The flaky origins of a morning icon

Wordpress for Flake

By Brian Arbenz

It sounds like the stuff of urban legends that bedevil corporations by smearing their legendary products: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes were invented as part of a master plan to reduce our sex drives.
Got to be a rumor started by an angry ex-employee, right? Or, just another example of the gullible mass public circulating nonsense.
Well don’t look for the Kellogg Co. to launch a campaign to refute this malicious attack on such a wholesome and iconic part of the morning routines of American households – because to a great extent, it’s true.
Yes, the company whose spectacular popularity was celebrated with the advertising line, “Kellogg’s – The Best To You Each Morning,” has roots in a widespread crusade perhaps best summed up as: “Nothing To You Each Evening.”
Fear not though, for there is no link between that puritanical quest and what you pour into your breakfast bowl today. Still, it’s a documented if tortuous trail back to a powerful multi-national, but scientifically groundless movement to eliminate masturbation.
Physician John Harvey Kellogg was a surgeon, nutritionist and, for much of his life, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. His medical research and religious zeal in the late 1800s led him to prominence in this movement against sexual self-stimulation. Along with this specific goal, the married but lifetime celibate Kellogg passionately wanted to reduce the human species’ interest in sex, seeing masturbation as medically and psychologically dangerous and sexual thoughts overall as good for only moral debasement and spreading disease.
“Masturbation was the worst sin imaginable to him. He believed it led to leprosy, tuberculosis, heart disease, epilepsy, dimness of vision, insanity, idiocy, and death,” psychologist Michael Ashworth writes of Kellogg’s beliefs on the website http://www.psychcentral.com.
“He also preached that masturbation led to bashfulness in some people, unnatural boldness in others, a fondness for spicy foods, round shoulders and acne.” Oh dear…. Kellogg’s opposition to the habit, regrettably, went far beyond the amusingly quirky. He published materials detailing how to perform circumcisions and other procedures to deter masturbation in pubescent children – including techniques designed to use short term pain to extinguish the desire.
Kellogg and his brother, W.K. Kellogg, worked in tandem to develop foods that would aid in achieving this goal, including a cereal whose ingredients and production methods Dr. John Kellogg believed would greatly reduce sexual drive, opening the way for his vision of a celibate society. They called it Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and it became the flagship product of the iconic Kellogg’s breakfast foods company, which was formed in 1906 out of a food company W.K. Kellogg started after a break with his doctor brother.
John Kellogg, Wikipedia said, was an acclaimed surgeon whose patients included Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison, Johnny Weismuller and former president William Howard Taft. He served as medical officer of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a Seventh-day Adventist owned health and education center in his Michigan hometown which taught what today we would call a holistic program of diet, elaborate exercises and stress reduction methods to maintain health.
Dr.Kellogg advocated vegetarianism, believed there was too much emphasis on expensive curative medicine and provided surgery free of charge to the needy. He had a dark side, though – and on more than just sexual issues. Kellogg promoted the discredited field of eugenics, claiming racial segregation would improve the species. He also believed in frequent enemas and developed one using yogurt.
And if one more lurid piece of history is all that is needed to strip Corn Flakes of its simple noncontroversial image, John Kellogg claimed that nationwide competitor Post Cereals started its rival version of Corn Flakes after a patient, company founder Charles William Post, stole the formula from Dr. Kellogg’s safe in the sanitarium office.
As for the risk that Corn Flakes may actually achieve its purpose of giving you a better night’s sleep than you want, Michael Ashworth of psychcentral.com wrote that there is no link between eating the cereal and experiencing lower sex drive, or becoming celibate.
For more reassurance, simply look across the breakfast table at your kids munching their Corn Flakes just as you did.

Brian Arbenz, 57, of Louisville, has never been a Corn Flakes eater. Yet he has no children. Go figure.

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You Don’t Say – Unreal Quotes We Believe Are Genuine

For WordPress unreal quotes

By Brian Arbenz

Mightier than the pen, it would seem, are words never actually spoken, but which moved mountains by helping shape our understanding of big institutions, celebrated people or powerful moments.

