Kit Kat is the Best Candy Bar

Candy is a mainstay of the American diet. In a country where nearly 40% of adults are obese and one in two have high blood pressure, this should probably not come as a surprise. We invented chicken fried steak. The tur-duck-en. We have whole festivals where thousands of people come together to figure out how to deep fry improbable things.

Weird fried food and LDL cholesterol are a perfect for special occasions. When the in-laws are coming over and you’re busting out the good china, fried chicken and waffles is really the only thing to serve. But mundane, banal, day-to-day nourishment? That’s a job for candy.

Breakfast? Taken care of. Lunch? Dad knows. Dinner? Please. There’s candy bar called Chicken Dinner. Forget Halloween and Valentine’s Day, candy isn’t just for holidays. It’s for every day. And when something is as ubiquitous as candy in America, we have no choice but to parse every intricacy, explore every nuance, in the pursuit of the best candy bar.

Here we have a candy bar based on a breakfast cereal based on a candy cup. I’m pretty sure this is what Jefferson had in mind.

Obviously the question of the best candy bar will incite partisan fury and outrageous name calling. Obviously there are differences in opinion. Obviously some of us posses disparate tastes. But some things are simply not subjective.

The Kit Kat is the best candy bar. Calm yourself.

There’s a lot of great candy out there; this is America after all. But we need to consider a few things in our pursuit of the best, and for starters, let’s review some of the contenders.

Snickers

A Snickers bar is tasty, sure. It’s got all the major food groups: sugar, protein, fat, and nougat, and belongs in every glove box and bug out bag. But the Snickers is so practical, so filling, so savory that it barely even counts as candy at all. It’s sustenance.

Snickers Derivatives

Namely, the Milky Way and the 3 Musketeers. The Milky Way suffers from the same caramel issues as Twix, and the 3 Musketeers is best reserved for a late snack after you remove your dentures. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat these things ’til the cows come home, but right now we’re discussing greatness.

Twix

Credit were credit is due – Twix is a helluva candy bar. It’s even in the running for the top step under ideal atmospheric conditions. As we search for the best we can’t confine ourselves to how chocolate fares at its best. Caramel-based snacks must be optimized for a fairly narrow temperature window (like snow tires). In the same way that Carmelo is delicious at 20 def F, Twix is best enjoyed at a civilized 68. Twix will break your teeth below freezing, and both of these wilt much above 70.

Mr. Goodbar

Let’s be serious.

 

Skor

Whoa there turbo. We’re talking about chocolate bars here. Skor is to candy as beluga caviar is to imitation crab. Apples and oranges. Let’s keep the eye on the prize.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

These things are close. So close. The peanut butter is a little powdery, the chocolate is a little too sweet, and they suffer at warm temperatures. It’s just not quite there. But the benefits of peanut butter and chocolate are so undeniable that the esoteric Peanut Butter Twix probably deserves an honorable mention, missing out on real prestige only by virtue of limited circulation and the capricious whims of whomever does the ordering at convenience stores.

But consider the Kit Kat. It’s chocolate. It’s a cookie. It excels under any combination of pressure and temperature commonly found where humans live. Even when unbearably hot, say, above 86 deg or so, the cookie latticework preserves the structural integrity of the bar. You actually get four candy bars in one package. It’s honest, simple, unpretentious (looking at you, Take 5). The Kit Kat is the hero America needs right now.

Kit Kat is simply the best. Disagreeing is like disagreeing with the Ideal Gas Law or Climate Change. You have every right to be wrong, just keep that muss off my damn porch. Leave the candy when you go.

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Kill the Hostages

It’s Tuesday, right before lunchtime, and you’re headed to the bank to make a deposit from the weekend. The sun is shining and it’s one of those warm fall days when the larch needles are a singing kind of yellow and a breath of frost has whispered across the ridgelines and peaks of the horizon. It’s your father’s birthday today, and you make a note to call him.

You tuck the money pouch into a folded newspaper and pull the heavy door before stepping into the marble lobby. There is a line; you wait. Your phone battery is dead, so you’re left to gape dumbly around the room as your ancestors have done for generations to while away a queue. You had not noticed before that the cherub ceiling mural really is quite sexually explicit for an institution such as a bank.

