With acknowledgement and gratitude for advising me not to read this while drinking a glass of whole milk. You’ll see why. Proceed with caution.
Amazon Provides a Dose of Humor
Dec. 21: Updated to reflect corrections about Edgar Allan Poe.
You can say what you like about the Internet—it’s filthy, it’s addictive, it breeds isolation. But man, it’s also the greatest platform for humor the world has ever known. I’d say a decent percentage of the most satisfying belly laughs I’ve ever experienced have come from the sheer comic brilliance of ordinary people online. (I collected 1,200 examples in my crowdsourced book “The World According to Twitter,” but hey — I would never use this newsletter to plug a book. Especially not right when everyone’s trying to think of inexpensive holiday gifts.)
Anyway, there’s one peculiar strand of humor, one tiny, specific corner of the Internet, that gets me every time: it’s when everybody gangs up on some obscure or ridiculous product on Amazon.com and leaves bogus reviews for it. It’s awe-inspiring how people seem to arrive as though orchestrated by a leader who doesn’t exist, and how their reviews seem legitimate at first glance but become screamingly hilarious once you figure out what’s going on.
The earliest example I remember is “Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon”. Some samples from the 1,221 customer reviews:
“My husband and I (both of us have college degrees, mind you, his in engineering) could not figure out how to assemble this. No instructions, no diagrams, not even a lousy cheap Allen wrench. So basically, weeks after purchase, we’re using it as a one gallon paper weight. I haven’t gotten any response from Tuscan.”
“The exact minute I got my milk, my baby’s new face burst into flames. I used the gallon to extinguish my baby. Next time, I’ll order two gallons. Thank you, milk!”
“I was able to buy the same product, slightly used, on Craigslist for only $84.99. I haven’t received it yet, but I warn anybody buying ‘Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz’ on Amazon is probably getting ripped off.”
Over four years, the comments for the Tuscan milk have filled up with astonishingly well-written parodies in different literary styles: romance novels, military escapades, poetry parodies. Right at the top, for example, you can find a parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” beginning like this:
“Once upon a midday sunny, while I savored Nuts ‘N Honey, With my Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 gal, 128 fl. oz., I swore As I went on with my lapping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at the icebox door. ‘Bad condenser, that,’ I muttered, ‘vibrating the icebox door – Only this, and nothing more.’”
The New York Times actually wrote about the remarkable Tuscan Milk phenomenon; in this case, it turns out, the effort was orchestrated. Still, I love the Amazon spokeswoman’s statement: “We had no idea that customers had so many strongly held beliefs about their choice of liquid refreshment.”
Anyway, the Great Tuscan Milk Humor Conspiracy has now spread. I’ve unearthed a few other caches of Amazon review humor, and they’re all superb. Take a look, for example, at the reviews for the Cloverdale Fresh Whole Rabbit:
“How many weekends have I spent, in the loincloth, knife clenched in my teeth, running through the fields trying to find a rabbit?”
“I ordered one of these Fresh ‘Whole’ Rabbits, but when it arrived its head, fur and insides were missing. Not exactly whole, I’d say! Maybe it was just damaged during shipping, but I won’t be buying another one. On the plus side, it was delicious with a tall, cold glass of Tuscan Milk, so I give it three stars.”
“I am shocked that Amazon would conspire in rabbit slaughter and their consumption by the public. Rabbits are cute and furry. Many rabbits are wealthy and productive members of society. Rabbits invented the steam engine, the toaster oven, the pneumatic bolt gun, and Spandex. Rabbits pay 27% of all U.S. income taxes. This fall, for the first time, rabbits make up the majority of incoming freshman at Miami University of Ohio. If we know what’s good for us, we will put down the butcher’s knife and make peaceful accommodation with the rabbits while it is still possible. Amazon, for the love of God, stop selling this product before the rabbits come for us all.”
Oh, and don’t miss the AudioQuest K2 terminated speaker cable, which is priced, incredibly, at $6,800 (“You save: $1,650)”:
“They’re TOO good. I plugged these things into my 50W Magnavox 2.1 surround receiver and they impregnated my daughter. And I don’t even have a daughter.”
“Some things that have happened since owning and using the K2’s:
My car can now fly I won the lottery My ‘through-door’ water dispenser on my refrigerator now gives chocolate milk My mother went back to school and got her PhD I now get all of George Lopez’s jokes”
“Pros: Quickly tears through scales, fur, bone, and adamantium with ease. Coils and uncoils from hip holster (optional) quickly and quietly. For a product fabricated from 1,000 Onyx Dragon fetuses, the price is unbelievably reasonable! Cons: Shipping from the R’lyeh took far too long.”
Maybe the best one, though, is the listing for what’s obviously an erroneous Amazon listing, a book called “Hgiyiyi (hgjhjh, hjhk) [Paperback].” The author/translator is listed as “jjjj,” and the narrator is credited as “jjjjj” (). Ohhhh, baby, the people had fun with this one!
“I enjoyed ‘Hgiyiyi,’ but the pacing is a bit slow. It doesn’t compare to Jjjj’s earlier works, like ‘Kquxiuqx,’ or ‘Oooeiaiai,’ or even ‘Nyah-Nyah Ptang.’ I think her recent successes have dulled her edge.”
“When I first read ‘Hgiyiyi (hgjhjh, hjhk)’ I told myself that I was too much of a man to cry. Not to spoil anything, but the part about wwyzwthg is the saddest thing I’ve ever read in fiction or non-fiction. A must read for all fans off Jjjj or sppliyu.”
And then, incredibly, there seems to be a comment from “jjjj” herself—translated!
“I habe been vbery happi tou sea you all likedd mi laste bok. Iu yyytard nbetdg uythf kijsghhh nbhhger mloihj Hgiyiyi (hgjhjh, hjhk)
I egre with mostt of yours opinios, bi it goot or bat Iu fterrzu mouliot popiimmm plooog ettte kooullu.
Let mme reffer tou myy Blok when I pfinich writing my first note uhufy Iu vuyqsyu iozeubo huyiezfg Blok yezuev gdttte muosgd tte jdfddk.
Beste Regardst GHJdsub hhghsdfd
O.K., that’s enough for now. You’re on your own as you explore the “Novelty Yodelling Pickle,” “Wolf Urine Lure (35 fl oz),” “Guardian Angel,” “Parent Child Testing Product,” “Uranium Ore,” “BARRY MANILOW 24×36 COLOR POSTER PRINT,” “Uncle Eddies Vegan Assorted Gift Box,” “Coal Miners’ Wives: Portraits of Endurance,” “Deluxe Skull Mace w/ Custom Sheath & Dagger,” “Birth Control is Sinful in the Christian Marriages and also Robbing God of Priesthood Children!!,” and “The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee.”
You’ll be laughing very, very hard. Caution: Don’t read them while drinking a glass of whole milk.
Just back from San Francisco where I was in meetings with some folks from Oakland. The clashes there seem to be an unfortunate series of botched opportunities to actually come to some kind of agreement between the occupiers and the authorities. But this got me to thinking about the movement itself. On the way to work today I noticed that the ‘Occupy Venice’ group at the roundab out on Main St was gone – replaced by some rather intimidating bulldozers and other heavy equipment. Normally, there would be no reason to attach an emotional value to a piece of machinery, but when it replaces a rag-tag cluster of tents, hand-made signs, motley agitators and a scruffy dog or two, the symbolism is almost too heavy-handed. But the real question is, what did they leave behind ( that didn’t get picked up by the Department of Sanitation)? Is this a flash-flood of popular anger, explosive but evanescent? Or has the virus started to mutate in the minds of millions of 99 percenters across the globe, only to erupt in new, more powerful and unexpected strains?
I’ll be watching and hoping.