The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

February 14, 2015

The 2015 Sledgehammer Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup: The Things We (Probably Shouldn’t) Do For Love

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:59 pm

 

Once again Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and once again, you probably have to do something about this.  Depending on your relationship status, you might find yourself needing to either pursue a relationship or maintain one.  Depending on the circumstances, you could be under a fair amount of pressure to produce something that will either knock his or her socks off (possibly among other articles of clothing, depending on the situation) or something that’ll just simply not mess things up.

As Pat Benetar once sung, Love is a battlefield.  And these are the weapons you do not want to be wielding if you know what’s best for you.  Every year since 2008 I have been doing one of these Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup posts, and every year the stores reliably produce a questionable array of seasonal merchandise that will land even the most hopeless romantic on the couch for their Valentine’s night.  Of course, everyone’s tastes are different, and it;’s entirely possible that you might even have someone who would appreciate some of these, but in general, a lot of these things are a bad idea no matter who you’re dealing with.

Previous Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundups:

You’ll find this year’s selection of questionable Valentine’s Day merchandise after the jump.

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February 12, 2014

Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup 2014: How Do Fools Fall in Love?

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 7:53 am

Oh, the troubles I’ve seen…

Well, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching once again, and as always, there is one thing on the hearts and minds of men all around the globe:  Don’t screw this one up.  Yes, there are plenty of nice things you can get your significant other to show how much you care, but at the same time there are also plenty of things out there that are, to put it briefly, rather inadvisable.  And for the seventh year now, I have made note of some of the more egregious examples found on store shelves all over the area, and compiled them here, partially as a convenient excuse to make snarky comments, and partially as a “What not to do” warning for those who dare to tread into this dangerous territory.  Along this path lies heartbreak, anguish, and quite possibly even sleeping on the couch.

As usual, I present this with the disclaimer that I am by no means an expert on this subject, nor do I pretend to be.  If I was then maybe I would have figured out how to stop being single at some point in time.  Then again, my girlfriend doesn’t seem to be a big fan of the traditional Valentine’s Day stuff anyway.  A couple of years ago, our Valentine’s Day date consisted of a lunch in one of the fancy steakhouses here in Bellevue, which quite frankly didn’t really go over so well.  Last year it was dinner at IKEA followed by a visit to one of the local Go-Kart tracks.  Not surprisingly, that one went over a whole lot better.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that to everyone though;  somehow I get the suspicion that I’m dealing with a bit of an edge case (not that I’m complaining, mind you…)  I don’t tell this story for any particular reason, but know that everyone is different, and sometimes you’ll find that the reality of the situation is far different from what the greeting card companies might have you expect.  Anyway, without further ado, the 7th annual Sledgehammer Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup can be found after the jump.

Previous Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundups:

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February 13, 2013

Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup 2013: Love Conquers All (Except for Bad Taste)

Filed under: Holidays, shopping — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 11:30 pm

Between all that stuff, you ought to be able to find something to regret the next morning.

Once again, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and with it comes the usual shelves full of random merchandise to help you to celebrate the season in what the world’s various marketing departments and greeting card manufacturers have deemed to be an acceptable manner.  Whether you’re wading through the obligatory pile of Vaguely Valentine themed cards that get passed out to everyone in your kid’s third grade class, trying to navigate an awkward teenage crush, looking to win the heart of the one you’re convinced you’ll be spending the rest of your life with, or just trying to keep them around, there’s no shortage of ways to express whatever sentiment happens to be appropriate for the situation at hand.  Naturally, some ways are better than others.  And naturally, some ways are not particularly advisable for anyone really.  It’s the stuff in the latter category that holds the most interest to me, mostly because with some of these items the whole “Who in their right mind thought THIS was a good idea?” factor of some of this stuff is off the chart.

This marks the sixth year that I have done the Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup on this Blog, and it remains one of my favorite posts to write each year.  Shockingly, there seems to be a lot less of the truly egregious examples of bad taste that have characterized the Kitsch Roundup than there have been in previous years (looking back at the earlier posts, I think the 2011 post is going to be pretty tough to top) but that doesn’t necessarily mean that marketers of Valentine’s Day-themed merchandise have had a sudden bout of sanity, just that not quite as many of the usual bad ideas seem to have made it out onto the shelves this year.  There also seems to be a number of the more “popular” items from previous Kitsch Roundups that continue to show up on the shelves for some odd reason.  As usual, this is not intended to be a gift guide of any sort; quite the opposite in fact.  I make the assumption that most people reading this Blog will have enough common sense to realize this, but these days you never know.  Either way, you’ve been properly warned.