“What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”
When GM president Charles E. Wilson was nominated by President Eisenhower in 1953 to be Secretary of Defense, critics asked how a conflict of interest could possibly be avoided, as Wilson had made much of his fortune from General Motors military contracts during World War II. In a closed Senate hearing about his personal finances, Wilson is said to have testified, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country” – presenting the very picture of cigar-chomping arrogance that is still used to characterize the hubris of big corporations.
The quote was first used by The Detroit Free Press in an interview with one of those senators passing on Wilson’s words from the hearing, and it still annoys the biggest of the big 3; GM’s initial web site in the ‘90s included a page devoted solely to refuting the widespread belief that its CEO ever said such a megalomaniacal thing.
Well, the Free Press itself acknowledged in 2008 that transcripts show Wilson actually said “…for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa. The difference did not exist” – an attitude of interdependence with, not domination of the nation.
Shed no tears, however, for a GM misjudged as putting itself first. This little known, yet truly revealing quote from the 1920s by its president Alfred P. Sloan, reported in the film “Taken For a Ride,” illustrates the documented strategy of GM joining with many other corporations to illegally sabotage mass transit: “If we can eliminate the rail alternatives, we will create a new market for our cars. And if we don’t, then General Motors’ sales are just going to remain level.”
Not exactly good for the country, or a world being torn by war after war because of U.S. overdependence on oil and petrodollars.

“I invented the Internet.”
Critics of Al Gore, including GOP partisans and cynical centrists, pounce on the preposterous statement in 1999 that a vice-president or senator could find time in his schedule to invent anything, particularly the biggest technology of our era.
Even some defenders of Gore change the subject quickly, rather than attack the real falsehood – the misconception that Gore lied or even overstated his relationship to the medium through which you are reading this.
Few can cite the time or place the vice-president and hard charging 2000 presidential candidate actually is supposed to have said the words they use to characterize Gore as dishonest, or at least a braggart by nature.
Here’s is where it all began: Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “Late Edition” program on March 9, 1999 asked Gore why he stood out from challenger Bill Bradley, the New Jersey senator also seeking the 2000 Democratic nomination. Gore said, “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.”
Sloppy sentence construction, to be sure — and communicating a vision clearly being a key task of a president, Gore’s overall presentation problems could make an issue – but Al Gore’s appraisal of his connection to the internet is correct.
Two of the real inventors of the internet, Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf (the latter often referred to as the “father of the Internet”) wrote in 2000 that “Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the Internet and to promote and support its development” and that, “No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution [to the Internet] over a longer period of time.”
Snopes.com calls the claim that Gore ever said he “invented” the net, “just silly political posturing.”

“Houston, we have a problem.”
The 1995 movie by Ron Howard about the real-life drama of Apollo 13’s nearly fatal mishap pegged the climax on Tom Hanks as mission commander Jim Lovell announcing the explosion of an oxygen tank with the understatement of all history.
“A problem?” Well, three men 200,000 miles from Earth with quite possibly not a way to get home and not enough power or air to stay alive — yeah, that would unsettle your contentment a bit.
Howard’s “Apollo 13” intelligently mixed melodrama with fact to make the finest space movie ever, but in choosing a signature line, he did muddle what was said, who said it and in what mood.
Actual recordings from Apollo 13 on April 13, 1970 show that a minute or so after the explosion, one of the astronauts says in a matter-of-fact tone, “OK Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” ABC News says it was Fred Haise. A site called phrases.org.uk attributes it to Jack Swigert. It clearly isn’t the highly recognized dulcet voice of Lovell, who then repeats it upon Houston’s request, saying: ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a main B bus undervolt.”
Though “bus undervolt” isn’t a common term in our culture, call anything Houston, and you’ll invite a reuse of what Jim Lovell almost said.
Difficulties in the life of Whitney Houston and poor play by Houston sports teams have provoked re-call to duty of the former astronaut and Navy pilot, and a Los Angeles Times review of a Houston’s restaurant said: “Houston(‘s), we have a problem.”
Yet if they’d called the place “Bus Undervolt’s,” his actual words, who’d have thought of Jim Lovell?

“Beam me up, Scotty.”
Unlike Ron Howard, Gene Roddenberry didn’t have to face the matter of historical accuracy, so how could myth play a role in the many iconic lines for which Star Trek characters are revered?
Yes, Dr. McCoy really does say, “He’s dead, Jim” several times. And Spock’s constant calls for the use of logic justly prosper as they live long in the Trekker acumen.
Exactly whether engineer Scott really harps on his professional inadequacies I will leave for some other time, but no, the man at the helm of the enterprise does not once say, “Beam me up, Scotty,” a phrase sometimes used on bumper stickers and memes to poke fun at places considered undesirable by showing Captain Kirk ordering a quick return to the Enterprise.
“The closest that Captain Kirk ever got to this was “Beam us up, Mr. Scott”, in the ‘Gamesters of Triskelion’ episode,” reports phrases.org.uk.
If you already knew that, to the point of being able to cite that episode immediately, then you need to, as William Shatter told a group of archetypal Star Trek devotes in a Saturday Night Live skit, “Get a life!”

“Just the facts, ma’am.”
Jack Webb’s “Dragnet” has changed form many times since its debut as a radio show in 1949 billed as a more up-close and personal look at police.
In the 1960s, the second Dragnet TV series was known as frenetic, preachy and filled with indelible verbal and music trademarks often parodied, but none of them, “Just the facts, ma’am.”
The book, “My Name’s Friday” by Michael J. Hayde traces the association of those words with detective Joe Friday to Stan Freberg’s 1953 comedy record “St. George and the Dragonet,” for which Webb gave permission to use the Dragnet theme music.
A skit, as accessible online, includes a Joe Friday-like “Detective Wednesday” asking questions of citizens in the case of “Little Blue Riding Hood.” He twice says, “Ma’am, we just want to get the facts.”
And ever since, the man who told us weekly, “I carry a badge” also carries an undue image of cutting off female witnesses.

Brian Arbenz is a writer and researcher in Louisville, Ky. Enjoy without guilt this thoroughly researched piece, for he considers delving into the arcane pure leisure.

Mitch McConnell and 0.3 Penny Opera

By Brian Arbenz

What on Earth could have transformed Mitch McConnell from a baron of subdivision drainage and park maintenance three and one-half decades ago into the bare-knuckled power-wielder for the nation’s elites?
How was a bespectacled, ostensibly nerdy, tentative-voiced suburban county government chief turned into America’s prime arbiter of conservative priorities with the mandate to declare to the pundits which law is the worst of our time?
The man who once politely asked for legendary civil rights activist Lyman Johnson’s endorsement today confidently defends his party’s various state voter ID laws which will keep millions of minorities and the poor home on election day.
Who or what made this once mousey-appearing civil servant roar? Did someone push Mitch’s buttons in a moment of crisis decades ago, setting off a hunger for validation, the kind to which politicians (including those actually in office and those of us who once seriously thought of running) are so vulnerable?
Remember that word “hunger,” as I start to recount a brush with a future Senate Minority Leader in 1978 that, who’s to say, didn’t change the course of history.
Then, as now, I was on the far left, not an easy place for a college student in the era quite accurately deemed the “Me-Generation” on campus.
Today, while Mitch McConnell and other Republicans insist they aren’t for exploiting the 99 (or, as Mitt Romney puts it, 47) percent, one of that group now named Brian Arbenz (nee George Morrison)  collected concrete evidence – actually copper – that could qualify me for a spot on Rachel Maddow to portray Mitch as cheap and arrogant – to Marie Antoinette proportions.
But hold on. Adequate wages must be earned, not guaranteed. Yes, you heard correctly; I’m on the far left, and my encounter with my side’s future nemesis taught me that bit of conservative wisdom. Let me tell you, though, it must have taught the powerful something we leftists always hold true: poverty hurts.
Now unless first-year Jefferson County Judge-Executive Mitch McConnell 35 years ago had an intelligence gathering operation that would make today’s Secretary of Homeland Security blush, he could not have judged the 20-year-old college student bussing tables in a downtown Louisville restaurant he entered at noontime one autumn day as anything more than an inconsequential, pimply kid out to make enough in tips to buy a six-pack.
Well, in defiance of that period’s youth norms, I eschewed the brew and spent my dollars instead on the works of Michael Harrington, Kate Millet and Norman Thomas.
Mitch entered a Main Street row restaurant called the New York Steak Exchange with two other suits, presumably from county government or the business realm.
To everyone’s dismay, this power lunch happened on absolutely our worst day. Even on our best, we were no gastronomical gem. A newspaper review said our various gimmicks – including a real working stock ticker over the bar – couldn’t make up for the mediocrity of the food.
On this day, the service was poor to boot. So crowded were we that my supervisors had me work as a food server while not busing tables. After Mitch’s party had waited an inordinate amount of time for their food, we hauled three plates through the frenetic din to their table, only to be told this was not what the trio had ordered. We apologized and took the plates back and placed them under red lights to await their rightful owners.
More time went by as the judge-executive and his cohorts were just the most recognizable people in this restaurant hungering. Only so much politics and policy can be discussed at a table before, “Where’s our food?” becomes the sole concern.
And the three orphan plates sat there under the red lights until another server was ordered to take them to the McConnell table on the chance that they were theirs. Oh dear.
I gave chase trying to stop her. You see in the restaurant business, there is no mistake worse – more glaringly unprofessional and insulting — than bringing someone the wrong food. At that moment, I realized that there in fact is. That is bringing someone the wrong food twice. And as though the damage to us could have been worse, we were bringing the wrong food – twice – to the head of county government, the government that includes the restaurant inspection division of the health department.
She reached their table, asking: “Is this what you ordered?” Out of breath from running, I watched as Mitch and the other power hitters looked at the food, and looked at each other. Then the nation’s future highest-ranking member of the Republican Party looked at this young woman and said, in his classic McConnell-esque understated way: “Yes.”
Now we weren’t a grand jury, so this one-word lie doesn’t have the scandal potential of Bill Clinton’s “No” in response to an inquiry from Kenneth Star about the president’s involvement with an intern, though if the Democratic Party had the GOP’s chutzpa, learning of this would prompt it to call for McConnell’s resignation tomorrow. But the Democrats, unlike their opponents, tend to know not to make a federal case over an unimportant falsehood which, like Clinton’s, stemmed from a crucial human need — in this case, food.
And Judge-Executive McConnell – as they say in Senatorial debate lingo – ate someone’s lunch, learning in the process to avoid all contact from then on with the New York Steak Exchange, except – who knows — perhaps to send a memo about the restaurant to the health department.
So could it be that the indignity of eating survival rations, instead of what you wanted, soured Mitch McConnell on those of us who can’t afford to start our own Super PAC?
Well, who among us wouldn’t have sympathized at that moment with Mitt Romney’s declaration: “I like being able to fire people?”
Restaurant diners can’t directly do that to those who inflict even the lousiest service imaginable, but Mitch’s trio found an even more revealing way to express their discontent.
No tip? Nope. Lying on the McConnell party’s table, inscribed with that Eisenhower-era legislated monetary notation “In God We Trust,” was a penny – for the three of us who had waited on them somehow to divide among ourselves.
Notice Senator, that the nationwide perception of your party in the crucial year of 2012 – fair or not — is that you have it in for low-wage workers, the left and women.
Whether the ravenousness and disrespect we made you endure three and one-half decades ago lit your still burning fire, or was forgotten the following morning, shouldn’t you find cause to declare peace between the GOP and those constituencies from the knowledge that you once – albeit justifiably by most any standard — tipped a representative of each, literally, one-third of a cent?
If invincibility in politics is possible, Mitch McConnell appeared to have achieved it going into this decade. He won against the 2008 anti-GOP tide, he had in 2002 garnered endorsements from even liberal publications and he was always bathed in corporate money.
However, as a working person, I also am perched on a privileged spot. I got to witness something astounding in 1978. I saw the well-heeled and self-assured Mitch McConnell hungry and frustrated – so desperately that he was reduced to lying. How many people can say that?

Brian Arbenz retired from busing tables in 1979 to become a journalist, researcher and author. His third book, “Lost and Found in Louisville,” includes this recollection, which he wrote in 2012.