Monday, January 3, 2011

The Long-Awaited, Long-Overdue, Much-Ballyhooed Post on Mixing

Mixing has been on my mind since Cereal Hour was merely a figment of my imagination -- since before blogging about cereal seemed an even remotely reasonable thing to do. I still wonder, in fact, if it is a reasonable thing for a grown man to do. But that is beside the point. I am here, you are here, we are here, cereal is here. And so it goes, said Vonnegut. The point I am making is that there's one simple reason this post has taken so long to materialize: I am intimidated by the very prospect.

Mixing cereal is so integral to my daily life (nary a weekday morning goes by where one cereal is not mixed with another) that I was wary to address it out of fear that I could not do it justice. Mixing was the marshmallow elephant in Cereal Hour's room, and it grew larger and more ribboned with red and green and yellow swirls and still more sugary every day. Until now.

Because thanks to the gentle chiding of one man -- a man with whom I have not spoken for many years, yet who by virtue of his willingness to write a 600-word comment on a post about literally nothing wields great influence in my cereal-blogging life -- the long-awaited, long-overdue, much-ballyhooed post on mixing is here. Its time has come today.

(However, before we begin, I must note that I disagree with said man quite vehemently on one point: Ace of Base is most certainly not more annoying than the Vines. While it's true that grants both Ace of Base's 1993 breakthrough The Sign and the Vines' 2002 breakthrough Highly Evolved four stars, the proof is in the pudding of the feared second album: Ace of Base gets three stars, the Vines only two-and-a-half. Case closed, I think.)

See how much I fear the post on mixing? I've just spent four paragraphs discussing everything about the post on mixing but the mixing itself.

The tyranny of the post on mixing ends now. The power it weilds over me is hereby vanquished. The buck stops here, et al.

This post will be broken up into three separate parts: 1) Why mix; 2) Mixes people have proposed but I have yet to try; and 3) Weird mixes I hereby propose.

1) Why mix: Because it's the closest thing to creativity in cereal consumption, because it cures the tedium of five-days-a-week cereal, because sometimes the results are fantastic, and BECAUSE WE JUST DO. Seriously dude, why wouldn't you mix? Mixing allows me to experience my favorite cereals in new ways and to dream up classics of my own, all while beating back the beastly beast of repetition. I'm not much of a creature of habit, I suppose. I can eat cereal five days a week, but I can't eat the same stuff two days in a row.

Take Honey Bunches of Oats. It's a great cereal, and rather diversely constituted. Even so, I can easily get sick of it. So what I do is cut it with Cheerios (preferably Multigrain). The O's and flakes get along nicely, and the bland flavor of the former dilutes the sweetness of the flakes and oat bunches nicely. It's a winning combination that extends my tolerance of both components.

Another cereal that blends really well with plain or Multigrain Cheerios is Lucky Charms. Those little Charms are way too damn sweet to eat on their own, but toss 'em with plain Cheerios (which, incidentally, are very similar in texture to the non-marshmallow pieces in Lucky Charms) and it's something I can get behind.

Cinnamon Life goes well with a bunch of stuff. I've never done it with Crispix, but that would be rad. Froot Loops with Apple Jacks. That's one I have done. Different brands of Raisin Bran. Done that. Different flavors of Cheerios. Done that too. Kix and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Amazing. Truly amazing. Transformative.

Generally, it's good to pair a complex cereal with a simple cereal. Or a simple cereal with another simple cereal of a slightly different ilk. Or a sweet cereal with a bland cereal. But avoid mixing two complex cereals. Too many ingredients and too much potential for clashing, for something to go horribly wrong.

We all mix for our own reasons. We all mix our own shit. None of that matters. What matters is that we mix. Mixing makes us better people. Better people makes a better world. A better world makes better cereals. Ad infinum.

2) Mixes people have proposed but I have yet to try:
  • Lucky Charms and Apple Jacks: Too sweet. WTF, mate?
  • Cheerios and Corn Flakes or Total: Too bland. Ditto, mate.
  • Cheerios and Raisin Bran: This is outright, unparalleled genius and I can't believe I haven't done it yet.
  • Special K and Rice Krispies: See #2.
  • Life and Rice Krispies: Assuming Cinnamon Life, see #3.
  • Kix and anything other than Life: Intrigued.

3) Weird mixes I hereby propose:
  • Cinnabon Cereal (Face! I just bought a box) and Eggo Waffle Cereal: Breakfast of champions.
  • Rice Krispies and Kashi: Mushy.
  • Grape Nuts and Apple Jacks: Irony.
  • Bite-Size Frosted Mini Wheats with Spoon-Size Frosted Mini Wheats: Fight the power, subvert the paradigm, all that.
  • Rice Krispies with Rice Krispies Treats Cereal: So obvious that it's not obvious at all; so genius that it's still genius. 
  • Anything chocolate with anything else chocolate: The holy grail. 

