Archive - Feb 12, 2009

Greasy Paper Bucket Of Dumb

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Memo to Kentucky Fried Chicken and the AP: YOU ARE DUMB.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is the Steven Seagal of fast food. Wildly popular for a while for no good reason whatsoever, and now a bloated, irrelevant shadow of its former self, desperately clinging to the shreds of relevance it has left, and playing up its dubious mythology to keep the rubes coming in.

Sure, KFC never appeared in Under Siege*, and no, Patton Oswalt doesn't have a five-minute bit about Steven Seagal, but other than that, plus the various differences inherent in comparing a fast-food chain to an aging 80s action star, they're EXACTLY THE SAME. Especially the mythology bit, which is my whole point. Steven Seagal plays up his Buddhism and his status as a reincarnated lama, and KFC has its secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices.

Secret recipes are a marketing gimmick from a bygone day, when dinosaurs walked the earth and Orson Bean was middle-aged. Coke has a secret recipe, dating back from when bottles cost a nickel and part of the secret recipe included actual goddamned sugar. KFC's secret recipe is from a similar age - the age of the actual, breathing, non-cartoon, non-beat-boxing Colonel Sanders.

Modern food products don't have secret recipes. Or, rather, if they do, it's not a marketing point. I mean, nobody knows what the fuck is in a Lunchable, but nowhere in the eight square miles of cardboard and plastic that encases a Lunchable will you find big bold letters proclaiming "A COMPLETE MYSTERY WE'LL CARRY TO OUR GRAVES, KIDS!" In the age of processed food, every recipe is a secret recipe. Sure, there's the ingredients list, but thanks to deregulation, there's one guy left to check if that's even close to accurate, and he's drunk. All the time.

All this intro is prelude to a story I saw in my newsfeed the other day, the stupidity of which triggered all my well-honed irritation sensors. Kentucky Fried Chicken got some poor schlub at the AP to write up a few hundred words of corporate fluffery. The schlub was Bruce Schreiner, and the resulting chicken boner informed us of the following. ACTUAL LEDE TIME!

"Colonel Sanders' handwritten recipe for fried chicken was back in its Kentucky home Tuesday after five months in hiding while KFC upgraded security around its top corporate secret."

Expect a followup story from Schreiner the instant a child is born who, through means unknown and unknowable, actually gives a fuck about this. Until then, isn't there a war beat, a crisis beat, or a congressman fucking a donkey beat the AP could put Schreiner on?

I tell you what, AP. You send a reporter to KFC headquarters when, in a daring midnight raid, a team of high-tech mercenaries hired by, I don't know, Popeye's or something, actually steals the secret recipe from its guarded vault. Until then, the fate of the eleven herbs and spices is not news. And this will never happen, because there is no fast food business plan in the universe that relies on one well-guarded famous technique for making fried chicken taste like rancid cloaca.

There are hundreds of public domain, non-proprietary ways to make shitty fried chicken. And none of them require that they be "protected by an array of high-tech security gadgets, including motion detectors and cameras that allow guards to monitor the vault around the clock." Not that it matters, because the story is complete bullshit theater anyway. I know this for two reasons. Reason number one is KFC president Roger Eaton, whose canned patter about the incident is even more suspect than his convenient past-tense-of-to-ingest last name.

"Mission accomplished... It was very nerve wracking. I don't want to be the only president who's lost the recipe." OK, first of all, fuck you and your "mission accomplished". Maybe you should have announced that all major chicken operations have come to an end while you were at it. And second of all, if you'd lost the recipe, you'd just grab a pencil and some artificially yellowed paper and write up a new one. Hell, for all I know, you could be the fifteenth president who's lost the recipe. How would we know? You don't let anybody read it.

But the real clincher? That's the security expert who delivered the recipe to its new resting place, and signed off on the new security system by comparing it to an "onion". That man? Bo Dietl. You may remember Bo Dietl from his appearances on The Daily Show, where he came across as an actor playing an over-the-top stereotype of a post-9/11, racist, psychotic New Yorker. Until it became apparent that there was no acting taking place. Yes, Bo Dietl, the security industry's very own Billy Carter.

Having Bo Dietl attesting to the strength of your security system is like having Chuck E. Cheese on hand to attest to the authenticity of your Neapolitan pizza. Oh, and Chuck E. Cheese hated black people and Arabs. Actually, I take that back. Comparing Bo Dietl to Chuck E. Cheese is an insult to giant, moth-eaten, fake rats who smell like old tomato sauce. The presence of Bo Dietl meant this wasn't even corporate theater. It was elementary school theater. And as exciting as elementary school theater is for the people involved, the Associated Fucking Press doesn't need to be covering it.

*No, I'm not checking. I'll take the chance that a freaky product-placement deal will dump hundreds of angry e-mails in my inbox today.