August 20, 2001

Potato Blight!

Headline:   Town Spurns 'Mr. Potato Head' Gift

This news item caught my eye because way back last October I documented the Rhode Island Potato Head Plague as one of a series of urban monstrosities.
(Sorry, Jim, but it had to be said!)

For those who remain blissfully unaware, the entire state was blanketed with dozens of oversize, variously decorated Potato Head statues. It had something to do with the company that manufactures the original toy being located in Rhode Island, and was spun into a tourist thing with prizes for spotting the six foot tall characters. (Like, is it hard to spot a giant potato head in full costume?)

The links in my original entry are all dead except this one from

Today's news headline concerned a town in England, obviously part of a civilization less tainted by rampant consumerism.

LONDON (Reuters) - A giant "Mr. Potato Head" statue given by a U.S. town to its twin town in central England had to be removed because local people said they didn't like it.

Pawtucket in Rhode Island, where the "Mr. Potato Head" character featured in the "Toy Story" movies was invented, sent the seven-foot-tall plastic effigy to the town of Belper where it was put up outside the local McDonald's.

McDonald's?? Oh well, maybe not so civilized.

But townsfolk launched a campaign demanding that tourism officer Reg Whitworth get rid of it.

...Bob Billington, head of tourism in Pawtucket, which twinned with Belper in 1993, said the reaction had upset people in the New England town.

"Potato Heads here in Rhode Island attract quite a lot of positive attention. We thought it was a nice gesture," he told Britain's Sun newspaper

Unfortunately, the current epidemic of paying homage to tasteless corporate icons isn't limited to the United States.

Rob came home from his first day of Junior College (he liked it!) and showed me the agenda book provided (for $5.00) by the school.

They have a new logo.
It's an oval with a running animal, possibly a kangaroo.
Oh what the heck, I'll just rip it off the website:

I can't believe an academic institution would demean themselves to borrowing from the lowest common denominator of popular culture in an attempt to reach out to its students. This is disgraceful.

Look familiar?

I wonder if they asked permission to adapt it to their purposes.
I wonder if they gave any thought to the message this sends about originality, independent thought, and the pervasive influence of corporate culture.
It's a COLLEGE forheavensake.

And a publicly funded one at that.

To their credit, Rob said that he and many of the kids he spoke to think it's silly.
I think it's patronizing and insulting and reflects very poorly upon the academic integrity of the college.

Linque Du Jour:   Shakepearean Insulter

So what do you do if you lack a certain creativity but still are loath (good Shakespearean word!) to derive from today's popculture?

Head for the Shakespearean Insulter!

Some examples:

"[Thou art] already dead. stabbed with a white wench's black eye, run through the ear with a love song, the very pin of [thy] heart cleft with the blind bow-boy's butt shaft."
Taken from: Romeo and Juliet

"Thou art baser than a cutpurse."
Taken from: The Two Noble Kinsmen

"You are a fishmonger."
Taken from: Hamlet


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