so it's been a while...

...since I've posted here, but not due to lack of content or inspiration.

Just time.

Leaving work to travel long-term should lend itself to an of abundance time-- seems that way on the surface, anyhow-- a surface of potential leisure that has graduated from a rain barrel* to an Olympic-sized swimming pool.  Finally, there would be adequate time to juggle several hobbies, read the books I've been meaning to read, take photographs, craft travel memoirs (sophomoric as they may be), develop foreign language skills, hone affectations that convey 'deep thought' in cat cafés, etc. 

However, when a new endeavor-turned-obsession strikes, the well-proportioned Individual Medley described above abruptly becomes a panicked flail in the quicksand that is Parkinson's Law.

The world needs a lot of things.  In June 2016, I decided that the world needs a chocolate milk expert.

Combining travel with my already well-vested penchant for chocolate milk-- I could conceivably sample...all the world's chocolate milk(?!)**.  Or at least, more than anyone has done previously.  

Not because it's difficult, not because it's lucrative, prestigious, impressive, enthralling, quirky, droll, or novel-- though it may be some of those things to some people (well, except lucrative).  But at its root, it was just something interesting to me-- and something I was (to an extent) doing anyway-- just without recording/documenting the journey and results.

How does Chinese chocolate milk measure up?

How does Chinese chocolate milk measure up?

At some point, I would be able to call myself the world's foremost expert*** in chocolate milk-- a point that (after 13 months of dedication) I'm finally comfortable saying "I've reached."  [trumpets..]

Sitting at my Aunt's kitchen table in a Manchester, NH suburb, as of today, I've sampled 504 different chocolate milks from 31 countries (though, at this time, the website only shows 412-- there's always a backlog of posts to publish as I'm seeking out and trying new chocolate milks each day).  Predictably, the taste experiences exhibit a bell curve:

I also have a backlog of photos to upload to this site as well, though I haven't been taking as many pictures as I once did-- re: the time thing.  Just wanted to explain the apparent absence over the last few months, as well as my steadfast acceleration toward diabetes and tooth decay.

For anyone interested, the site is and the video blogs currently lag about a month behind as well but chronicle the last 5 months in Asia (and since) from a chocolate milk standpoint.

Heading back overseas in August 2017 in search of more experiences, more chocolate milk, and whatever else might happen along the way.

* I like the rain barrel metaphor for leisure time.  Work and other obligations account for so much of a day, that at times it feels like you're only able to collect drippings of leisure time here and there, with most of it falling helplessly outside containment.  It's not a puddle, whose surface expands in proportion to the amount gathered (making it more accessible)-- it just gets deeper.  And that rain at the bottom of the barrel languishes there forever; the accounting system for free time is decidedly LIFO and not FIFO-- you ladle off the top when you get a chance and lose a measurable amount to evaporation.

** I always understood the 'interrobang' [?!] to be a permutation (not combination) of the question mark ('interro') and the exclamation point ('bang')-- and would have (wrongly) defended that to the death.  Not only is the classical interrobang a single mark [with ? and ! layered over one another], but I also misunderstood the ambidexterity of the the two-mark version-- placing ?! and !? on equal footing.

*** In the sense that I've tried/reviewed more different kinds of chocolate milk than anyone else in the world.  I am not claiming to be an expert in the production, distribution, marketing, history, etc. of chocolate milk.

what is this strange obsession...

...about wiping our asses with small, furry animals?

All throughout Europe, I've been collecting pictures of this motif as it seemed bizarrely prevalent-- much more so that I had ever noticed in the States*.

To be clear, it's not a random animal choice.  It's no coincidence that you don't see a porcupine, razorback hog, or stegosaurus as a toilet paper brand mascot.


Overwhelmingly, we get it-- the message they are trying to convey is that the product is soft.  But there are plenty of soft things out there-- silk scarves, marshmallows, velour, warm brie, etc.  Why do the TP marketers feel the need to focus on soft, sentient things?

Skunks** have rather soft fur, yet would be deemed a poor 'fit' as toilet paper mascots-- I suppose because they stink, and customers might balk at an odorous undertone that suggests their own poop may also stink.  Too real, maybe.  

Thus sentience and softness are not the only criteria: these brands are desperate to convey purity, possibly above all else.  So baby animals, then.  Got it.

Puppies, bunnies, kitties-- cute as heck and with light-colored fur, because after all, you want to be able to see the 'result.'  Isn't that what they're insinuating here?

Objectively, however, it would be considerably more difficult to gauge the devastation of last night's shawarma run if you were obliged to wipe with a tortoiseshell cat.


Let's look at some others..


Lidl understands the notion of escalating comfort in a TP portfolio, as evidenced in their private label toilet tissue brand Floralys.

Single-ply 'green' level is represented by a nervous squirrel, whose combination of unpredictability and scrappiness make for an adventurous, potentially 'organic' cleanup.  

The 3-ply 'soft' roll features an understandably surprised sheep, who is likely to catch on after the 2nd wipe and bolt.  

Lastly, the 'supersoft' 4-ply version is akin to using a pristine, down-swaddled yellow duckling-- complete with easily bindable feet, a soft beak, and a calm, trusting demeanor.  The duckling's purity of soul compensates for its unfortunate lack of physical surface area. 

And then we're graced with some more 'exotic' options.

Marsupials make for an excellent choice***, as their pouch conveniently serves as a built-in receptacle for the used paper.  You'd expect these to be popular in Russia and other areas where flushing used TP isn't always kosher****.

Somewhat of a crooked hip-shot photo on the kangaroo wipes-- sometimes the aisles are crowded and I'm doing my best to fly under the radar.  A great way to arouse suspicion in a Bulgarian supermarket: giggle and take pictures of their toilet paper.

Exotic is one thing, but endangered is quite another.