The woman behind you in line is a mouth breather in too much perfume. In front of you a man seems to be negotiating the terms of a divorce in a hoarse, heated whisper that is anything but private. And so you can be forgiven for not noticing the four men with rifles who slipped in behind you and chained the door closed until you are lying on your stomach with a gunbarrel to your head.

The man with the gun tells you not to look at him, but you catch a glimpse of desperate, bloodshot eyes twitching through the holes of a ski mask. He faintly smells of vodka from a plastic bottle. You can’t be sure he isn’t drunk. You consider reaching for the revolver in your sock, but decide that it’s unwise. These men will come and go, everything will be fine.

Tuesday at lunch is a poor time to rob a bank. In the first five minutes of this bungled heist seven people try to enter the lobby. Finding it locked they peer in through the glass doors to see masked men and black rifles and two dozen people lying on their bellies. You don’t believe that any kind of silent alarm was even necessary; the police surround the building before all of the tellers are even sprawled across the cool stone floor.

The men with guns are more nervous. You see them huddled in front of the safe and they seem to be arguing. Things are not going according to the plan, if there was a plan at all.

Time passes and the sun goes down, the gunmen speak with the police on one of the bank’s phones. Pizzas come and are taken away and the masked men grow more agitated. After a while one of them begins yelling into the phone that if the police do not cooperate he will kill the hostages. Power in the building goes out and for a moment the room is completely dark. You wonder if now is the time to act. Your pistol carries six rounds, there are four of them. They are standing together, vulnerable. Their backs are turned.

The first hostage they shoot is the man who was in front of you in line. He is not tall but handsome, one of those guys who went grey in his 30s and carried it off. The bullet takes away most of the top half of his face as it leaves his skull just below his left eye. He is followed by a red streak as he rolls down the front steps.

Two more customers are shot, and it seems that a SWAT team will come through the doors, or the windows, or the ceiling at any moment. Instead it is silent except for the sobbing of the people on the floor. The system isn’t working.

You wait, but begin inching toward your pistol. It occurs to you that help is not coming. It is up to you to act. And as you sit and ponder how to do so, another man is shot and rolled out into the street.’

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Gun Control

So there was another mass shooting. Well, actually there have been six of them in the last week, but we’re still talking about the big one. In Vegas. You remember. An act of violence on that scale has the unique ability to galvanize the public, to bring us together and offer a moment of clarity. In this case it seems we might see eye-to-eye on a piece of gun control legislation. Even the NRA is willing to listen*. Wow.

Of course the idea that restricting access to bump stocks constitutes meaningful gun control (or, really, gun control at all) is laughable. It reeks of the aftermath of the Charleston massacre, when right wing politicians in the employ of the gun lobby rushed for any scapegoat that might be accepted by the left, and settled on removing Confederate flags from state buildings. It is certainly a good idea, and certainly not a real response to either a specific act of violent white supremacy or gun violence in general.

But even when our consensus on what to do is wan and fragile, large scale shooting attacks captivate us. We remain fixated on the 24 hour news cycle as the perpetrator’s third grade girlfriend says in an interview that she never saw it coming and false flag conspiracy theories crop up before the barrels or the bodies have cooled. Ending mass shootings by military weapons is as easy as restricting civilian access to military calibers, but ignores a few grim realities (not the least of which is that we simply don’t care to act).

Banning guns relegates violence to the domain of the state, and ours is a nation where still, in 2017, a person’s skin color is as dangerous in the eyes of the police as a weapon. We elected an autocratic, Nazi sympathizing president who promises to parade our military through the streets as a show of force. Call me a gun nut. Call me paranoid. I’m uncomfortable with a state monopoly on death.

And then of course there is the reality that the dramatic, galvanizing shooting incidents happen only a few times a year**, and that the overwhelming majority of gun violence occurs at an upbeat cadence of ones and twos until we see tens of thousands of Americans fall each year at the hands of their countrymen. This truth yields cries of “black on black” murder from right wing racists who are bad at statistics, but the fact remains that most people are killed by someone they know.

