Ten years ago I attended an NFL training camp on the credentials of a website I used to do some writing for, and it really struck me to see up close and personal the toll that this kind of entertainment has on the athletes' bodies. We've all read the stories and seen the TV segments about concussions, knee injuries, or some retired athlete who is wheelchair bound by arthritis at age 43. We know, but we don't see it very much. It was revealing to see the scars, the constant injections (usually cortisone), the hematomas, the handfuls of painkillers morning and night, the creaky knees, and the "bell ringers" (i.e., concussions, i.e., traumatic brain injury). I've seen 25 year old men who need help getting in and out of a bathtub and yet perform at an elite level during games, thanks in no small part to the miracles of the pharmaceutical industry.

I don't need to re-hash the whole "tough guy" culture of sports here; needless to say these guys are under relentless pressure to play hurt. That said, everyone has a line. There is a point – torn muscles, blown ligaments, severe concussions – where that guy simply isn't going out on the field/pitch/ice again. Even the teams and team doctors have a limit, a point at which their long-term interests dictate that the injured should rest rather than play.

At least I like to think that line exists.

In the recent Stanley Cup Finals – those who follow G&T on Facebook know that my devotion to hockey borders on troubling – here is a brief selection of injuries that did not manage to keep players off the ice:

-Bryan Bickell, CHicago: Grade II knee sprain
-Marian Hossa, Chicago: Crushed vertebra in lower back, total numbness in right leg
-Michal Handzus, Chicago: Broken wrist, torn medial collateral ligament in knee
-Patrice Bergeron, Boston: broken ribs, torn chest cartilage, punctured lung, separated shoulder
-Jonathan Toews, Chicago: Concussion

Look at that list. Most of us could not get out of bed or walk around our kitchen with injuries of that type. Bergeron's injuries look like the aftermath of a typical car accident. In light of his decision to go out on the ice for (what turned out to be) the decisive Game 6, I'm not the only person asking…dude, where's the line? You'd think someone would say, "Gee Patrice, we know you're quite the competitor and all, but…maybe sit this one out. You know, with that hole in your lung."

Instead, all of these guys played injured. Visibly injured, in the cases of Hossa, Bergeron, and Bickell. I attended Game 2 and the entire stadium buzzed about something being obviously wrong with Bickell. Hossa missed one game and then returned to (by his own admission) limp around the ice and accomplish none of his usual feats. And Bergeron…before Game 6 the cameras zoomed in on him during warmups while the commentators spoke admiringly of his toughness. My dad and I, watching at home, immediately commented on how "not right" he looked. He moved around and flipped pucks at the net, but on the closeups I recognized immediately that dull, gauzy look of a man full of as many painkillers as the doctors could give him without rendering him unconscious. And so he zombie-skated through 17 largely ineffective minutes of playing time during the game.

Why? Why do they do this? Why do we pat them on the back for doing it? There has to be a point at which the players, coaches, doctors, etc. recognize that it's not worth it. Not the Super Bowl, not the Stanley Cup, not the Olympics…nothing. If nothing else, they should be persuaded that seriously injured, highly medicated players tend to accomplish very little in a competitive setting.

My favorite player to talk to at training camp came from a wealthy family, attended only the best schools, and was much more philosophical than the average player. I once asked him if he worried about the toll that football would take on his body. He thought for a minute and then said, "When I entered the league I measured 6'6". In my physical the other day, I was 6'4"." We sat there in silence for about 10 minutes. I couldn't think of a thing to say.


Most of us care far too much about what other people think of us; it's hard not to admire people who manage to give no shits at all about being popular, respected, well-liked, admired, and so on. Of course we all claim that we don't care what anyone else thinks, but on the inside…it matters. No one, for example, really wants to be known as the world's biggest asshole. At most, we want the cachet that comes from being hated by the right people.

I can't figure out if the right-wing voting bloc on the current Supreme Court is delusional or just the four coolest, most completely over-it dudes on the planet. It takes a special kind of not giving a shit to willingly play the role of the villain like this. I mean, they can't be delusional enough to think that in two or three decades people will be looking back and admiring the courageous stand they took against…the Voting Rights Act, or gay marriage, or child labor laws, or whatever puppy they decide to kick in a given term. Surely they have to know that when the movies are made, they're going to be the Bad Guys.

