of the Duke basketball team. Boyle termed those suffering from this condition as having the “Cameron Crazies“. Dr I. Weinman of Harvard has argued against Boyle’s hypothesis of mass psychotic breakdown, instead Weinman posited that the Cameron Crazies and the near reverence granted to K. showed all the hallmarks of mass hysteria within a cult structure.

Can anything be done about it?

There is no known cure for March Madness, although for the most part symptoms will subside by the first week of April.

Reflections: Trivial trivia

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Back when Patty Turner opened her diner on K street she thought that she should put a little book of questions on each table. She figured it would be a fun and diverting activity for her customers as they waited on their orders. So with the help of her grandson Aaron - who tutored her in how to conduct a google search - Patty went about compiling her book of trivia. When she was finished she found that she had produced a 20 page booklet of questions. At the FedEx office she had 50 copies of the booklet laminated, along with 100 copies of the diner’s menu. Without fully realising it, Patty told a lot about herself through the questions she had selected for the booklet: the page of Pumpkin-related questions spoke of her love of fall and Thanksgiving; the page of America-related questions spoke of her quietly observed patriotism; and question 2 in the miscellaneous section spoke about her disdain for yuppie scum.

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