Walnuts Made It! Blogging the First Presidential Debate

We're watching tonight's debate on our new digital TV thingy, and it's totally going to kick-ass. Those navy blue suits and muted, understated ties are going to POP in digital!

Wow, look at that giant angry eagle. He’s going to peck out the eyes of anyone who doesn’t love America.

Why is Jim Lehrer yelling at us? Someone fix his mic, please.

Ah, that was tricky – “The global financial crisis.” Nicely done.

Wow, Jim’s kinda being an asshole – why even have an audience if they can’t make any noise?

Obama is thinking, “Glad to see you actually showed up, prune-face!”

They even turned off the lights on the audience. That’s cold.

Jim’s not really on his A game tonight, is he?

What kinds of pin does ‘Bama have on? It better be a fucking flag or the eagle is going to come for him.

Wow, right into the issues and policy, 'Bama, nice going.

Yeah baby, McCain LOVES Bush – keep it coming -- pin it ALL on Bush/McCain.

Oh Christ. First of all, Walnuts, Kennedy’s office released a statement saying he’s probably home by now, watching the debate.

Every republican watching this immediately and instinctively went into a rant about Chappaquiddick as soon as they heard him say the words “Senator Kennedy.” They just can’t help themselves.

My friends, I haven’t been feeling too great about the economy, but hey, I have like 29 houses and 309 cars, so I’ll probably be ok! Don’t you worry about me, friend. Cindy and I will somehow make it through.

What the hell did McCain just do? He just winked at us like a pirate and pointed out the fact that he’s like 300 years old. Poor.

Walnuts doesn’t have a flag pin…for shame! That eagle is gonna swoop down and punish him.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! We’re all going to be poor and then we’re going to die! It seems like he’s telling us to panic…and make a run on the banks for our money. Another bank is going to fail tonight thanks to his alarmist statements.

Funny, I thought the economy was “fundamentally sound?”

Talk to each other? Right, go ahead guys. “Hey, John, how’s it going? Uh, WTF were you thinking about Palin, man?”

Obama is that brilliant but scary professor who drills holes in your skull with his eyes when you’re explaining why you didn’t turn in your paper, and McCain is that boring and crabby uncle you’re trying to avoid sitting next to at Thanksgiving dinner.

How does the landing at Normandy relate to the credit crisis? What IS McCain babbling about?

Every time you hear “Main Street and Wall Street,” take a drink.

Awkward. The last thing these guys want to do is talk to each other. McCain won’t even LOOK at Obama. Let’s drop this whole “talk to each other” thing, ok, Jim?

Have we ever talked about McCain's GIANT head? With the jowls, it’s like one-third the total length of his body.

So, are the best days are ahead of us, or all we all supposed to panic, or are we all just irresponsible twits that aren’t qualified to wipe the asses of the greatest generation?

Oh, god, this election’s compulsory example of stupid government spending. This time it’s bear DNA. What was it last election? Something about sheep?

Wow, John McCain has a pen. A PEN. He also has 246 cars.

I thought this was supposed to be about foreign policy? Not so much, I guess.

I wish I collected a paycheck every day. That would be sweet. I think he meant folks who WORK every day. Which sucks.

‘Bama looks like he’s going to beat down Walnuts. Maybe he’ll gang up with the angry eagle.

Ok, we’re 15 minutes in and McCain hasn’t mentioned that he was a POW or his “service to this county.” That’s gotta be a record.

Oooohh, Obama’s getting fired up now. Let’s go! Because otherwise, I’m falling asleep.

Ok, we’re 19 minutes in, they’ve FINALLY mentioned a foreign power, and it’s IRELAND. Wow, this is some fascinating policy discussion.

MY FRIENDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He said it – take a drink.

‘Bama is really doing a huge laundry list here with no detail. I don’t think this is a good idea – all of these things sound really expensive. Keeping up with those wily Chinese space walkers – that can’t be cheap.

Yeah, I’d be laughing at Walnuts and his giant head, too. I am so tired of Republicans using the word liberal like a profanity.

The “little combat ship?” Yeah, that sounds like a GREAT program. What the fuck is the little combat ship?

Uh…what about ENDING THE FUCKING WAR to save some money?!

Spending freeze? Did he just make that up? His campaign staff is backstage spitting out their diet Dokes. “Holy shit! What did he just say – spending freeze?! Johnson, did he tell you about this?”

And by “make decisions on their own” for healthcare, what I really mean is that families should “pay for it on their own.”

UH…aren’t YOU a veteran, John? So, by “taking care of our veterans,” I think we all know who you’re thinking about …taking care of NUMBER ONE! Busted.

Why is everyone so down on how much we owe China? “China still cool…you pay later! Later!”

This is the second time McCain’s reminded us that he wasn’t elected Miss Congeniality. I think he’s still bitter. Poor guy.

Did we miss the Senate beauty pageant this year? I love the swimsuit competition.

This is the most boring debate I think I’ve even seen in my entire life.

McCain just took responsibility for the rise of the Taliban. Way to go, buddy!

Sometimes you just have to do stuff, and you just have to do it, even if it’s unpopular. Now, where have we heard this before? Yikes, that’s scary. “…and if I have to nuke the entire southern hemisphere, I’ll do it. AND I’ll use the little combat ship.”

Middle America isn’t going to like ‘Bama’s pronunciation of Pakistan with the long a’s. Too snooty.

I’m SO glad he mentioned McCain’s fucking “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran” song. Not only was it in poor taste, it was so cringe-worthy.