Scalia in particular has turned himself into Cruella DeVille over the last few years. Does he believe that future generations will look at him as a hero? I suppose some people will, in the same sense that some people look back at Madison Grant or George Wallace or Joseph McCarthy as heroes. But other than being a perennial favorite to neo-Birchers, evangelical extremists, and the White Power crowd, there won't be many tears shed for Antonin when he departs this mortal coil.

Maybe they already know this. I'm not going to lie – that's almost respectable, in a certain sense. If their beliefs are so strongly held that they're willing to accept their role as the Roger Taneys of the 21st Century, then if nothing else I admire their ability to remain almost completely unaffected by the judgment of others. They must have extremely high self esteem, or something. Maybe they just don't know a losing cause when they see one.


This is a few months old, but I can't always stay on top of the latest from monthly magazines in Australia. An Aussie doctor and writer offers a frank, sensitive, and comprehensive take on increasing rates of obesity and why we shouldn't expect doctors to fix it. It's long, but please read it before venting. By classifying obesity as a disease that implies that there are things doctors can do to cure or treat it. However, the doctors' tools are quite limited:

A recent New England Journal of Medicine article dealing with the rise of chronic lifestyle-driven diseases calls for a change in the way physicians think about their patients. The author suggests that medical students should be taught to be less reductionist, to learn how psychological, social and economic factors all act as determinants of disease. I do not know what medical school is like in the US, but even our surgeons – the most hard-arsed of doctors – sit reeling before the tragic combinations of circumstance and choice that lead our patients to weigh two or three (or four or five) times what they should. The doctors I work with have an excellent grasp of the bio-psycho-social factors that contribute to our patients' states, but we are only doctors. All we have are the tools of our trade: our ears, our voices, our hands, our pills and our scalpels. The waiting rooms are full, the waiting lists are long, the demand is swelling. Obesity is in many ways the logical endpoint of the way we live. Prevention beats palliation, but we'd need psychologists, motivational speakers, social workers, dieticians and physiotherapists to work with us in order to have any hope of tackling the problem. We’d need policy makers and activists. All we have are doctors like me.

In the absence of a holistic, comprehensive approach, we have doctors telling patients what they already know ("You should lose some weight!") and making them feel shittier than they already do. What we run up against, she suggests, is the reality that food has become a singular source of pleasure for a lot of people.

I ask a young 200-kilo patient what he snacks on. "Nothing," he says. I look him in the eye. Nothing? He nods. I ask him about his chronic skin infections, his diabetes. He tears up: "I eat hot chips and fried dim sims and drink three bottles of Coke every afternoon. The truth is I'm addicted to eating. I'm addicted." He punches his thigh….My patient is not addicted; he's a very lonely, unemployed young man who has gradually become socially isolated to the extent that the only thing available to him for comfort and entertainment is food. He has no friends, no money to buy other consumables, little education, no partner, no job. Some days he doesn't leave his bed. The choice for him is to eat this food or experience no pleasure.

And then, the kicker:

This is where the obesity-as-disease concept leads us – to a situation in which people demand that medicine shoulder the responsibility. What about the responsibility of the individual? And of society? My patient cries because the highlight of his day is returning from the supermarket with a plastic bag full of junk that he will eat and drink in his empty lounge room. What can I do for him? I can threaten him with his early demise, intensify his shame. I can offer him some evidence-based motivational lifestyle interventions – swap Coke for Diet Coke! Prescribe exercise? Walk for an hour at an average pace and you'll only burn off the equivalent of one slice of bread. I could take the old-fashioned approach and wire his jaw shut. I have no hope of resolving his loneliness, his hopelessness, his lack of a job. I could, and do, refer him to a psychologist – if he's lucky he may land one who is talented and sensitive and will try to get to the root of why this young man hates his own guts. More likely he'll be offered a few sessions of behavioural therapy that will make everyone except him feel better.

This hit me. I've been here.

I haven't been 200kg (440 lbs), but I've been through periods of my life in which eating was the sole thing I had to look forward to for days at a time. When you move to a new city, live alone, know no one, don't have many options for entertainment, and have some food/eating issues to begin with, it doesn't take very long at all for the pint of ice cream or the bag of Doritos or the candy bar to become the highlight of your day. It's the only thing that offers any pleasure. There's no one offering you a back rub before bed, no post-work happy hour with friends, no parties on the weekend, no frolicking outside on a sunny beach. There's food. There's work, dreary gray skies, frigid winters, and food. And that food is cheap – especially shitty food. If I want to do something I will get actual pleasure from, I can pay $75 for an hour massage or $2.99 for a bag of chips that will take me 45 minutes to eat. I can spend $400 on plane tickets and travel to visit friends somewhere, or I can spend $15 on pig-out food for Friday through Sunday.