Any earnest discussion of solutions requires acknowledging the scale of the challenge. Guns outnumber people in the US, and are firmly entrenched in our national identity. Any effort to confiscate these weapons will play into the narrative of the militant right and probably catalyze a civil war (we’ve seen armed insurrection for far less go unpunished). Tempering the manufacturing and sale of new weapons will take decades or generations to have a palpable effect on firearm ownership. Even passive regulation curtailing new sales would require legislation dramatically more profound than we could muster after 20 children were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The simple fact is that for the foreseeable future***, the NRA has won. Guns are here to stay; what’s left is how we use them.

America’s culture of violence is bred in the disparity between our national premise that hard work will yield success and the reality that for most of us it simply isn’t true. Murder is the tool of kings and desperate men, and our social and economic policies of the last 80 years have sown large swaths of desperation across our city centers and rural communities.

Violence in America is about much more than access to guns. It’s about access to healthcare. Access to education. Access to real jobs and an answer to the promise of the American Dream. If we’re serious about addressing gun violence in a meaningful way the conversation cannot begin with esoteric modifications or the vague, cowardly scapegoat of “mental health,” whatever that means from the lips of a politician.

To address gun violence in America we need to address America’s culture of violence, and to address that culture we need to confront the atmosphere of hopeless resignation that afflicts the disenfranchised. This begins by recognizing that our democracy is broken, that what we have for government looks much more like a plutocratic monarchy, ruling on behalf of the rich. We will not see an end to gun violence until class mobility becomes a reality for all Americans and healthcare is, if not a human right, an essential pillar of our social contract. The end to gun violence lies in demonstrating that we truly are created equal, and a government that protects egalitarian ideals.

Gun violence is impossible without guns, but violence itself is born from scarcity and desperation. These are the most productive, prolific years of human history, and there is no excuse for either.

 

 

 

 

*Nevermind.

**That’s it! Why is everyone so worked up?

***One thing we actually can do is to pressure the news media to publish crime scene photographs and video. We live in an insulated fantasy world shaped by John Wayne and Michael Bay. The reality of gun violence is easily lost on those who it doesn’t touch in a personal way. Let’s change that.

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Bring Back the Draft

After the election we heard a lot about how things were going to get crazy, and that we really needed to pace our outrage. It would be all to easy, we were told, to get real fired up for a couple of months and then slip into a lackadaisical acquiescence of our dystonian reality.

“Yeah right,” we said. “Not me. I’m in this fight for the long haul.”

And then it happened. I’m not sure whether it was reassurances from some courts that reason could, conceivably, prevail, or additional despair over a run of luckluster progressive challenges in whackjob special congressional elections. Maybe we just saw something shiny, like, work, or something, and just sort of spaced out for a while. I stopped reading the news for a couple of weeks, and before long slipped into that familiar normalcy that comes so easily to armed white males in western states.

But then I woke up one morning and fired up the ol’ New York Times, and was reminded that while the world may not have stopped spinning yet, we do have a total solar eclipse right around the corner. Also we’ve got no real strategy for what to do in Syria, we’re alarmingly antagonistic with military superpowers, and now we’re running around drawing lines and making threats.

If this doesn’t sound like a recipe for another prolonged, directionless military foray into the middle east, I don’t know what does.

And so it’s time to renew drafting young Americans for combat roles, and to get us thinking a little bit more critically about how we spend the lives of our youth.

There’s a popular idea that the US military ranks are filled by minorities and the poor. And as convenient as that would be for this blog post, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Numerous studies have hinted that military demographics are approaching national demographics. And while the majority of enlisted recruits do come from households with below-median incomes, it isn’t as dramatic as you might think. The same is true for minorities; while blacks are slightly over represented in the armed forces, it isn’t completely lopsided.

But the fact is that while the makeup of America’s armed forces do represent an approximate cross section of our population, less than 1% of eligible individuals elect to go that route.

Certainly, compulsory military service would address the issue of whether or not the armed forces are representative of the population. But I’m not convinced that ballooning our military would be effective in encouraging thoughtfulness in our armed forays. (It seems most likely that it would create a lot of expensive, cush, redundancy and mission creep within the military).