Now McCain has adopted Obama’s Pakistan pronunciation.

The ubiquitous Reagan reference. When can we stop hearing about THAT guy?

Was John McCain in the military? I did not know that.

The one thing Obama has done tonight is eliminated the experience question…there’s no way anyone could watch this and think Obama isn’t ready or doesn’t have the experience to lead. He’s hanging right in there.

Christ, there’s another HOUR of this? Oh, just half an hour. Thank god.

Iran is an “existential” threat to Israel? Is Jean-Paul Sartre running for president now? What the fuck does that mean? Iran is going to catapult used philosophy textbooks into Tel Aviv?

Wow, this whole Iran nuclear threat thing sounds SO familiar…hum, I wonder where we’ve heard this before… “It’s a real threat, there’s no question that they’re developing these weapons, etc., etc.”

Ok, I’m done blogging now. Want to take over, ol rip-ass coat bitch?

No. I’m falling asleep.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the angry eagle was automated and helped Jim moderate?

“Let’s stay on topic now, Senator McCain. Caw! Caw!”

“Time is up, Senator Obama -- yield to Mr. McCain. Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! We must move on, now, really. Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Have you really looked at this beak, Senator? Your time is up.”

BOOM baby – 'Bama smacks down McCain down on Kissinger. That guy always comes back to haunt you.

This thing where McCain starts each response by pointing out Obama’s “naiveté” just isn’t ringing true. Obama is more than holding his own here.

Yay! Let’s talk about Russia.

“I went to Russia once. And Sarah Palin saw me there--from her house. And I saw her too. And she waved at me and I waved back and I said “Hi Sarah”, and she said “Hi!” I saw Levi, too. He was hanging in the rec room playing on the Wii. He’s a fine young man who is taking responsibility for his demon seed. God bless that fine family. Anyway, Senator Obama is revealing his naiveté when he talks about Russia.”

McCain saw “K-G-B” in Putin’s eyes? That must have been freaky.

Nunn-Lugar – most Americans think that’s a light pilsner from the Netherlands.

“American blood and treasure”? What treasure? Can I have some treasure?

Obama needs to turn to McCain and tell him to stop telling lies. Stop pretending that Obama said he wants to be defeated in Iraq. What Obama said is that we’ve neglected legitimate threats because of the single-minded focus and spending on Iraq, and people know this – again, McCain isn’t ringing true.

I can’t WAIT for the veep debate. I has to be more exciting than this snooze fest. At the very least it’s at least going to be entertaining watching Palin squirm and find novel ways to stall for time.

Ugh. Cindy McCain. That woman is scary beyond belief. Doesn’t matter how many Nancy Regan suits and ropes of pearls you put on that woman, she’s still going to scare people.

Wouldn't it be sweet if Walnuts and Cindy did a terrorist fist-bump right now?

So, who won? I say tie, but I’ll give Obama the edge because he did what he needed to do. He totally held his own against McCain, proved that he’s experienced, informed and “presidential.” McCain didn’t do anything wrong, but he also didn’t really gain any ground.

I say tie, too, I guess. Obama needs to warm things up a bit, and get a little more personal, but he did well -- definitely held his own, and then some. McCain did ok, too, for a total fucking wanker – better than he usually does. Although I think he seemed overly cold and unpleasant toward Obama, and folks might not like that.

I hate to say it, but Jim Lehrer was terrible tonight. I can’t wait to see Gwen Ifill go after Sarah Palin. I don’t know when I’ve ever been so excited about a debate. Sarah Palin is my Dan Quayle.

I say the real winner tonight was ANGRY EAGLE.



Ol’ Rip-Ass Coat Bitch (ORACB) and his wife share some Golden Olympic Moments

Anne: First of all, I want to point out that these Golden Olympic Moments are not brought to you by Chevy.

ORACB: Unless…Chevy, any time you want a piece of this action, just give us a call.

ORACB: “For this American team, it must be a little like waiting for Godot.” Ok, that’s my favorite comment so far. For sure.

Anne: Uh, what the fuck does that mean?

ORACB: Wow, who designed the women’s gymnastics uniforms?

Anne: I know. It’s like someone said, “Make me the ugliest leotards possible – I want shiny, bunchy unflattering material. Make it look like cheap Christmas wrap. Next, add random squiggles, sequins and rick-rack. Bottom line, I want something that can make even an 87 pound gymnast look chunky. Do it NOW!”

Anne: There’s a WEST Des Moines?

Anne: What was that 16.9 score for?

ORACB: Uhh, those two bars? Those two barry-things?

Anne: They’re called UNEVEN bars, Michael.

ORACB/Michael: Ok, those Chinese girls DO look like they’re eight. It might not just be American whining.

ORACB/Michael: Oh my god, look at Bella Lugosi. He’s going to rip Bob Costa’s head off.

Anne: Jesus, Michael, it’s not Bella Lugosi, it’s Bella Kolrolli or something like that.

Michael (I’m tired of typing ORACB): That girl might be seven.

Anne: I don’t know. Maybe all of the glitter and blue eye shadow is a wild attempt to make them look older. Seriously, someone couldn’t help them with that a bit?

NOTE: We just got our digital converter box, so tonight’s Olympic events are the inaugural run.

Michael: Can you tell any difference in the picture? I can’t tell any difference.

Anne: I think it looks good. Mostly I’m excited about all those PBS weather channels. I can’t think of anything better to sleep to – random NOAA maps with jazz or classical. Kiss your Advil PM goodbye!

