If That's Paradise, I'll Take Bloomington

So I'm working on a new recipe, and watching the History Channel, which pleasantly surprised me by actually showing a program about history, when an ad comes on for Mounds and Almond Joy candy bars. There's a guy in the office, sitting in his gray fabric box on the cube farm, just another stressed-out cog in the economic machine. He stealthily unwraps an Almond Joy candy bar, as the perspective changes to a shot from the outside of his cube. Palm trees appear, rising above the fabric walls, and sun is shining only on his little gray box. The perspective shifts back into the cube, and there's our guy, having a tropical vacation right there in his featureless corporate space. The tag line? "Unwrap Paradise."

On a recent episode of my podcast, I talked about the concept of treats, and how the word has come, in modern America, to connote sugary junk food. I talked about the fact that it seems to me that we substitute processed garbage for things that would give us more pleasure, and certainly reduce stress far better -- a walk in the sun, an hour in the bath with a book and a glass of wine, a night out having grown up time with our spouse, a vacation -- and not one in a gray fabric cube.

We are encouraged to think this way by endless junk food advertising, trying to convince us that the greatest pleasure and stress relief will come in the form of sugar and chemicals. Most of us are over-scheduled, over-committed, we're working more hours for less money, and expected to spend far more time on children's activities than our parents and grandparents did. ("Go out and play.") We're supposed to be grateful if we get 7 hours sleep per night and a week or two paid vacation per year; to ask for more is to be a selfish slacker. More and more, we're expected to bring the smart phone along on that vacation; heaven forbid we actually ignore work for a few days.

But a candy bar, a frozen coffee drink, a donut, that we can consume at our desks, while commuting or driving the kids to soccer practice, while getting things done. That it actually makes us feel worse in the long run is, of course, never even alluded to, except in the ads for the drugs we take to deal with the aftermath of loading our bellies with garbage.

I don't have a solution for the over-scheduling of modern American life. But I very much resent the constant selling of poisonous crap as the equivalent of time off to enjoy one's self, one's family and one's own life.

Yes, I have ranted about similar topics before. It's an ongoing, persistent meme in advertising, and it never fails to piss me off. So I do my bit to fight it by pointing it out, repeatedly. If at least a few people start noticing this insidious bait-and-switch tactic as a result, my ranting will not have been in vain.

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