That's the problem. That's why doctors can't help patients beyond giving them advice they've already heard, pills/surgery that won't work unless they change their eating habits. As the writer states, every "diet" that works amounts to the exact same thing: eat less, and stop eating so much garbage. We get it. The problem is actually doing it. We expect the doctors to "treat" the problem within an entire system set up to encourage it – a depressed and depressing economy, a trillion dollar fast food/snack/beverage industry and its refined marketing techniques, an agribusiness lobby that dominates the institutions of government, and a decreasing number of ways to connect meaningfully with the people around us.

Shockingly, doctors have yet to discover a pill that fixes all of that.


Over the weekend I was talking to some other thirty-somethings and, as it often does, our tenuous professional and financial lives became a topic of conversation. The strange part, I thought, is that all involved are doing alright on paper. We have lots of degrees. We're not in an unusual amount of debt. We all make closer to the average median income than the poverty line. Some of us even have health insurance. We're not exactly a group of people on the edge of the precipice.

And yet none of us have the slightest bit of confidence about the future. Our comfort and stability is entirely short-term. We are veterans of the world of at-will and temporary employment. We know the nine month contract, the "indefinitely renewable" temp work, the intermittent unemployment, and the 60 year old colleagues who secured for themselves a kind of security that we'll never have. Even if we don't think about it on a daily basis, we're aware that our saving for retirement is inadequate – our retirement plan contributions are modest (it turns out that 10% of Jack Shit is also Jack Shit) and what little we save is wiped out periodically by medical expenses, emergencies, and the aforementioned intermittent unemployment. Besides, at 0.9% interest, saving money doesn't really make any long-term sense; it will be eaten by inflation before we can spend it.

Thankfully we have the popular business media to chide and guide us. MSNBC chipped in over the weekend with "Spanked on Retirement, Gen X Still Doesn't Get It." In a genre of journalism that is well known for its spectacular stupidity, this stands out. The folks at Price Waterhouse (they've rebranded as "PwC" in the hopes that people will forget the unpleasantness) determined that Americans between 32 and 52 are more poorly situated for retirement than the older crowd. Shocking stuff, I know.

We're also saving less than the under 32 crowd – you know, the people who haven't had most of the things in life that cost money happen to them yet. Oh, and who live at home with their parents at alarming rates. Good work, PwC! In any case, the article clearly states that the problem is people of my generation getting creamed by the Mini Depression right at what is supposed to be the peak of our wealth-building years ("From 2007 to 2010, a recent Pew study found, Gen-Xers lost 45 percent of their net worth – about $33,000 on average.") We're also the most likely to preemptively tap into our meager retirement savings, mostly in 401(k) type plans, early.

The too long, didn't read version: Gen Xers don't make any money, and mysteriously aren't saving much for retirement. It turns out that when people have no security beyond paycheck-to-paycheck, planning for the future is pretty difficult. Also we are fancy accountants who can't figure out why people who don't make much end up borrowing money. In the end we are left with meager remedies, such as to "take full advantage of programs like health savings accounts, that are designed to help with expenses in retirement." Oh. That 'll help us save an additional, like, $75 per year by spending pre-tax dollars. Problem solved, motherbitches.


It has come to my attention recently that there are people in the world who do not know what I am about to tell you, no matter how bleedingly obvious it might seem.

When you patronize giant, faceless retail chains, you are fairly free to behave as a freeloader. Denny's has already factored into their prices that tables full of bored teenagers will linger for three hours after their meal, and Wal-Mart doesn't suffer if you spend hours in the store and buy nothing. You can show up to Free Sample Day at your chain grocer of choice, eat all the free samples, and leave without buying anything. Hell, I fondly remember one summer in which I lived in a rental unit with no air conditioning, and I regularly spent entire days in Borders without buying anything. Maybe it's my fault they went under, but probably not.

These rules change when you patronize a Small Business. I mean a real one, owned by a person who's usually standing behind the cash register. When you go to Bob's Coffee Shop, order a small Americano for $0.89, and proceed to sit there for four hours, you are being kind of a dick. Starbucks can handle it because their profit margins are high and they do incredible volume. Bob might only get 100 customers in a day, and he's relying on the fact that they're not going to take the most they can out of his establishment while spending the least possible money. Yes, part of the reason you go to a coffee shop is to sit around for a long time. That's cool. But maybe buy something. Bob's not running a public park.