Anyway, without further ado, it’s time for another excursion into the dark corners of the seasonal shelves for another look at ill-advised Valentine’s Day merchandise.

Previous  Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundups:

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February 13, 2011

Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup 2011: Love Isn’t as Blind as You Think

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:39 am

Valentine’s Day is coming up once again, and as seems to be the case far too often, it looks like I’ll be spending it in annoyingly single fashion, same as I’ve spent pretty much every Valentine’s Day since, oh, about 1989 or so.  Most of it is, of course, my own fault (sometimes I wonder if I enjoy being single just a little bit too much,) but I figure as long as I haven’t got much else going on, I might as well at least snark a bit about the whole thing in what has now become customary fashion over the course of the 3 1/2 years I’ve been Blogging here.  It’s not that I have anything against Valentine’s Day, of course.  I’d be glad to join in the festivities in the event that someone else was interested in doing so, but it’s not like any of this stuff is going to help with that anyway.

I don’t make any pretense of being any sort of expert on the subject of Valentine’s Day gift-giving, but I will say that by now I think I have a pretty good idea of plenty of things NOT to do.  For those of you who might not be familiar with these posts, basically what I do is go out and find the oddest, tackiest and most ill-advised examples of Valentine’s day merchandise to be found on the shelves of the various stores around here, and put together a bit of a “Do not do this” list.  I suspect that the vast majority of people reading this will have enough common sense to figure this stuff out on their own, but  even though I haven’t ever made a thorough examination of the dumpsters behind the store at the conclusion of the after-Valentine’s Day closeouts, I suspect someone’s buying this stuff, otherwise they wouldn’t keep cranking it out at an alarming rate.  Then again, love has been known to make men act irrationally, which isn’t generally the best trait to have in situations where common sense is indicated, so who knows?  Anyway, whatever you choose to do on behalf of the lover in your life, be careful out there, and when you’re being chased out the door with a rolling pin, don’t blame me.  I’m just the messenger here, OK?

So, without further ado, the 2011 Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup begins after the jump.

Previous  Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundups:

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February 9, 2010

All’s Fair in Love and Merchandising: Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup 2010

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:00 am

Once again, it’s that time of year, when a young man’s fancy turns to love, and a retailer’s fancy turns to the prospects of painting everything pink and making a boatload of money out of the whole deal.  Yes, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner once again, and once again the shelves of the local shops are crammed with all sorts of pink heart-shaped merchandise, whole aisles filled with stuffed animals, and all of the supplies needed for a happy Valentine’s day (well OK, maybe not all of them, that stuff falls outside the scope of this Blog.)  And, as usual, the aisles of Valentine’s Day stuff at your friendly neighborhood megamarts contain no  shortage of odd, questionable, or downright regrettable selections of merchandise guaranteed to fill your Valentine’s day with awkward silence and vaguely threatening glares.   Sure, there’s plenty of odd and otherwise offbeat merchandise that accompanies all the other big candy selling holidays, but Easter, Halloween or even Christmas don’t come with anywhere near the sheer quantity of peril that can arise from the wrong Valentine’s Day gift.  In continuing with one of the very few traditions I’ve been able to establish on this Blog and actually follow up on every once in a while, I present this year’s Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup.  Hopefully in the process I might manage to actually save someone somewhere from making a huge mistake.  That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.  Without further ado, the roundup may be found after the jump.

You can find the previous two Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup posts here:

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February 10, 2009

Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup 2009: More Great Ways to Spend Your Valentine’s Night Sleeping on the Couch

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 4:15 pm

I think that over the course of my several posts on the subject, I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s day.  Part of this is that I don’t think I’ve ever engaged in any significant observance of the holiday since I made it out of fourth grade, but part of it is that with all the kitschy, cheesy and/or downright questionable Valentine’s Day merchandise out there these days, it seems harder than ever to find something that’s actually meaningful.  If, on the other hand, you’re feeling noncommittal, lukewarm or downright cynical about the whole thing, there’s no shortage of bad Valentine’s Day gift ideas out there.