Michael: Wouldn’t that be crazy if the third guy on this swimming relay would totally fuck it up?

Anne: “He’s sunk to the bottom of the pool! It’s like he’s completely forgotten how to swim!”

Anne: This is a really boring race – it’s not even close. It’s like watching the Cornhuskers play Ball State or something back in the good old days.

Michael: You know what I want to see? Just once I want to see them focus on the people who finish dead fucking last.

Michael: Russian Federation, fresh off their domination of the Georgians, coming in second.

Michael: I guess that Mark Spitz is kinda throwing a fit about not being invited and flown to the Olympics. Uh, dude why don’t you buy your own tickets to the Olympics?

Micahel: She’s six, right?

Anne: You’re just going to have to let it go, Michael.

Anne: Jesus Christ, I’m getting sick of these fucking smug-ass commentators – especially the guy with the higher-pitched voice. So, these are “really, just silly mistakes”? What the fuck does this guy look like, anyway? I’d like to see him up on the balance beam. In fact, I’d like to see him do one of those flips and land right on his nuts.

Michael: Attacking the beam – I wish that were literal. That would be something to see. ARRHGHHHH!

Michael: OHHHHH! Well, I guess she didn’t attack the beam that time.

Anne: You just yelled “OHHHHHH!” like one of the commentators would. I think someone has Olympic fever.

Michael: So, what are the other girls saying to her? “It’s ok, you just crushed all of our dreams, but that’s ok. Let’s still be friends.”

Michael: Let’s face it, if any of us, or them, would try to jump on that thing and get on a balance beam, we would bounce in the opposite direction, fall, break a bone and lie there screaming ARGH! ARGH! ARGH!”

Michael: “The balance beam comes back to bite again.” Maybe that’s my favorite comment, if just for the alliteration.

Anne: Ok, I’m about done. Can we turn the PBS weather channel on now?


2008 Beijing Olympics Review: Does this visor make me look younger?

Hey, where’s Laura? Probably got stuck on some cultural tour. Meanwhile…

“We told President Bush to stop by -- we’d just be here sitting around in our bikinis -- but we never thought he’d actually show up!”

2008 Beijing Olympics Review: “You just don’t take steps on your pommel horse dismount.”

If your family is like ours, you watch the Olympics less for the athletic events and more to mock the commentators, cheesy athlete profiles and leave-nothing-to-the imagination uniforms.

2008 promises not to disappoint from a mockability standpoint, although the opening ceremony was a little too classy for my taste.

But really, what opening ceremony can ever compete with the powerfully regal display from the Atlanta games, especially the “Traditions of the South” portion of the show. Remember the cheerleaders-in-the-back-of-pickup-trucks routine? What a great opportunity to show the world all that which makes our country great, like, underage floozies getting knocked up by rural meatheads in gas-guzzling 4x4s.

I know I had goose bumps.

Anyway, I’ve only been watching for about an hour, but I’ve already heard all of these old Olympic standbys:

“Tonight’s gold metal spotlight – brought to you by CHEVY!”

“Not at the Olympics.”

“You just don’t DO that at the Olympics!”


“Nailed it!”

“He just needs to get through it cleanly.”

And my favorite so far: “You just don’t take steps on your pommel horse dismount.”

We’ll try to post some of our favorite 2008 Olympic highlights.

In the meantime, if you’re having a hard time discerning the US athletes, check the hair. On men, if you see spikes in the font and much hair gel, it’s likely he’s a part of team USA. On women, look for chunky blond highlights.


Aldi’s Recipe Review: Beef Ragout

Ok, it really was beef stew, but ragout sounds a lot fancier.

It appears that Aldi’s fresh meat is “treated” or “injected” with some sort of “flavor-enhancing solution” that has lots of di-meth and di-ex and other chemicals that start with the prefix “di.” I’m very unhappy about this, since it means I’m unlikely to buy any more fresh meat at Aldi – and that really sucks because it is so fucking cheap.

I didn’t notice this unhappy meat situation in the store because I was so over-stimulated by my first Aldi’s experience. I’m easily over-stimulated in retail settings – my friend Gina once took me to Linens ‘N Things. That was five years ago. She has never shopped with me again. I mean it. She won’t enter a convenience store with me.

Anyway, despite my extreme displeasure about this jacked-up meat, I’d be more displeased to let food go to waste, so we decided to go ahead and eat the meat we purchased.

Here are the ingredients we used.

  • Adli “All Hopped Up On Goofballs” beef stew meat, about one pound. (This was like $2. Seriously. So sad.)
  • 3 T butter, courtesy of our friends at Roundy's.
  • 2 T Aldi “Carlini” Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I’ve had better olive oil, but if you’re cooking with it (as opposed to using it on salad or something) who gives a shit? “Carlini” olive oil is a blend and comes by way of the Spanish, Italians, and those wacky Greeks.
  • Four large Aldi russet potatoes, sliced. It’s a fine potato. I can’t think of anything funny to say about potatoes.
  • Four whole Aldi "Freshire Farms" carrots – not those bullshit ground-down “baby” carrots, either. Four macho carrots, sliced into coins.
  • One package Aldi mushrooms, sliced (I thought these looked better than Pick N Save mushrooms).
  • Three cloves garlic, minced.
  • No onions. In case you don’t know, our 13-year marriage is grounded on a solid foundation of onion hatred. You will never see an onion-related review on Summary Judgments.
  • 1/4 to 1/3 C Aldi “Morning Gold” baking mix – a Bisquick equivalent.
  • Approximately 2/3 C of red wine – from our refrigerator. It’s been there since New Year’s Eve. Maybe Thanksgiving.
  • Two 8 oz cans Aldi "Chef's Cupboard" beef broth.
  • 1/4 t Mace, from our pantry. Mace is a seriously underutilized spice. It is named after a medieval weapon after all, but it’s actually very nice in soups, stews, and egg dishes.
  • 1/4 t Allspice, also from our pantry. Clearly, Allspice has a brand manager. “Hey, which spice should we use? Well, looky here, it’s ALL-spice! That should do the trick!”
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Chopped parsley and paprika. Parsley and paprika make anything look better, particularly if your dish is suffering from pastiness or grayness.