Nothing like kicking 'em when they're down.  I don't think it's exploitive or anything, it's just cartooned-up versions of endangered animals trying to look friendly to hawk some toilet tissue.  

They have no pertinence to the product, but they're not trying to offend, either.  It's not like there's an elephant spewing snot all over your fried chicken to sell you paper towels*****.

Some brands choose to go in an entirely fictional direction, though oddly with the same young, fluffy animal archetype we've grown accustomed to.

I've got nothing against a lounging, dapperly coiffed pink cat, but the fuzzy, peanut-shaped elfy thing makes me want to grab him by the pom-pom in one hand, tail in the other, and execute the most debasing (post-deuce) towel move****** that I could manage.

In conclusion, there really is no conclusion-- just a series of linked observations.  And the brands pictured above were not the only examples I found-- there were many more, and you'll certainly continue to notice them in the future.  Never hurts to stop and ask 'why.'

* There are probably exceptions, but the only animal-toilet paper motif that I can think of in the States are the Charmin bears.  And in that case, it is the bears who are in search of a soft TP experience-- they are not serving (primarily) as the psychological surrogate for the paper itself.  Also, I think their narrative subconsciously weaves in a notion of the Goldilocks tale-- suggesting that the TP is not too hard, not too soft, but "just right."

** I wanted to include stink badgers here as well but didn't want to derail the conversation with (presumably) made-up fauna in the readers' eyes.  They are more like skunks than badgers, but they do in fact exist, unlike these.

*** Make no mistake about it, a legit koala would tear someone's asshole to shreds.

**** Add Thailand (left) and Bulgaria (right) to the list.  

***** You thought I was kidding.

****** The towel move.  Originally, I was looking for a video or a GIF that better illustrates the move, but I didn't want Google to start hitting me with 'relevant' advertisements as a result of several consecutive queries permutating terms such as male/dancer/stripper/towel/crotch/gyration.  So a picture it is.


only in france...

...would it make sense to put 'the cat' in the washing machine.  I'm left to infer that this branding is a (subliminal?) holdover from the ritualistic cat torture that was once a staple of medieval French public entertainment.  

Rather than torching a sackful of feral felines, contemporary citizens opt merely to pitch a soapy effigy into the spin cycle.  

Progress comes in many forms.  Here's to hoping that the imminent elections in France won't rescind the cultural/humanitarian/animal rights/etc. advancement made over the last couple hundred years.



Nothing philosophical here.  Not life choices, nor the anxiety of choosing two sides (to accompany your main course) at a restaurant when you were only prepared to choose one, and now you have to come up with another side order forthwith, while everyone else waits with stationary lips and darting eyes-- 40% annoyed yet 60% satisfied in your unpreparedness.  

Not those type of choices either.  Only the ones involving setting up a new website-- formatting choices, really.  Funny that we (I) pay far too much mind to the initial setup of  things that can be changed immediately and with unlimited frequency, like font (for the headings, etc): 

  • Flat out, you can't use Arial, not that you'd want to, it's just so...default, pedestrian, something we've all been forced to use or read far too many times
  • Courier is another that everyone recognizes as the quasi-typewriter/police file/no-nonsense font that looks like you're trying too hard to appear as though you're not trying hard (a pattern so annoyingly ubiquitous in everyday life, see: designer ripped jeans, 'tousled' haircuts, retro-styled motifs, wax paper sandwich wraps meant to resemble newspaper, uncapitalized menus and website headings...shit)
  • Anyone still using Times New Roman is also likely using Windows 3.1.  I'm only mentioning it here because it's the 3rd (and final) font that I can name from memory.  If I could only have named two, I probably wouldn't have bulleted the list because we all know that the first bulleted list must have at least three items.  I think I just made that up but you probably would feel the same way.

It's not hard to cycle through fonts and choose one that is not particularly offensive, and just go with it.  I've already given it more consideration here than it's worth.  But then I would have to choose which case to use-- uppercase feels like you're yelling and/or have extremely poor social skills.  'Proper' (capitalized first letter, lowercase remainder) is fine but maybe is a bit formal or by-the-book.  All lowercase is admittedly played-out; you're too focused on content to be bothered to hit the <Shift> key as you're merely a conduit for whatever 'art' is flowing directly from your consciousness through your hands.  It does look kinda decent though, and there are really only these 3 options.  And I didn't bullet-list them.

For now, I'll leave the color scheme to black/white/gray.  Gray is my favorite color.  Colorful fonts/backgrounds/etc are too gimmicky for my liking and I'm certainly not trying to 'brand' something with a certain hue that I think defines my general disposition or 'worldview'--whatever that means.  Ya, maybe I should do gray, but I'll leave it for now.

I really just want to post this so I can see what it looks like and adjust the formatting accordingly.  I don't think anyone would be reading this far down, and I am tempted to throw another bulleted list here that would catch someone's eye as they skip all the above text to see if there would be anything of interest toward the end.  There isn't, but here goes:

  • Hiding a body in a dumpster is cliche, but likely more effective in practice than traditionally credited.  Of all the bodies thrown in dumpsters, what percentage are actually discovered prior to reaching the landfill/incinerator?  Probably lower than we think.  All those clever detective shows on TV cause the masses to think that crude, time-tested methods for disposal are no longer relavent.
  • Just noticed the lack of an 'accent aigu' on cliche above-- would hate for someone to be dictating this post out loud and pronounce cliche as though it rhymed with quiche.  Both give me gas, but that's where the similarity ends.
  • Nobody will read the middle bullets if they are just skimming, so this one doesn't need to be eye-catching either.
  • Toenail fungus, while universally unsightly, is a legitimate delicacy in certain regions of the Caucasus.

Time to wrap this one up, especially since it may never see the light of day.