Saturnalia 2011.01.30

The turbulence in Egypt and specifically the governmental decision to effectively shut off the internet within the country’s borders immediately got me thinking about one of my favorite movies: Wag the Dog.

Wag the Dog (1997) is a movie about political spin and the manipulation of public thought. Briefly, the film deals with a president running for reelection amid a scandal involving a young girl. In order to shift focus from his tawdry sexual misgivings during the 11 days leading up to Election Day, the president (who is purposely neither shown, heard from or named) employs a crack committee of spin doctors to shift the focus of the public eye to something — anything else.

What occurs next is a whirlwind of rumors, national fads, implied threats of warfare and finally, a hero’s funeral — each fabricated by presidential puppeteers aiming to shift national attention away from one story and refocus it on seemingly more important news items. Brilliant performances are turned in at every corner. Robert DeNiro’s quick-thinking non-mafioso character is a wonderful deviation from his tough guy roles everyone has grown so accustomed to. Dustin Hoffman as a saucy Hollywood producer is about as good as casting gets. He’s perfect and believable, the exact combination of acerbic Hollywood insensitivity and genuine lightheartedness. Woody Harrelson, William H. Macy, Anne Heche, Willie Nelson, Denis Leary and a phenomenal soundtrack provided by Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler round out director Barry Levinson’s vision of behind-the-scenes America. A decade and a half old now, the movie is pertinent as ever. Though the technology being utilized throughout the film is dated (brick-size cellphones… haha) but the point remains valid: control information, control the world.

To tie Wag the Dog back to current scenarios, Egypt’s decision to shut down the internet mirrors the attitude of the film. As the country is currently embroiled in rebellious upheaval and the streets are alive with violent revolt – the government decided it best to deny citizens the use of social networking sites such as Facebook & Twitter. Both of these websites can be effectively utilized to spread information and unite those of like mind. Therefore, the hope was that a total blackout of these utilities (and yes, they can be construed to be utilities) would prevent quick assemblies and/or the spread of virulent propaganda against the government.

While the film discusses the potentiality of creating fake news to take the place of ostensible stories, the internet blackout of Egypt creates a reflexive analogy. Instead of birthing new items of national interest, the Egyptian government aimed to disallow information of any sort to pass through to the public. Silly Egypt. They should watch this movie and improve their ability to manipulate the public mind.

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The tagline “America runs on Dunkin” is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s just in the northeast where this pastry purveyor has a stranglehold on the market. Everywhere else in the country, people turn to some alternate outlet when the craving for a sugary circle of fried dough calls.

In the northeast, however, Dunkin Donuts™ is legitimately everywhere. Though their coffee and flatbread breakfast sandwiches may not be a regular part of everyone’s diet, the ubiquitous print ads, TV spots and radio jingles ensure that the name Dunkin Donuts™ (and their delicious dessert fare) is never far from any wanting mouth.

That being said, the time has come to discuss an unsung hero of this omnipotent chain: the blueberry cake donut. If I surveyed 100 people about their preferred donut flavor and consequently put the top answers on the board, my fast money says that the classics would remain at the top. Glazed, powdered jelly, chocolate glazed, French cruller, Boston cream and a few others are perennial favorites. No where on this list will there ever be the blueberry cake donut; it is an ignored staple of the largest coffee and baked goods chain in the world*. It is ignored so comprehensively that even people who frequent the place are completely unaware of its existence.

Along our travels, Alex (pal, piano player, blog enthusiast) & I stopped in to DD the other day. He stayed in the car and when asked what he wanted, the reply of “whatever” meant that he’d be tasting a blueberry cake donut. When I handed it to him, the foreign donut produced a quizzical look on his face. He had never seen this variety and thus, had never tasted it.

Suffice to say, a new fan was born that day. Among the superlatives uttered within seconds of consumption, ‘best donut ever’ reverberates.

Quite frankly, I don’t know why this particular donut isn’t more popular. Following a simple recipe, this tasty snack is a delight. The equation below denotes, to me, a formula for success.

So, next time you’re standing on line with a hankering for spongy sweetness – don’t settle for the same old donuts you’ve been cramming for years — cram something new.

* quoted from the Dunkin Donuts™ press kit — a fairly interesting thing to look at for 10 seconds: sluuuuurp
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