The Concept Catalog

Back when I was working at an invention marketing company, one of the ways we promoted the inventions was the annual publication of a Concept Catalog that was handed out at trade shows and mailed to manufacturers and so on.  Each invention got a quarter-page ad, written in a certain format: eye-catching headline, product name, 5 to 7 bullet points listing its advantages, and the reference number.  We writers churned out these ads (3 to 5 per hour) and sent them upstairs to the artists, who used clip-art and fonts and flourishes to try to make each ad look special.

This was rather draining.  Particularly when it was almost time to publish the catalog and we had to proofread all the ads, they began to swirl together and induce cackling insanity.  Working late one night, I swept my eyes too quickly across two adjacent ads for completely unrelated ideas and found myself reading a very funny sentence!  Then I went through the whole catalog making similar unholy creations, and the next morning everyone found this in their mailboxes: Read more…

How the Cabana Bench Got Its Name

A tale of my childhood, retold in celebration of Mother’s Day.

When I was in first grade, my mother became annoyed that she kept finding my shoes in the middle of the floor in various public rooms of the house.

At first, she dealt with this the way most parents–trying to teach orderly living skills and respect for others–would:
“What, Mama?”
“Come put away your shoes!”  Once I had been successfully summoned to the scene, she firmly but kindly reminded me of the rule: “Your shoes belong in your closet.”  I would put away the shoes without much fuss…but the next day, she’d find them in the middle of the floor again.  Her approach was not working.

You might think that the next step was to establish some sort of consequence related to shoe storage: Read more…

To You, They ARE Underwear!

This article is part of my Tastes Like Somebody Loves You! series.  I wrote it in 2003, but it falls into that category of things I wasn’t allowed to say when I wasn’t a parent.

Toddlers learning to use the toilet used to wear cotton “training pants” that were just like underpants but made of thicker material. Now, nearly every supermarket sells synthetic disposable “pants” intended to give kids the ego boost of wearing a new type of undergarment, while still providing all the functionality of disposable diapers. These products brag about how much they resemble real cloth underwear, and the fact that they absorb far more liquid than underwear is presented as a selling point. Kids get to feel that they’re dressed just like grownups, without having to learn bladder and bowel control–what a great idea! Read more…

When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best

This article is part of my Tastes Like Somebody Loves You! series.

My son was 12 days old the first time he received a package with his name computer-printed on the shipping label. “What did you order?” I asked him jokingly. “Did you go online without permission?” Of course he hadn’t–the package contained a gift. From the large corporation named in the return address? No, from an old friend now living halfway across the country, who had ordered online and had it shipped directly. The packing slip held our friend’s congratulatory message, in anonymous type. I unwrapped the fuzzy yellow suit and wondered if mine were the first human hands to touch it. Read more…

Tastes Like Somebody Loves You!

Each photograph showed a smiling child, alone in the foreground of an after-school activity: ballet lesson, soccer practice, etc.  The slogan said, “Tastes Like Somebody Loves You!”  It was an ad campaign for individual pudding snacks.

Well, it may taste like it, but that snack doesn’t mean anyone loves you, kid. In fact, nobody loves you even enough to dump pudding mix into milk, stir it up, and pour it into dishes to create a semi-homemade snack. You’re not worth the effort. They’d rather buy something they can just rip off a multi-pack and shove into your little hand as you hop out of the SUV. But at least it tastes like somebody loves you…who? The pudding corporation? Read more…

Bagel! Bagel! Bagel!

Last winter, one of my Girl Scouts was singing this parody of the Dreidel song traditionally sung on Hanukkah:
Bagel! Bagel! Bagel!
I made it out of snow.
I baked it in the oven.
Where did my bagel go?

My family found this song hilarious and sang it over and over again.  Within a couple of days, we were making up our own variants. Read more…