That's not the worst thing you can do, though. That would be the following.

A local bar owner told me a tale recently of a group of customers who came in drunk, announced that they had spent the evening getting liquored up at a different bar, and asked to be served water for an hour so they could sober up enough to drive home. Don't do that, ever. If one person in a group of bar patrons wants to sip water all night while the others drink, that's cool. That's responsible, even. But a group of people taking up real estate at a bar and expecting to hang out without buying anything…what the hell is that? Who thinks that's OK? Apparently some of you do. Would you go into a restaurant, ask for a table, and then refuse to order anything? If you answered "yes", maybe double-check to see if you are an asshole.

How do people not get this? A place of business is not a public hangout. No, you shouldn't feel compelled to buy something every time you walk in the door. But these people are not operating a charity, they are operating a business and they would like to make enough money to 1) stay open and 2) live indoors. Maybe don't expect them to do things for you for free.

I'm glad we had this talk.


"Lisa, if you don't like your job, you don't strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That's the American way." – H. Simpson

Recently, a relative was telling me how disappointed she was in the school her kids (used to, but will no longer) attend. It seems that at this private Catholic K-8 the teachers threw in the towel with about a month to go in the school year. The majority of May was filled with the kinds of things K-8 schools/teachers do when they want a day off – parties, Movie Days, assemblies, etc. The kids were having multiple "parties" per day to celebrate, well, anything the school could think of. The music teacher devoted two entire weeks to showing the students Toy Story…twice (??). In short, she told me that many parents were very upset, feeling that they had paid for nine months of classes and had barely gotten eight. Being a Catholic school, the tuition is not an inconsequential amount.

I sympathized. She told me tale after tale of things the school used to fill the days with anything but lesson plans and actual academic activities and her anger made sense to me. Not trying to stoke the fires or start a political debate, I just noted that this was not rare at any level of education, but was particularly common in private schools. Catholic schools are known for paying less than dick, so in this situation the kids are in the hands of teachers who haven't gotten a raise in 15 years and who were getting paid poorly to begin with. It doesn't surprise me, I pointed out, that in a situation like this people might go out of their way to do as little work as possible. When a job devalues employee, literally and figuratively, their response is often to work just hard enough to avoid getting fired.

The losers, of course, are the students. The parents are right to be angry, but I understand the mindset of the teachers. They are rational, and if the job isn't paying then they will seek to improve their lot by making the work easier. And nothing's easier than not teaching. I don't think she found this explanation persuasive, and I didn't push it. But it raises a larger question that I think about often: how hard do we have a right to "expect" people to work?

Even though many people can and do complain loudly about poor service, deep down I think we all understand that the kid at Taco Bell makes minimum wage, doesn't give a shit about the job, and isn't exactly going to go at 110% every single day. But how "hard" is a teacher supposed to work? Is he cheating you if he re-uses lesson plans rather than coming up with brand new and up-to-date ones every year? Is your doctor cheating you if she runs a test and diagnoses you rather than running all of the tests and spending hours reading about every possible thing that might cause your symptoms? Is your pilot lazy because he uses autopilot? Is your waitress lazy because she hasn't refilled your coffee as many times as you might prefer?

People are judgmental. Combine that with the fact that we pay for things (using the money that we have made our own sacrifices to obtain) and expect to be satisfied, and commenting on the work ethic of others is practically a national pastime. The previous thread on pensions noted that some people seem to think they invented the concept of hard work – nobody but me has even done an honest day's work! Some people certainly do have that attitude. But often the complaints people make (as in the story retold above) are valid. The part I can't figure out is what to do about it. No employer is going to raise the salary of employees who clearly half-ass their jobs, yet if the compensation is low most people simply aren't going to work very hard.

From the teachers' perspective, what is the motivation to work 16 hours per day and move heaven and Earth to be the best teacher since Jaime Escalante if they get paid the same $31,000 per year for being…mediocre? Business schools have spent 30 years churning out people who believe in motivation by intimidation – work hard or else we will fire you, replace you, move to Mexico, and so on. And yes, an employer certainly has a right to expect employees to fulfill their obligations. This is where we see the large gap between fulfilling the requirements of a job – i.e., doing the bare minimum – and doing a good job. "Work hard and you will get promoted / get a raise" is the natural response, but in many of our workplaces I think we discover fairly quickly that the raises aren't coming no matter how hard we work (or they come, but with a truckload of additional burdens that vastly outweigh them).

