Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nabisco Newtons Fruit thins

Nabisco Newtons Fruit thins are a crispy answer to the ever-popular Fig Newton. They come in a variety of flavors: Fig and Honey; Blueberry Brown Sugar; Cranberry Citrus Oat; and Raspberry Chocolate.

They are thin and look like round crackers.

Because the packaging is alluring on the grocery shelf, and the product was showing off in an eye-catching point-of-purchase display rack, I bought a bag - without a second thought - on a recent Sunday morning.

I tried the Fig and Honey and even though the package says that Newtons Fruit thins are "crispy cookies," I was hoping for a flavor and texture closer to that of the venerable Fig Newton. But my preconceived Fig Newton notion crumbled - literally - as I took a bite of one of the crisps.

My initial reaction: cardboardy, dry, sawdusty with a slightly sweet overtone.

Here's the kicker - Newtons Fruit thins boast no high fructose corn syrup, are made with real fruit (although I'd be hard pressed to find but a few rubbery specs of hardened fig) and are a good soruce of whole grain. Ultimately it's really not a cookie in the traditional sense but more like a product produced out of guilt for the guilty consumer of cookies.

It's really just another product falling within that new "thin" (snack) food trend we're seeing more of on grocery store shelves. It's a psychological ploy with the promise of dietary nirvana - "Hey! A thin cookie!"

For those worried about such things, you get about 30 cookies in a package of Newtons Fruit thins. Three cookies have 140 calories from fat. And three is probably all you'd eat in one sitting anyway. They're not as compulsively consumable as, say, Oreos, which are easily - if not joyfully - devoured by the stack.

Although I know this goes against Nabisco's crispy intent for these cookies, I believe Newtons Fruit thins would be better with a softer consistency injected with more palatable fruit swirled throughout.

On the other hand, the packaging for Newtons Fruit thins is truly a work of art. It's a gusseted flexible bag lined with an aluminum coating for freshness, while the outside is a gorgeous glossy four-color print of a cookie in action. The cookies inside come side-by-side in a plastic double-sided tray.

The bag, by the way, is recloseable.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What is the title of the last book you read?

The title of this post is actually the title of this blog's post and I found it intriguing regarding job interview questions.

I was fortunate enough to recently hire somebody as an addition to my communications team for the company I work for. Communications within the organization have become a pivot point for much of the company's activity hence the need to grow the department.

But, while I'm confident the new hire will excel (he came highly recommended), I wish I would have asked him, "What is the title of the last book you read?" If only to get a little deeper look into his psyche.

Truth is, not many people read books. When I hear somebody say they hate reading or that they don't have time to read, I feel sorry for them - but not for long. Non-reading shows a couple things: a lack of imagination and a mind closed off to the nature of possibility. And that they probably get most of their information from T.V.

The worst non-readers are those who are proud that they don't read or that they haven't read a book in years or even decades. This "badge of honor" is an indicator of seriously flawed thinking.

The key isn't so much what people read, it's that they read at all. So if I ask the question, "What is the title of the last book you read?" - I don't care if the answer is a 1970s Sydney Sheldon potboiler or Tolstoy's War and Peace. In fact, if your mix of reading materials includes the pulpiest of fiction to the highest level literature to the most complex books on business trends, you'll probably show extremely well read if not intelligent, curious and eager. My thing? Don't cover up the pulp - wear it on your sleeve.

When I was in school (grammar school, high school and college), reading was emphasized. But it was also a household activity. As a kid, my family's house had a small attic room that acted as our "library" - walls were covered with hardcover and paperback novels ranging from the high to the low. I was 10 years old when I read my first adult novel. It was Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Since then, I have probably averaged reading about 2-3 books a month - not impressive when you're a 1-2 book a week reader but not a bad track record.

So what are the last few books I've read over the past couple months?
And what am I reading now? Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer.

Based on that list would I hire me?

Well, at least as an interviewer, I'd be intrigued and would probably want to engage in a second conversation... 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Be it dead or alive...

I can't play one single song on the guitar. Sure, I can play a handful of chords and some scales but that's pretty much it. Despite the fact that I took countless lessons at the Old Town School of Folk in Chicago.

In the late 90s, I took guitar classes at the school's 909 W. Armitage location. There was a Starbucks on the corner of Armitage and Sheffield where I'd stop before class and watch the traffic and the people congregating under the El. After a coffee, I'd walk down Armitage, guitar case in hand, enter the tiny school and get a Rolling Rock at the school's bar. Yes, there was a bar.

I'd sit in the lobby, pull out the lesson for that evening's class and warm up for about 20 minutes or so before class started. Every student seemed to partake in this beautiful ritual...the lobby became a cacophony of disparate sounds (imagine a sonic wall of guitars, banjos, harmonicas, sitars, bongos, voice - none on the same song).

I loved the experience. The Old Town instructors made you feel at home. It was non-competitive and laid back. The school's pedigree is high - John Prine, Roger McGuinn, Bonnie Koloc, Steve GoodmanRobbie FulksNina Gordon (of Veruca Salt) were students at Old Town and Steve Earle was an instructor for a short spell. No matter how terrible a player you were, the school was nurturing. And I learned a lot - in theory.

I practiced daily...for hours. Over the course of years.

But I just couldn't grasp the instrument and maybe that's because the reality was - at least for me - I should have picked up the instrument when I was a kid instead of as an adult.

Flashback - if I could be a kid again, I'd demand that my parents put that guitar in my hands (no matter how much I resisted) and enroll me in a program like the renowned School of Rock. Beyond the Richard Linklater/Jack Black movie, this real educational resource gives kids a fantastic rocka rolla experience from learning how to play an instrument, to developing songwriting skills, and figuring out how to play in a band situation. More than private lessons, its group action -- an experience coupled with gaining a depth of knowledge that can carry through the rest of your life, whether you make a rock career for yourself or end up a corporate hack.


Dear School of Rock,

Maybe I should try this thing again. How about some adult education?