Rather, a new draft for combat roles would use intermittent reinforcement (if it can be used to train dogs, why not an electorate!) of the notion that military engagement really is a big deal. With the draft comes the persistent specter that our friends and loved ones (or ourselves!) will be snatched and away sent to die.

A reinvigorated draft for fighting men and women will not swell the ranks beyond what is necessary, but it will force an awareness and care for how those ranks are deployed. When considering prolonged military intervention we need more skin in the game. A regular draft is the way to ensure that we all pay attention to where and why we’re starting wars.

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I’m So Busy

I used to work for a crazy person.

He was a five and a half foot parolee who resembled, in a grotesque, hilarious kind of way, a perfect blend of Danny DeVito and Saddam Hussein. He stood below my shoulder, wore a thick, bushy mustache, and each morning sometime before noon would clod down the stairs to the office in ill-fitting gym shorts and a bedshirt that drooped over his swollen midsection like a dropcloth across an easel.

He had convinced each of us, his three employees, to commute across town to the home office in his basement. It was the recession, work was hard to come by.

Each day our routine was simple. We’d arrive around 9am and punch paper timecards in a mechanical clock. We would pour out yesterday’s cold pot of bad coffee and make another batch, and form a crooked semi-circle around the glowing orange dot as it crackled and hissed and filled the room with the acrid smell of weeks old pre-ground Yuban. We’d each fill a cup of sour coffee and slowly race to check the emails.

Email, by this time, was well established. It was firmly in place as the standard for general business correspondence, and most people could get it on their phones. But The Man Upstairs insisted on a permanent record, a hard copy for the file, and so each morning we sipped on burnt coffee and printed emails. Paper copies of the electric mail were then laid out, indexed by client, subject, and time-of-arrival, on a folding table that overlooked the office where they waited for our leader’s arrival.

He would arrive by 11 on most days, pounding dramatically down the steps to groan loudly about how late he had been up the night before, working diligently for our cause. “All I do is work,” he would lament, “I need a vacation.” Mornings, as a rule, were hard on the man.

But his spirits improved slowly as he quaffed Bailey’s and coffee and sat down to behold the analog mail (a-mails) before him. He worked his way through the list and scrawled hasty responses on each sheet of paper, and handed them off to each of us to be interpreted and transcribed. We were to type responses, print drafts for review, make necessary edits, receive secondary review approval, and send the missives into space.

We had games. One was to transcribe The Man Upstairs’ chicken scratch word for word, so that the draft reflected the real insanity that we bore witness to each day. “WRONG. Sharon ppty different section/zone. New prop revise now.” My preferred diversion was to sneak technically correct but lewd sounding words in and see if he would catch them. Intercourse. Erect. Turgid. You understand. Other times I just played Solitaire.

But so each of these games of course added another step to actually communicating, and by the time he made it through the list, new a-mails had appeared on his desk as replies came pouring in, ostensibly from laptops and iPhones as others were out to lunch.

Ours was not an efficient way to use email. So when The Man Upstairs would declare, “I’m so busy. Busy, busy, busy.” and strut around our damp basement office, it was hard to take him seriously. But then some time around two in the afternoon, the script would change. “I’m important,” he would say. He really said that, in a squawking, nasally voice, “I’m important.” And before long it was clear to us that of course he had not worked all night, and of course he was not busy (at least on billable things), but that he really was hard at work constructing a narrative in which he was relevant. Important. Irreplaceable.

I began to feel for him, to a point. And then, eventually, I began to notice that we’re all doing the same damn thing. That “busy” is, collectively, our canned response to “how’s it going?”. That “busy” insinuates productive, successful, essential. And that “busy” insulates us both from doing things we don’t want to do, as well as from telling the people who invite us to do those things the truth: that we’d really just rather not go do that thing.

Yeah, we’re all busy. There are stacks of emails and paperworks that aren’t about to do themselves. But it’s probably not really the default that it’s become. A closer look might show that you’re not all that busy, but have a pretty good idea of what you don’t want to do.

Next time you hear yourself saying, “ah, I’m busy,” maybe think about that. Do you really have things you need to do? Or do you just not want to do that thing that’s staring you down? Because if it’s the latter, it’s ok to just say “no,” and go spend your time on something worthwhile.

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