I doubt anyone reading this is using it as an actual recipe, but if you want to know how to make it:

  • Brown the meat, mushrooms, and garlic in the butter and oil until browned and a bit crusty. (That crusty stuff on the bottom of the pan is called fond and it’s an excellent word to use in Scrabble because another player will almost always challenge it -- and nothing is better than a kicking a smug challenger’s ass when playing Scrabble.)
  • Add the flour and stir until smooth.
  • Add the wine and broth, stir until flour is fully integrated (no lumps).
  • Toss the rest of the shit in – simmer for an hour or so.
  • “Adjust the seasoning” as they say so often in my 1965 edition of The Joy of Cooking. (This edition also tells you how to dress and cook muskrat, raccoon, and bear meat. Just let me know if you want me to scan the recipes for you.)
  • Top with parsley and paprika.

Overall, the stew, er, ragout, was delish. The meat was tender, but how could it not be, as “injected” and “flavor-enhanced” as it was? I couldn’t really determine any difference in taste compared to untreated meat, but it’s the thought that counts. Overall, this recipe was as good as the something made with ingredients from swankier stores – you know, stores with bags and non-deposit carts, and without the underpants and jogging shorts for sale.

So in summary: Hopped up meat = serious bummer; all other Aldi products = cheap and serviceable; kick some Scrabble ass with fond; and let’s all try to show Mace a little more love.



We’ve just discovered that “Tandil” is the name of a city in Argentina (we thought it was maybe Spanish for “requires two wash cycles.”) Yet, Tandil laundry detergent is a GERMAN brand. Didn’t all the escaped Nazi’s seek refuge in Argentina?

COINCIDENCE? I think not!

Consumer Experience Review: “You fat cats didn’t finish your plankton!”

GOD DAMN! Between gas and grocery prices, we are officially on a budget!

As I’ve said before, desperate times call for desperate measures -- in a word, Aldi.

Due to circumstances that would take way, way, WAY too long to explain, both Michael and I have prepared Aldi’s food, but have never been to an Aldi’s store before today.

So, for all you Aldi’s virgins out there, first things first:

1)You need to “rent” your grocery cart for a quarter. If you return your cart, you get your quarter back. In some amazing understanding of inner-city microeconomics, Aldi’s figured out that a person looking to steal a grocery cart places higher value on their quarter than on the cart they wish to steal. Maybe those “Freakonomics” guys should look into this phenomenon.

2) Aldi’s does not accept checks or credit cards. They do accept debit cards and, of course, cash.

3) The cashier puts your groceries straight into an empty cart – no bags. If you want to take your groceries home in a bag, you have to buy it – there is a really heavy plastic bag with sturdy handles for .99 cents, and standard plastic grocery bags (but don’t buy these, they always end up in the trees on our block) and paper bags for .10 cents. There are boxes sitting around, but those are a hot commodity and you may have to fight a fellow shopper for one.

And just an FYI, you can buy underpants at Aldi’s. Also wheelbarrows and raspberry bushes. And jogging shorts.

Aldi’s is not the place to look for healthy or low-fat foods. Aldi’s does have a “Fit N Active” line of “health-conscious” products, but it is limited, predominately mango-flavored and weird. Overall, most of their foods are chock full of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. No wonder their fig bars taste so fucking good.

Another thing -- you need to be a little scrappy to shop at Aldi’s -- this is not your typical Pick N Save crowd. I had to protect our place in line from a guy loaded up with Aldi’s brand energy drinks (I think it’s called “Red Thunder” or "Wild Thunder") and something called “GT Cola.” Despite this line-cutter's caffeine high, I managed to hold my own, thank you very much.

Bargains did abound. We bought a full week’s worth of groceries, plus some extras, for $143. We probably would have spent at least $200 on the same items at Pick N Save. For example, a gallon of skim milk is a dollar cheaper per gallon vs. PNS.

We bought little processed or prepared food – and tried to stick with meat, breads, vegetables and dairy products. The $143 also included household goods such as a large jug of laundry detergent (Tandil brand; “New Improved Fragrance!”) hand-soap refill, toilet paper and paper cups and plates.

Here's a 'lil sampler of what we purchased at Aldi:
But wait, you say – what if this stuff tastes horrible, or has cutworms in it (true story), or doesn’t work well -- then it’s not so much of a bargain, now, is it?

This is where we’re taking one for the team – we’re going to use all of our Aldi products over the next week and report back to you, the consumer, on the good, the bad, and the possibly infectious.

You’re welcome.


Stupid Review Review: The Mission

My eldest son and I recently watched “The Mission” on Netflix instant viewing. It’s a fine movie; beautiful cinematography, great music and solid performances by young DeNiro, Irons and Nesson in non-type roles.

