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The Twinkie
I had a Hostess Twinkie the other night. If reports are to be believed, it may have been one of the last Twinkies on Earth. It was not a guilty pleasure because there was precious little pleasure involved. There was some guilt, though; I ate the whole thing despite the fact that it tasted like crap.

Perhaps I felt obliged to eat it all simply as a tribute to this American food staple. The Twinkie has been around for over eighty years, happily providing us with our daily requirement of high fructose corn syrup. It had been decades since I’d had one, and the gummy texture and factory sweetness took me back to a gustatory era I’d sooner forget. Still, attention must be paid.

First, let us honor its creators for giving it a completely original name. “Twinkie” has since come to be used as a pejorative term for certain categories of people, but in 1930 it was a freshly coined word. It meant only one thing: a very specific version of cream-filled snack cake. Such words are rare in our general culture, and so it is in the small world of snack cakes. Ding Dongs, for instance, were the sound of a bell before Hostess made them. The same is true for Drake’s knock off version, the Ring Ding. Ho Hos were originally the sound of laughter, and so on. The Krimpet (also from Hostess) might earn a point for effort, but it is too obviously a bastardization of “crumpet” to be taken seriously. In fact, it must be docked a point simply for being a bad name for a snack cake. “Twinkie,” by contrast, seems the perfect light, unserious name for a product that just barely qualifies as food.

The Twinkie must be further honored for its packaging. Its box of 10 features a grinning cartoon Twinkie, clad in cowboy hat, kerchief, and boots, riding … a Twinkie! The realistic Twinkie/steed has been bitten into so that the cream (or cream-like substance) protrudes slightly from its sleeve of sponge cake, as if the pressure of the cartoon Twinkie’s legs on its sides has forced the filling out. I find this illustration troubling. I do take some comfort, however, from the fact that there are no spurs on the cowboy Twinkie’s boots.

Finally, before we bury the Twinkie once and for all, we should salute its status as a joke food. We have given the word “twinkie” its props for originality and appropriateness, but we cannot deny that it is also a very silly word. Perhaps because of its goofy name, it has become the stand-in representative for any food that has no redeeming food value. Furthermore, since it is widely agreed that the tube shape is indeed the funniest of all food configurations, then the Twinkie is right there with wieners, bananas, and veggie wraps in terms of loggish drollery.

So hats off to the Twinkie; cowboy hats, if you’ve got ‘em. It may turn out that some enterprising company, seeking to ride the recent wave of fame generated by the Twinkie’s demise, will buy the rights to its manufacture and thereby extend its very unnatural life. If that happens, we may not have seen the last Twinkie after all. I can say one thing with certainty, however: I have eaten my last one.
I was touring the wine country a while back and found myself in front of Calistoga High School, home of the Wildcats. On the cyclone fence next to the baseball field hung a large rendering of the mascot. “Wild” does not fully describe the expression on its face. “Unhinged” would be more like it. The brows were arched in an oddly exaggerated way, and the eyes blazed maniacally. I found the image disturbing. In fact, I find most mascots disturbing.

Perhaps the intention was to make the wildcat appear angry, but it came out looking like a gibbering lunatic. Many mascots do exhibit some kind of rage, which is probably meant to intimidate potential rivals. I question, however, whether a grumpy Blue Devil or Spartan or Captain ‘Cane would ever strike fear into the heart of an opposing athlete ... especially if it was wearing a giant foam head.

So what is the point of an angry mascot, then? To entertain? To promote team pride? To represent the best qualities of an educational institution or geographical area? It may be that an angry mascot will serve in these ways, but the goofy, cartoon brand of mascot would serve just as well. That is to say, poorly.

Let’s face it: mascots are an embarrassment. Nobody really likes them, but they are now an inextricable part of our sports culture. My hope is that they will somehow evolve to represent what is best in us — not our anger or goofiness, but our clear-eyed competitiveness and intelligence.

Let the Calistoga Wildcat exhort its team to feats of strength, grace, and practiced precision. Let it offer a reasoned discourse on the merits of fair play and teamwork. Let it encourage the players in a firm, resolute voice.

And let it do all of this through the mouth hole of its giant foam head.

The Future of Hair
Have you ever noticed that, in the movies, humans from the future are depicted as hairless? It’s the same with most humanoid aliens. These super-human beings, it seems, have either shed their coats through natural selection, or they’re all deeply into electrolysis.

To a point, I agree with this vision of evolutionary destiny. I can’t imagine a good rationale for armpit or crotch hair, for instance; those sorry patches will surely be selected out of existence in due course. In fact, most hair from the neck down has no good reason to be there. Even the heaviest thickets of chest and back hair would be a poor defense against the cold if we were caught naked out in the wild. Indeed, they serve no purpose other than being the butts of cruel jokes. Good riddance, I say.

From the neck up, the value of hair becomes more debatable. I will assert straight off, however, that beards are destined for the evolutionary scrap heap. If you have a beard, you probably think you look good in it; dashing, even. I am sorry to report that you do not. There may even be some women in your life who tell you that they like it. The truth is that they are just trying to make you feel good. And if you’re sporting one of those five-day-growth stubbles now popular in Hollywood … well, let me just say that any woman who claims to admire this homeless bum look should not be entrusted with the keys to your Ferrari.

Beards, in my view, are admired mostly by their owners. The other functions of a beard — to intimidate animals or other men — are no longer called for in our world. The only other possible excuse for wearing one is that it makes a good mask. Weak chins, bad acne, and other forms of facial disfigurement can be effectively hidden with a beard (though only if it is thick enough to be opaque; wispy growth will only make matters worse). In any case, I don’t think evolution will keep beards around simply as a favor to the painfully shy among us.

The demise of the beard will also doom mustaches, mutton chops, soul patches, and all the other patently ridiculous subgroups of facial hair. Sideburns, which have a foot in two different hair universes, will no doubt be sorted out as they have already been with women.

It is here, just under the nose, where I depart from science fiction’s prediction of hairlessness for our descendants. From this point on up, in fact, hair becomes an indispensable factor in the survival of our species.

Take nostril hairs. These humble watchmen, along with their cousins stationed at the entrances to the ear canals, help fend off unwelcome intrusions by dust, insects, and airborne embers into our delicate inner regions. It is unglamorous work, to be sure, but it is enough to spare them from the evolutionary axe.

If it’s glamour you want, we have the eyelashes and eyebrows. Their usefulness in communication and their role in attracting mates mean that they too will be spared. As long as sex plays a part in reproduction, there will be hair around the eyes.

And then, there is the mane itself: the topknot, the crest, at once the most beautiful and the most ridiculous feature of our physical identity. This grand thatch — theoretically infinite in length and configuration — can do it all: attract mates, enhance lovemaking, provide warmth, even act as a raw material for clothing and fine household furnishings. Natural selection would not dare to strip us of such a wondrous growth. It might make for good science fiction, but we’ll never get to the future without our crowning glory.
An I.Q. of One
Lust: a powerful force indeed. It can sweep away family, career, reputation, and good sense. Ask General David Petraeus.

It takes two, as always, but I can’t help blaming you-know-who. That’s right, I’m talking about the most single-minded body part of all, the envied one, the King of Organs himself. He has always had his way, this mad tyrant, and I have no doubt he will continue to do so as long as sex remains popular.

The brain, to its credit, has always fought gamely against the tyrant, but the most it can ever hope to be is second banana. All the logic, faith, and force of will at its command are nothing against the raging biological imperative.

Even the most towering intellect is no match for an I.Q. of One, and even a five-star general must bow before the King.

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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee