Monday, March 29, 2010

Wide Duchess or Narrow Lady?

I am in Ireland at the moment, finishing up a revision of my own screenplay adaptation of The Music Lesson. It's a great task for a writer, writing through a finished novel in order to transpose it into another medium, and the job has given me some new insights into novel structure. I am also involved in a renovation of the cottage we have owned in West Cork since 1986.

In The Music Lesson, Patricia is alone in a cottage at the edge of the sea in West Cork, minding a priceless Vermeer portrait that has been stolen from the Queen for political purposes. In all her observing of Irish life, it didn't occur to me to have her ponder the traditional names for different sizes of roof slates, which are quite superb:

(All sizes are in inches - length x width)
26 x 16
Princess or Wide Duchess
24 x 14
24 x 12
Small Duchess
22 x 12
22 x 11
Broad/Wide Countess
20 x 12
20 x 10
Small Countess
18 x 10
18 x 9
Wide Lady
16 x 10
Broad Lady
16 x 9
16 x 8
Wide Header
14 x 12
14 x 10
Small Lady
14 x 8
Narrow Lady
14 x 7
Small Header
13 x 10
12 x 6
10 x 5

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Most Boring Game in the Universe!

Ever wonder why the game of CANDY LAND was SO b-o-r-i-n-g? A certain Eleanor Abbott, herself afflicted with polio, dreamed up the game in 1946 as an entertainment for children on polio wards. Introduced in 1949 at the price of one dollar, CANDY LAND was advertised as fulfilling "the sweet tooth yearning of the younger set without the tummy ache aftereffects."

Since the game requires no skill or strategy whatsoever, and originally had no personalities either (they came in later editions), only those rather creepy board landmarks, anyone with even minimal consciousness can play it, even someone immobilized in an iron lung. The good or bad luck of the draw of the cards is really all there is, which is why this "sweet little game for sweet little follks" takes forever. As you may recall, some of those cards cause major setbacks, and when you get stuck while turn after turn passes, the boringness of this game reaches a level that makes you yearn for the hullabaloo and drama of drying paint.
I hated CANDY LAND as a child, and I wish I had included some sort of CANDY LAND trauma for Alice in her grim Tatnall childhood. It would have suited that aspect of True Confections. But unlike Hasbro and all their casual Queen Frostine mutations, I won't be making changes in future editions.
(This post was inspired by the ever-wonderful )

Monday, March 15, 2010

Daylight Savings, Halloween, and the Candy Industry

During the Q & A at an event for True Confections yesterday afternoon, I was asked if I had a comment about the candy industry's efforts to have the end of Daylight Savings fall after Halloween, in order to preserve a valuable extra hour of daylight trick-or-treating. (There are also safety considerations; every year, children die in trafffic accidents on Halloween night.) This was the first I had heard about such lobbying efforts on the part of the confectionary establishment, but it makes perfect sense. DST was extended to November 1 starting in 2007, but I am not aware of any specific stats on a surge in candy sales in the last few years to match that extra hour. Alice would have had something to say about this, on page 170 of True Confections.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cocoanut Ping!

I have recently discovered a trove of obscure Mars candy bar boxes. Apparently the new Coconut M&Ms are not the first time Mars has ventured into Mounds territory (I am convinced the new coconut M&Ms are a response to the Hershey Mounds Pieces). Too bad they gave up on this particular Mars confection long ago. It would have been included in True Confections. I like the name a lot, and it lends itself to marketing campaigns. Ping me!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hot Chocolate

As Alice Ziplinsky notes in True Confections, the brand and image connection between comforting foods and jolly black people is an old and and persistent one, especially in France. Here's another example I had not heard of before now, "Negrocao," a portmanteau brand name presumably consisting of Negro + cacao. The word "Negronoir" is also made up, sort of blackblack. Love the cup and saucer hat. Note the white-bearded Caucasian gent (he looks like Matisse or Freud) offering a steaming cup of this product to a delighted doll-like Caucasian child.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Generic Racist Candy Name

Here's a vintage candy box showing an instance when there was so little imagination devoted to producing a candy with this familiar, racist marketing strategy that a generic name sufficed. Alice Ziplinsky would have talked about this one too, for sure, and probably would have given points to Eli for his misguided creativity and more subtle approach. Yet another candy invoking the weirdly persistent white culture's condescending caricature of the Negro? How shall we at Heide's* Candy Company distinguish it? Let's call about Black Kids! Why not?

*Further exploration reveals that Heide's Candy Company was founded in New York in 1869 by Henry Heide, who died in 1931. He was succeeded by his son Andrew, who retired in 1992, and it was his son, Philip Heide, who was to follow the usual pattern of family businesses in the third or fourth generation, and sell out to a large corporation. He sold to Hershey in 1995. But then Farley’s & Sathers Candy Co. Inc. (a hugely complex corporate entity with a convoluted history intertwined with Kraft, Hershey, Nabisco, Brach's and others) acquired all the Heide brand products from Hershey in 2002.

You have never eaten a Colored Kid (one hopes), but have you ever consumed Gummi Bears, Jujubees, Jujyfruits, Mexican Hats, Wunderbeans, or Red Hot Dollars? Those are Heide brands, too. (Sort of like discovering you do business with the nice people who used to make Zyklon B, isn't it?) Colored Kids were artifically colored and black anise flavored. Heide also made a "mello cream candy" called Chocolate Babies. (Not to be confused with those other problematic Babies, which were smaller and more Tootsie-like in texture.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Black Jack, Anyone?

The long association through much of the 20th century between candy and other comestibles and quaint depictions of black people is rich and cringey. Here, for example, we see the long lost cousin of the Clark Bar. Anything made with licorice or chocolate lent itself especially easily to this dimwitted and popular marketing strategy over the decades. Why this brand of caramels qualified for minstrel status is less clear. Over 69 years of progress? What does that mean? Caramel progress, minstrel progress, D.L. Clark Candy Company progress? In any case, if I had known of this brand I would have had Alice Ziplinsky mention it in her tirade about Negro imagery in candy and food advertising in the pages of True Confections.