Most movie critics and Netflix viewers rated this movie in the 4 to 5 star range, and almost everyone I know likes the film.

That’s why I was so surprised to see a one-star rating amongst the rave reviews.

I was intrigued – maybe the reviewer felt the script romanticized colonization and proselytization? Were there gross historical inaccuracies? Did she feel DeNiro’s performance was a bit wooden?

Nope. It was boobies.

Here’s the actual review:

1.0 Stars

Does not deserve a PG rating! It deserves an R rating for nudity. For those of you with children or actually do not want to see nudity then DO NOT WATCH THIS FILM

1 out of 38 people found this review helpful. (Uh, yeah.)

There are reasons to think twice before showing this movie to young children – there is violence, slavery, fratricide, talk of infanticide and some pretty intense scenes. Notice no mention of those issues in this review. Nope. This genius was offended by breasts and buttocks shown exclusively in the context of traditional indigenous dress. Or as Michael put it, National Geographic grade nudity.

People like this are the reason why the bloodiest, most gory torture-porn movies get by with an R (or even PG-13) rating, yet anything with extensive sexual themes or nudity gets the box-office killing NC-17.

Don’t believe me? Check out this documentary about the MPAA and how films are rated.

Comment Review: Do I Live In The Hood?

An alarmed, and anonymous, reader (see below, in red) is concerned about my foul mouth and the way I was raise (sic). I can assure the gentle reader that my parents spent much time and effort raising me to the highest standards of civilized society.

In other words, leave my mom and dad out of it, asshole.

And, by the way, I do live in the hood -- proud of it. What’s your point?

In summary, if you are offended by profanity, take yourself too seriously or are under eighteen years of age, don’t come ‘round here no more.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post Roundy's Review Roundup!:

Roundy's bar soap is great for washing out the foul mouths of gutter speak adults. Do you live in the hood? Is this the way you were raise to speak (write)?

UPDATE: My mother-in-law thinks I'm ok, too (see comments). She's enormously sophisticated, and she lives in the hood.

Desperate times call for desperate "gutter speak." Really, how could anyone possibly discuss W., the war or our current economic state without letting the explicatives fly? (Although I admit I'm a peacetime profaner as well.)

In a bar-soap-in-the-mouth-related note, our youngest son once took a bite out of a bar of Burt's Bees soap, thinking it was chocolate (it does look very much like a candy bar). He's just starting to trust the cocoa bean again.


Roundy's Review Roundup!


Have you seen the price of groceries these days?

In these uncertain economic times (Wait, I mean “Robust Economy,” isn’t that right, George W. Bush? Wow, what we will do when that motherfucking genius isn't around?), you might cast an eye toward those store brands. I know, it’s a risky proposition. Is generic ring bologna really going to meet your family’s high, high standards? Will they judge you harshly if you bring home some no-name Thousand Island dressing?

Here at Summary Judgments, we always have the public’s good in mind, so we’ve compiled a review of Roundy’s store brand products.

For those of you outside of the Wisconsin/Illinois area, the Roundy’s corporation owns the Pick N Save, Copps and Rainbow chains of grocery stores.

A few overall notes:

1) First of all, the “Chairman Bob Approved” campaign? (Bob Mariano is the Chairman of the Roundy’s corporation.) Might need some re-tooling. The primary in-store feature of this campaign are little “thumbs-up” cardboard cut-outs that stick out from the shelves, alerting you to featured Roundy’s brand products.

Cute, right?

It took us about 2.4 seconds to realize that the thumbs could be easily flipped over, thus creating the unintentional “Thumbs down from Chairman Bob” campaign and scaring shoppers away from that reasonably-priced can of jumbo pitted olives.

And trust me, we weren’t the only ones flipping the thumbs, not by a long shot. It’s pretty much the primary form of entertainment at the 16th and National Pick N Save. Well, it’s a close second behind loudly airing your marital grievances via cell phone.

2) I realize it’s probably some family legacy thing, but I think the products might go down easier with a more appealing name. Roundy’s. Meh. It’s not exactly unappetizing, but it’s not doing anything to draw me in, either.

Aldi’s does it right when it comes to store-brand names. In the market for some generic canned veggies? Why, look, it’s “Happy Harvest” brand! Need an industrial size bag of noodles? Well you’re in luck sir, for you’re about to purchase “Chef’s Choice” dried elbow macaroni. Ooooooo, fancy. Better hurry before the chef’s snatch it up!

(Please note. Summary Judgments does not recommend Aldi’s products, particularly “Happy Harvest” canned goods. If you really want to know why, send me an email.)

3) The design values on the Roundy’s packaging is poor. Weak fonts, muddy colors – the overall design just screams, “I am so fucking cheap.” Could the good folks in the Roundy’s creative department step it up a little? We’re already shopping generic – give us just a little bit of our dignity back.

Despite their creative flaws, I would wholeheartedly recommend most Roundy’s, Roundy’s Select or Roundy’s Organics products…

But, let’s face it; it’s hard to fuck up applesauce.

Most of the Roundy’s stuff is of the processed, smashed, blended or otherwise smooshed variety. How can you assess the true quality of ingredients rendered into a liquid, paste, spread or sauce?

Know what I’d be impressed with? Roundy’s brand Filet Mignon. Roundy’s Select brand Beluga caviar. Roundy’s Organics stripped sea bass on sautéed jicama matchsticks.