Before I go too much further, I should emphasize that the items I have found here are much more the exceptions than the rule.  Most of the Valentine’s Day merchandise available out there is fairly reasonable, or at least inoffensive.  This is, of course, not a bad thing when you’re dealing with third graders, but if you’re in the situation of trying to win someone’s undying love and affection, you might need to set your sights just a bit higher than inoffensive (You’re probably also going to need a lot more than a heart-shaped box of chocolates, but that falls outside the scope of this article.)  In most cases, using a little bit of common sense should be more than sufficient to keep you out of trouble.  The problem is that there are also a surprising number of items out there that would NEVER make a good Valentine’s Day present under any circumstances.  For the purposes of this roundup, we will be sticking to merchandise found within mainstream retail stores, where the vast majority of items on offer are family-friendly, although as you’ll find, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all are necessarily in good taste.  After the jump, a look at some of the not-so-great Valentine’s Day gifts on offer this year.

If you missed last year’s post, you may also find it here:

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February 7, 2009

Here’s What Death By Chocolate Looks Like

Filed under: Food — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 3:11 pm

For those of you who might have read my article last week providing an in-depth look at what’s hiding behind all the chocolate coating of the Whitman’s Sampler, I have to confess something about that particular article:  I can hardly stand to look at it right now.  This isn’t because of anything particularly wrong with the article itself (at least not that I know of, I haven’t bothered to go back and proofread it again after posting,) but as I would find out a few hours after I finished it, I was in the process of coming down with the stomach flu while I was finishing it up and writing the part about all the specific candies.  In order to make sure I knew what I was talking about I had to sample a couple of pieces again, and without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that some of those pieces decided to come back for a special encore presentation around 3am that night, along with most of that evening’s dinner.  It is clear that the candy itself had nothing to do with me getting sick (the Galloping Crud has been going around the family, and it was obviously my turn to get it,)  it’s just a case of bad timing.  Nonetheless, right now I’d have to say that chocolates have fallen a number of spots down my list of my favorite things, at least for the time being.

That said, if you still plan to be getting your current or prospective sweetheart and/or Valentine chocolates for Valentine’s Day, I would strongly recommend that you stick to something reasonable, and avoid overdoing it.  For example, the items below might be considered overdoing it:

To be honest, you’ll probably be hard pressed to even find a heart-shaped box of chocolates that big at most places (I only found one store in town that even carries these sizes,) but in the event that you find yourself tempted to show your affection in quantity rather than quality, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The nutritional information on the Russell Stover chocolate assortment contained in these boxes indicates that a serving of two pieces contains 150 calories, six grams of fat, four grams of saturated fat and 21 grams of carbohydrates.  I didn’t look at the number of servings in the 40-ounce box, but the giant 52-ounce box contains 43 servings, for a total of 6,450 calories.  In the interest of not scaring people off, I’ll leave the other numbers to the reader to figure out if they are so inclined. 
  • These chocolates have a “best before” date of May 1st on them.  If you believe that your Valentine is going to be able to finish off 52-ounces of assorted chocolates before then, go right ahead.  Of course, there’s also the need to find somewhere to store that giant heart-shaped box while it’s in the process of being consumed (the box is practically big enough to take up a whole coffee table by itself.) 
  • At $29.99 for the 40-ounce box and $39.99 for the 52-ounce behemoth, you might be paying too much for the quantity of chocolate on offer.  As you can see above, there are a couple of different 16-ounce assortments on sale for $6.99 apiece, a price that could yield a full 64 ounces of chocolate for $27.96. (your mileage, of course, may vary.)  This way you’ll not only have more chocolate for less money in more manageable packaging, but you’ll also have backups just in case your Valentine doesn’t work out.

So when you’re shopping for your Valentine’s Day gifts this year, be sure to think carefully and weigh all the pros and cons before you make the kind of commitment necessary to bring your Sweetheart a 52-ounce box of chocolates.  After all, the last thing you want is for a box of  Valentine’s Day chocolates to last longer than the relationship does, right?

For more not-so-great Valentine’s Day gift ideas, watch for my second annual Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup post coming later this week, chock full of great new ways to ensure you’ll be spending your Valentine’s Night sleeping on the couch.

February 2, 2009

Sampling the Whitman’s Sampler: A Guide to America’s Favorite Box of Enigmatic Chocolates

Filed under: Food — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:55 am

(Please Note:  This page is unofficial, and is not associated in any way with Russell Stover, Whitman’s or any other seller or manufacturer of candies.  If you wish to contact the manufacturer, you can find them at the Russell Stover homepage.)