That's the end result about all of this "Woe is us" from the owner and manager classes – we're constantly told that we can't be paid more ("We just can't afford it! We're barely breaking even!") but we're not expected to react strategically. The rational thing to do, if you know you can't profit from working harder, is to figure out the minimum amount of work you can do under the terms of your employment.

Of course, when certain people in our society do what is rational, it's "smart". When the rest of us respond rationally to incentives, we're lazy.


I owe my upbringing to the taxpayer. Both of my parents owe essentially their entire lifetime of earnings to the taxpayer. With only brief exceptions, my mother has spent her entire working life as what used to be called a secretary for several different public school districts, and my father is entering his 30th year as, at various times, a prosecutor, elected official, and judge in a county in the southwest Chicago suburbs.

Accordingly, most of their friends are similarly employed. Some of dad's friends are people I have known (and vice-versa) since 1980, which is impressive since I didn't master the art of speaking until mid-1981. As these people have watched me grow from a baby to a 34 year old adult of considerable facial hair and minimal life accomplishments, I've watched them transition from young adults to…well, seniors on the verge of retirement.

Like most people who work for the government for their entire lives, their ability to retire relies on a public pension. Those pensions will provide them in most cases with something that approximates their working salary plus health care benefits. One of the great ironies in my mind as I began becoming politically aware was how much some of these people could bitch about taxes when every penny they earned and would continue to earn was someone else's tax dollar. And now that states are in austerity overdrive – Illinois being more strapped for cash than most – some of them are all aboard the "It's all the fault of the public unions and their goddamn retirement benefits."

As I became an adult (of sorts) I became bolder about questioning this sort of logic. And I came to believe, having had this conversation numerous times over the years, that the explanation is quite simple: individuals believe that they deserve the benefits they'll get (usually because they Worked Very Hard or Worked Their Whole Life for them) while the horde-like Others do not. And no matter what they do – double-dipping, etc. – they've earned what's coming to them. It's all those other people who haven't.

At a previous public university, I worked with a textbook public pension double-dipper. She "retired" at 52 having put in the 30 years of service necessary to draw her pension, then she continued to work in a different university position that would eventually give her a second pension (and currently gave her a state salary on top of the pension). Of course she was the office's resident Teabagger, and her laziness was such that I wondered if the EPA would re-classify her as some sort of lumber. And that's one of the most amazing things about being among those employed by the government – occasionally you run into these examples who scam the system in every way possible, do no actual work, and manage to piss and moan about taxes, the gub'mint, and the usual right-wing nonsense. Their pension(s) is different because they worked very hard for it, meaning they were physically present for the mandated amount of time on most days.

It turns out that double-dipping is for pussies, though, and triple-dipping is where it's at – at least according to John Cornyn. He's being paid his Senate salary in addition to three different State/county pensions totaling $66,000 annually from previous positions held in Texas. What's amazing is how much he receives for how briefly he worked – $6000 every year for the rest of his life for four years on a county court. $48,000/yr for six years on the State Supreme Court. And so on.

So, just to recap, a teacher or postal worker who puts in 30 years is greedy and entitled, but the John Cornyns of the world spends five fuckin' minutes on a county court and gets $6000 in the mail every year until death. I wish there was a more complex psychological explanation to offer here beyond simple hypocrisy and the belief – in the face of mountains of contradictory evidence – that "Everyone is lazy except me." Based on my experience throughout my career and indeed throughout my life, the excuses are rarely more complex than that.


Isn't it funny how new prisons open just after the factories and the public schools close? It must be that efficiency and responsiveness that the free market priesthood is always boasting about.

Isn't it funny how state governments and the Sacred Taxpayer balk at spending $5000 per public school student per year but don't balk at the $75,000+ per year that it costs to incarcerate one person? The free market encourages such forward-thinking investment.

The city of Philadelphia is closing 23 public schools to save money while breaking ground on a new $400 million jail and prison complex. Honestly, the reporting on this story has been disappointing. By focusing on the school closure-vs-jail opening dichotomy, it sets up the weakest possible argument. With falling enrollments (no doubt due in part to previous cycles of budget slashing) it is not hard to construct a logical argument for school closures. If these buildings are at 40% enrollment, it makes some sense for the school district to consolidate.