Ok, moving on. Here are the ratings for some specific Roundy’s brand products:

Roundy’s Organics Pure Maple Syrup: I give this two thumbs up (WAAAAAY up). Tastes exactly like the $8 pure maple syrup and it’s seriously cheaper. Like many whole dollars cheaper. The kids like it, we’re saving whole dollars, everyone’s happy.

Roundy’s Organics Fruit Spread: Also two thumbs up. Keep in mind, though, this product is smooshed up fruit. Not real hard to fuck up. It’s definitely cheaper than the national brands, with no discernible difference in taste or texture. Go for it.

Roundy’s Select Premium Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream: One thumb up. It’s okay, but it’s not that much cheaper than Breyer’s and it has a weird, slightly foamy consistency. It tastes a lot more processed than other premium ice cream brands. However, it does go on sale a lot, and, hence, the thumb.

Roundy’s All Natural and Roundy’s Organics All Natural Apple Sauce: Two, thumbs, but please see my comments above re: degree of difficultly in fucking up applesauce.

Roundy’s Select European Sodas (Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade, Blueberry something, and I forget the rest): I guess one thumb up. These are really expensive, like $3 for a 1.5-liter bottle. Not available in individual serving sizes (which means serious loss of carbonation if you don’t drink the whole thing right away), the bottles are too tall and take up valuable tall-item space in the fridge. Taste is not memorable. That’s it, I’m taking the thumb away. These things blow. No thumbs.

Roundy’s Organics Crunchy Peanut Butter: Two thumbs up. Comparable to any national brand “natural” peanut butter. People, it’s smashed peanuts and salt, no need to pay more.

Roundy’s Citrus Breeze (or something like that) Anti-Bacterial Dish Detergent: One thumb. As dish detergent, it’s on the low end of the scale -- not as bubbly as Joy, without the grease-mitigating properties of Dawn, and lacking the historical presence of Ajax. Still, the price is easily half that of national brands, and sometimes, that’s good enough for us.

Roundy’s Eggs and Milk: Two thumbs. All eggs and all milk come from the orifice of a barnyard animal. There’s really no need to pay for a name-brand orifice.

So, in conclusion, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Roundy’s store brand products, especially when it comes to things consisting primarily of smashed fruit or nuts or products that come from an orifice. Also, George W. Bush is a fucking idiot.

Help us help you – if you have something to say about Roundy’s, or any other store brands, let’s hear it in the comments!


Family Activity Review: The Cold, Indifferent Breath of Time, or, Borrowing Movies from the Public Library

Ah, the public library system – a precious resource for our community. I do really, truly love the library with all my heart (especially Milwaukee’s Central Library) and we try to get there at least once a week.

So it made perfect sense to eschew Netflix and Blockbuster and get our movies from the beloved library. Oh, how wonderful and thrifty this would be! What money we would save!

We’ve never been more wrong. In the last month, we’ve spent an average of $40 a month on late fines for these “free” library videos. This is not an exaggeration. In fact, out of shame, I’m minimizing the amount of the fines.

Right now you’re asking yourself: “Why? How? Are you guys really that stupid?”

The answer to the first two questions is simple: The Fucking Three-Day Movie Policy (FTDMP).

And I’m just going to lay it on the table now -- I’m almost positive that the long-term economic growth strategy for the library is built on our family’s failure to navigate the FTDMP. And I have proof.

The first few times we failed to meet the FTDMP deadline it was a psychological thing. It’s the fucking library -- you get to keep library stuff for like two or three weeks, right? Something from the library doesn’t have to be back in 72 hours! That’s some fascist-Blockbuster-type shit.

Also, these three-day returns are supposedly based on some sort of “New Release” system. Ok, fine, I’m familiar with the “New Release” concept from the old Blockbuster days. But “Jaws?” I'm supposed to wrap my head around the fact that according to the library, “Jaws,” released in 1975, is a new release and therefore must be whisked back in a few fleeting hours? In what kind of fucked up universe do I need a reminder in Outlook to make sure I meet my “Jaws” deadline?

I’m guessing the person who decides the “New Release” status is heading toward the end of their 7th decade and doesn’t really like movies.

Think I’m being dramatic or mean-spirited? I simply ask you to consider these hot new releases we’ve recently borrowed from the library:

The Seventh Seal (1956)
1900 (1976)
The Sorrow and the Pity (1969)
Jane Eyre (1970)
The Last Emperor (1987)

Considering how totally insane it is to pair any of these titles with the concept of “New Release,” I thought maybe the FTDMP was instead based on a title's popularity.

All you really have to do is read the list again to know that’s not true either.

So it's just totally random. Further proof that the FTDMP is a deliberate profit center.

The other problem stemming from the FTDMP comes from a phenomenon I call the “over-borrow.” Something about the Central Library’s media center makes us lose all control and grab movies like we’ll never get another chance.

“Hey, how about this 12-tape collection of “The Jewel in the Crown?”
“Why the hell not?”
“Isn’t it about time we actually watched an Ingmar Bergman film?”
“Sure, get ‘em all!”
“Number one son wants the entire X-Files series on DVD.”
“Great, whatever. (You don’t have a lot of homework this week, right?)”
“Here’s a nine-part series of dramatic biographies about 18th Century Japanese composers.”
“Great, great. Only nine parts? What else can we find?”

We have never left the library with fewer than 18 individual titles. And that’s a HELL of a lot of keep track of in a mere 72 hours.