As anyone who has been reading this Blog for any length of time is well aware, I am probably the last person you would want to rely on for any sort of relationship advice, unless for some odd reason you are looking for tips on accomplishing your lifelong dream of living out your life as a hermit living in the middle of nowhere, unblemished by any of that pesky human contact stuff.  I think that I would like to at least make an attempt to avoid this scenario, but that’s beside the point for now.  I probably can’t (and really shouldn’t) try to advise my readers about how to win the heart of their chosen Mr. or Ms. Right but still need some sort of vaguely seasonal content to tie in with the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday.  Last year around this time, I put together my first annual (or so) Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup, and since this year’s collection of heart-shaped and jewel-encrusted merchandise seems to be sufficiently kitschy to warrant such a post once again, I am in the process of collecting the photographic evidence for such a collection once again. 

In the process of putting together such a collection, I find myself often staring at shelves full of quality (or otherwise) chocolate confections.  The sheer number of different choices to be found on the shelves these days is staggering (as I will discuss in further detail in the upcoming post as outlined above), but among the Johnny-come-latelies and trendy designer chocolates with a pricetag to match can be found the venerable Whitman’s Sampler, an old standby which was around long before most of the other chocolates on the shelf, and will most likely continue to be around long after many of the others have been relegated to the closeout rack  of history.  Whitman’s was founded in 1842, and has been producing the classic Whitman’s Sampler since 1912, leaving a trail of classic advertisements that remain sought after by collectors.  The company also has a long history of supporting the military throughout the various wars they have fought, and during World War II workers in the Whitman’s factory would often add handwritten notes of encouragement to boxes of chocolate being sent to the troops overseas.  From the 1960s through the early Nineties, ownership of the company changed hands several times before it finally landed with Russell Stover Candies, where it remains today. 

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Detail from a 1942 Whitman's ad. Click for the full ad (source: graphic-design.tjs-labs.com)

Unfortunately for the recipient of this charming little box of history, none of this makes it any easier to figure out what’s hiding inside all that rich chocolate coating that your current suitor has presented you with.  Oddly enough, I have found that there doesn’t seem to be much information on this topic on the Internet either.  As with any other self-respecting company these days Whitman’s has their own website, but it seems to be mostly geared toward selling products by mail order (although if you dig through the Russell Stover site a bit you can find a school project section that provides an overview of the history of Whitman’s,)  Information on the actual contents of the venerable yellow box of chocolate seems to be surprisingly hard to come by.  The lid of the box includes a “map” naming each type of chocolate in the box (in three different languages, no less) but in spite of this, the whole thing still seems rather vague.  While this type of thing might be great for someone with a sweet tooth and a hearty sense of adventure, I figure that there are some people out there who just might want to have a bit more information before they just bite into some random piece of candy.

In light of this (and because I would feel a whole lot less guilty about eating a whole box of chocolates by myself if I could somehow justify it as being for “research purposes,” I have taken it upon myself to dive into the Whitman’s Sampler, try each piece out and report back on my findings.  After the jump, you will find the results of my “study” of this classic box of ambiguous confections and brief impressions of each of the various candies found within.

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February 6, 2008

Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup

Filed under: Culture, shopping — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 3:05 am

 

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner now, and as the thoughts of (some) people turn to the subject of love, the seasonal sections of the stores have filled up with all manner of heart-encrusted merchandise.  Back in the old days, it used to be sufficient to put out a few boxes of chocolates and other heart-shaped candies, and a selection of the noncommittal “friend” cards featuring the current pop culture flavor of the week for kids to pass out in their grade school classes.  Nowdays, as is the case with pretty much any other holiday, they’ve overcommercialized the living daylights out of it, and the variety of Valentine’s Day merchandise available these days at your typical discount store is staggering, and continues to expand every year.

As a single guy who probably isn’t doing as much as I should to rectify that situation, I generally don’t have much reason to be shopping for anything related to Valentine’s Day, and even if I did, I’m pretty sure I’d have to come up with something a bit more romantic than the stuff that you are going to see here.  In fact, I’m certain that if I was involved in any sort of meaningful relationship with a living breathing human female, giving most of these items as a gift would probably result in the termination of said relationship.  After the jump, a selection of some of the finest Valentine’s Day kitsch to grace the shelves of whatever department store you happen to shop at, and a reminder of why you should probably just stick with the roses and expensive jewelry. (more…)

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