The real problem, which doesn't make nearly as sexy or ire-provoking of a headline, is what is happening to the schools that will remain open. The closed buildings are the least of Philadelphia students' and teachers' problems. The schools that remain open are now operating with budgets that have been cut to the bone.

Pink slips were recently sent to 19 percent of the school-based work force, including all 127 assistant principals, 646 teachers and more than 1,200 aides. Principals are contemplating opening in September with larger classes but no one to answer phones, keep order on the playground, coach sports, check out library books or send transcripts for seniors applying to college.

Ignore the buildings. This is the real issue. Remove everything that offers the remote possibility of keeping kids (especially in crappy neighborhoods) out of trouble – sports, clubs, music, art, etc. Then cut the staff to the point where teachers won't be able to pay attention to any individual student. Then continue to cut corporate tax rates, cry "budget deficit!", and start the cycle all over again.

So what's the overarching agenda here? Pushing people out of the city and into the suburbs? That doesn't exactly help the local tax base if the Philly school board chases residents away. Funneling more kids into charter and private schools? Conservatives have a hard-on for them, and the shittier they can make the public schools the better private/charter schools will seem by comparison. And for the students who can't afford / get into non-public schools and whose parents can't afford to move into the suburbs? Is the plan simply to use the remaining schools as hollow shells serving no purpose other than to house the children at state expense until they can be shifted to juvenile facilities, adult prison, public housing, and so on?

Yeah. Yeah, pretty much. That's the only possible outcome here when schools are stripped of everything except the light fixtures, one principal, and some teachers. We don't need a crystal ball to see how this is going to turn out.


The Sounds of Real America are back.

Your response to the first three SORA prints was enthusiastic, so here are two more gems. If you ask me – and you did, obviously – these are even more amazing (read: bleak) than the original trio. Each print is 11"x14" on archival card stock, suitable for framing, wall mounting, or use as an improvised weapon. Only 20 of each design in the series will be available. To recap:

Fans of Gin and Tacos on Facebook are familiar with CAPSLOCK ED, a magical being who blog-only readers met briefly in Campaign of the Damned. He tends to post in series like "10 Things Grocery Stores Don't Want You to Know" (which was an actual "news" headline on CNN) and his latest bender is an ethnographic study of Americana called Sounds of Real America. It's a poignant study of the things one can only experience in the Real America, not in any fancy city or ivory tower university. It is the sound of the salt of the Earth living the simple life and experiencing things that only America can offer.

Reader / graphic designer Pauline Vassiliadis took it upon herself to surprise me with her visual interpretations of the SORA series. Being a fan of her talent and her appreciation for the absurd, my heart nearly exploded with joy when I saw the designs. I've decided to offer a small number of them to you, the readers. They combine my words with Pauline's aesthetic, capturing the essence of Real America in the process. Hang one of these babies on your wall to bring the magic of Muncie, IN or Macon, GA into your home.

SORA 1 and 5 are $40 each and $60 for the pair. Please get in touch with me (message the G&T Facebook page) if you're interested in these and you already purchased the first three – I'll cut you an even better deal on these two. BE THE FIRST KID ON YOUR BLOCK TO COLLECT ALL FIVE, AND THEN YOU WILL DEVELOP SPECIAL POWERS AND GET LAID.



Use the button below to purchase both at the 2/$60 price.


So apparently in the mid-1980s Wendy's restaurants took the idea of the corporate training video to the next level and set the basic how-to rules of the workplace to music. The results are more Eighties than Tony Danza and Ronald Reagan doing jazzercise with Max Headroom to the beat of a Roland 808 drum program.

These videos are pure, concentrated Eighties. The "hot drinks" song is stuck in your head now, right? I wonder what became of that singer/actor. I can only hope that he wakes up every single day thinking about how much he accomplished here.

The funny thing is, this strikes us as exceptionally cheesy. But it's remarkably, even embarrassingly, effective. How many of the rules for pouring and serving hot drinks do you remember right now? I bet you remember all of them. Would a 3-minute video of some actor in a Wendy's uniform reading the rules have held your attention? Would you have retained anything? Of course not. These are the moments in which I realize that Children's Television Workshop (the producers behind Sesame Street) are some of the most brilliant minds in the history of the medium. They've mastered all of the necessary techniques to mesmerize viewers: bright colors, singing, and rhyming. We're not so different from four year olds in some ways.