The library does nothing, NOTHING, to save us from ourselves. If there’s a limit to the number of movies you can borrow at one time, we haven’t reached it, and believe me we’ve tried. Another reason I’m sure this is a deliberate money-making system.

We try to get the movies back in time, really we do. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wrenched a sci-fi movie from a surly 11-year-old’s hands, screaming “But it’s a three day video, A THREE DAY VIDEO!”

A weekly scene finds Michael and me at the dining room table, surrounded by dozens of empty DVD and video boxes, disks and half-rewound tapes -- eyes glazed, mouths agape, minds numbed by lack of sleep -- trying to match FTDMP titles with the appropriate case. At our backs, we feel the relentless push, the never-ending march, the cold indifferent breath of time --circling nearer, bearing down, threatening to drown us in unmet responsbilities.

On the bright side, no children’s videos or DVDs fall under the FTDMP. You get seven days for those puppies.

So, in summary:

Title: Blues Clues, Blue’s Birthday
Length/Particulars: 38 minutes, released 1998
Library Says: No prob. Relax. Take as much time as you need.

Title: Middlemarch
Length/Particulars: Six and a half hours. Released I don’t know when. I think it was an old Masterpiece Theatre mini-series.
Library Says: Missy, you better get yourself some crystal meth or work yourself into a depressive insomniac state or something, cause you’ve got 72 hours to get this thing done. We’re betting you won’t, though. Oh yes, we’re betting you won’t. We’re betting exactly $2 in maximum library fines that you won’t. AAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


The Quimby Award: Candy Cane Lane

Now that the holidays are officially over, we have time to sit back and reflect on the traditions and events that make Christmas so special.

Some years ago, we stumbled upon a local holiday landmark, Candy Cane Lane. Even if you're not from Milwaukee, I'm sure you’re familiar with the concept – homeowners get together and coordinate aggressive, excessive outdoor Christmas displays. In Milwaukee, Candy Cane Lane (CCL) is a 12-block area of small 1950’s and 60’s ranch homes demarcated by strips of white and red plastic twined around poles and trees.

The participation rate is impressively (and maybe suspiciously) high. I’m imagining tense neighborhood association meetings, a lot of peer pressure, confusing and arbitrary rules and Machiavellian power plays.

Michael imagines a Grande Dame of Candy Cane Lane; a pushy, judgmental old lady who often admonishes, “It’s supposed to be about the candy canes!”

Of course, I suppose it could be that people simply enjoy participating in a community activity and sharing the joy of the season. I guess.

Anyway, the participation rate is a good 90%. Anyone without decorations? Probably Muslims or Commies.

Quantity over quality is a popular approach to decorating in CCL. It appears many homeowners, possibly drunk at the time, fling dozens of strings of flashing multi-colored lights in the general direction of the shrubbery and plug those puppies in. “I’ve got your Candy Cane Lane right here!”

On the other hand, some people go to a lot, and I mean A LOT of effort. We’re talking hand-carved wooden figurines, synchronized lighting routines, piped-in music, little slide shows projected onto garage doors, animated penguin carousels, giant working snow globes, inflatable polar bear jazz bands, human-scale nativity scenes, working “Days to Christmas” countdown clocks and just about every type of illuminated plastic holiday figure imaginable.

I almost forgot about the corporate sponsorship! As you approach “CCL Central” (the intersection where high school girls or firemen or Shriners or random old people stand in the middle of the street and hit you up for a donation), there’s a brightly lit sign welcoming you to Candy Cane Lane, on behalf of Verizon Wireless. Excellent.

Michael just reminded me that CCL raises a lot of money for cancer research. Thanks. I feel like a total asshole now. And really, that’s super, but maybe they should also donate some money to an environmental organization since it must take millions of kilowatt hours to keep CCL going from dusk ‘til dawn, Thanksgiving to New Years.

There is a point to this story.

After our first visit, I realized CCL provided a perfect opportunity to resurrect one of my family’s Christmas traditions.

Each December, my family would pile in the car, pop in the cassette of John Denver and the Muppets, and go looking for houses to nominate for “The Quimby Award.” My dad started this tradition and it’s one of my fondest Christmas memories.

The criteria for the Quimby Award are really pretty straight forward:

• There must be flashing or “chasing” lights somewhere on the scene.
• The tableau must blend the sacred and profane. A light-up Frosty or Santa hovering over the baby Jesus? Excellent.
• Some type of Licensed Character should be present.
• Bonus points if there is evidence of decorations from another holiday anywhere in the yard – a rotting pumpkin on the porch, or one of those jack-o-lantern lawn and leaf bags next to the garage? Perfect.

So, without further adieu, here are the nominations for the 2007 Quimby Award!

In this post 9-11 world, I think it’s time to update the nomination criteria to include anything with a military theme. USA! USA! USA!

The kneeling Santa. Always a classic. The lighted reindeer is a nice touch.

Holy shit, what is going on here? “Son, I know you’ve been a good boy, but I'm afraid Santa can't make it this year -- he’s fighting insurgents in Iraq. In fact, with stop-loss and mandatory tour extensions, I really wouldn’t expect him next year, either.”

I know the picture quality is poor, but what we’ve got here is a giant illuminated snow globe with a bottle of brandy inside of it. Underneath is the legend: “Celebrate the Holiday.” Klassy.

SpongeBob SquarePants, check.
Totally insane amount of flashing lights, check.
But something’s missing…if only…WAIT, is that “John 3:16” done up in flashing lights on the side of the house?!?

We may have a winner here, people!


Foodstuff Review: Trader Joe’s Light Mayonnaise

Ah, the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Has God blessed us with a culinary experience more sublime? The Quimby Mathias Family enjoys BLTs more often than is probably recommended, but it’s hard to resist the deliciousness. As a bonus, the BLT is enjoyed, in some incarnation, by every one of our children—the BL, the BT, or even the LT. The B, plucked from a serving plate and eaten with fingers, is also popular.

One recent night, the stars appeared to be arrayed for an even better than usual BLT. The nitrate-free bacon was outstanding—not too salty, not too sweet. The whole-grain white bread was firm and chewy, toasted to a perfect golden brown. The romaine was crunchy. And the tomatoes? Sweet and tangy.

And, yet the result was a pure and unmitigated dining disaster. Barely eaten sandwiches were dropped into garbage cans, left on plates, or tossed outside for the possum that lives near our garbage cans.

What, what, WHAT in the name of Saint Anthony, that patron saint of heavenly bacon, could have ruined a sandwich with so much potential?

Trader Joe’s Light Mayonnaise.

I’ve never in my life thrown away a BLT sandwich, but as often is the case with Trader Joe’s products, there’s a first time for everything. (For example, the only pizza ever rejected by our children.)

I don’t know if I can adequately describe how just how bad this mayonnaise is.

First, the texture and body are weirdly translucent. Do you recall the slime effects in Ghostbusters? Well, not the first Ghostbusters, more like Ghostbusters II, where the producers were really trying to squeeze money out of the franchise. The really cheap slime. That’s what Trader Joe’s Light Mayonnaise looks like.

The taste is overwhelmingly vinegary, but still somehow bland, almost like a glue on bread.

And, Lordy, just like glue or cheap Hollywood slime, Trader Joe’s Light Mayonnaise sticks to everything it comes into contact with, rendering even delicious bacon inedible.

Again, we have nothing against the Trader. The store at Bayshore is tiny, but the prices are great and the staff is much, much, much less annoying than the angst-filled dreadlocked teens you have to interact with at Outpost or Lean and Snarly.

It’s just that when one of their products fails, they tend to fail spectacularly.

In any event, unless you’re willing to give the food away to the opossums, avoid the Light Mayonnaise from Trader Joe’s.


Easy-Bake Oven: What the Fuck?

Editor’s note: one of our New Years’ resolutions was to swear more often and more offensively. It’s been tough, but I’m still sticking to it and doing my part to "Make it Great in 2008!"

When I was six, I received an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. My mom wouldn’t let me take it home from grandma’s house. We lived 2,000 miles away from grandma. Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with Easy-Bake Ovens. So much so that I decided that our children—three boys—simply had to have one for Christmas.

Such giddy anticipation.

And such crushing disappointment.

First of all, thanks, Hasbro, for confirming that all toy companies are totally fucked in the head when it comes to gender. All Easy-Bake Ovens are either hot pink or purple or hot pink and purple. All of them.

Hey, Hasbro—ever heard of James Beard? Paul Prudhomme? Gordon motherfucking Ramsey? I’m pretty sure they use(d) ovens. Not just that bitch Rachel Ray. (Jesus, can I eat a goddamn Ritz sometime this century without her annoying mug staring up at me?)

I have an idea -- how about a Hell’s Kitchen version of the Easy-Bake for the guys? How about that, Hasbro, you fucking donkeys!?!?!

Ok, I’ll try to focus here.

I realize I’m bitching about an appliance that utilizes a 40 watt light bulb as the heating element, but DAMN, this thing is slow. The instructions suggest allowing it to pre-heat for 20 minutes, and then it takes at least that long to bake anything.

If you're thinking this doesn’t seem very long, keep in mind the Easy-Bake branded mixes, which are shamelessly sold for $5 a pop, amount to about a quarter-ounce of actual foodstuffs (and I use that term loosely). There is so little mix, it only takes a teaspoon and a half of water to create a moist batter.

I’m totally not exaggerating.

These little packets of mix are like toner cartridges. It would be cheaper to buy a new Easy-Bake Oven, which comes with like three packets of mix, than to buy two individual packets of replacement mix.

Again, I’m not exaggerating (much).

Like I was saying, this thing is S-L-O-W. In fact, it takes so fucking long that the kids forget about the tiny cake. As it turns out, this is somewhat a relief since it takes the wisdom of Solomon to split a cake the size of a fifty cent piece into three equal servings.

On the other hand, this is supposed to be a family activity, and now I’m solely responsible for a half-inch diameter pan of miniature Blondies. Great.

Who here didn't think it was possible to burn food with a light bulb? Well, you can. Now I’m solely responsible for scraping burnt miniature Blondie from a tiny pan.

The kids? Lost interest. Hours ago. I'm not even sure where they are.

And I’m too depressed to go into how these tiny baked goods actually taste. Needless to say, it didn't live up to expectations built from almost 30 years of anticipation.

I’ll leave you with this: printed prominently on the front of each $5 mix packet are the words, “Product shown larger than actual size” and “Your results may vary.”

Amen, Hasbro, amen.

Oh, and a teeny piece of advice, Hasbro – maybe next time you should focus less on the “results may vary” type of legal CYA and oh, I don’t know, make sure your pretty pink and purple ovens don’t, say, AMPUTATE THE FINGERS OF UNSUSPECTING CHILDREN? Ok? Thanks.