Only one piece of advice left to be said: Forget dancing; mix your cereals like no one is watching. No one but God. And He's really into cereal.


  1. Informing someone that a co-worker of yours found their rambling commentary "charming" is rarely a good idea. It encourages this type of behavior.

    I must admit that you know more about cereal (and music) than I ever will. I am out of my element in Donnyesque proportions. In the face of such substance, a reader with a contrary opinion is left with two options: gracefully accept the author's point of view, or quibble about a technicality. I have (predictably) chosen the latter.

    The technicality I’m interested in is the side-debate about The Vines. Using ratings as an authority bothers me (and we also differ on what “annoying” means).

    I am intimidated by your musical chops, so I'm going to switch media. Let's take three movies: Mallrats, Mulan, and Moulin Rouge. I like one of these three movies (Mallrats) and am annoyed by the other two. IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes tell me this is wrong. In fact, according to their rating schema my appreciation for these movies should be exactly reversed.

    What does this mean? Possibly nothing. But I do think people place too much emphasis on ratings and popular consensus. Now, I chose Moulin Rouge and Mulan specifically because over-produced and/or overly optimistic material tends to do very well in rating systems. I am not shocked that Ace of Base has good ratings, because as a band they seem to embody both traits (I was also going to make some sort of pseudo-intellectual point related to statisticians using the greek letter Mu to represent the population mean and how meaningless an average of opinions is, but there isn’t time). I do not wish to compare the musical stylings of The Vines to Kevin Smith's attempt to make a "smart Porky's". I chose Mallrats for different reasons.

    In the spring of 2001, I saw Mallrats for the first time (a little late, but it's not as if crowds flocked to theaters when it was released). Mallrats happened to be playing on a channel provided by my college that showed a sequence of movies on a fixed daily rotation. The rotation changed monthly. For a month, I watched Mallrats 1-2 times a day, 3-7 days a week. This seems insane in retrospect. Of course, it had little to do with how much I “liked" Mallrats. It just played at a time when I wanted to return to my room, eat my lunch, and think about nothing. It's also possible that I had a latent desire to participate in fast-talking arguments about comics. I did not actively watch the film each time. I was almost always doing something else while it was on (usually half-heartedly completing an assignment due that afternoon).

    The point of my Mallrats story is this: Had I attempted this same behavior but substituted either Moulin Rouge or Mulan for Mallrats, the experience would have been horrific. I'm sure there are Baz Luhrmann enthusiasts who enjoy repeated viewings of Moulin Rouge. But I don't want to know those people. I'm also sure that there are people capable of watching Disney movies over and over again. But those people are 7. Even Disney, who benefits financially from the fact that 7-year-olds can be easily placated by sitting them in front of a screen playing a DVD they've seen 700 times, has a habit of creating television shows based on the characters in their movies. Why? Because Disney understands that fewer cheery songs and minor plot variations makes their material more palatable for daily viewing.

    In this sense, I stand by my assessment. If you're listening to music and a song by The Vines plays for the second time in the course of the day it's very possible that you wouldn't care or even notice (unless I've underestimated the level of hatred you feel for The Vines. But are they really important enough to hate that much?). But if "Living in Danger" plays a second time, you will certainly notice and (probably) skip the track. I don't know what this says about the quality of either band. But in the context of a random playlist, The Vines are less annoying.

  2. p.s. It does feel a little strange talking so much about The Vines when I care so little about them. It's entirely possible that I have been reading way too much Chuck Klosterman. But he is a man whose opinion on music (and cereal) I think you might respect more than mine. Part of the reason I originally jumped to the defense of the often-tread-upon Vines is a story he tells about interviewing Jeff Tweedy. It turned out that Tweedy's young son was in a band that covered Jet songs. Klosterman instinctively makes a disparaging comment about Jet (as one tends to do about Australian garage rock), and Tweedy didn't understand why one would so actively look down upon this music, some of which "rocks." When I read your initial comment about The Vines, it seemed like you were kicking a similar dog, and I felt a pang of sympathy for them. It just seems a little unfair and a little too easy (but admittedly fun) to hate The Vines. As it happens, in a more recent book that I just finished, Klosterman also refers to Ace of Base an "ABBA replicant" and this is (basically) a compliment in the context of the chapter. So what do I know?

    p.p.s. I have resolved to give mixing another chance, largely because of your passionate post. So I guess, to paraphrase Woody Harrelson's annoying girlfriend in White Men Can't Jump, sometimes when you win, you actually lose. And sometimes when you when or lose, you actually tie.

  3. I'm going to let your missive stand, except for one critical disagreement re: Ace of Base vs. The Vines (I think we're really onto something here). My contention is that The Vines are in fact much more annoying than Ace of Base. Much. I have about five songs by both artists on my computer. Whenever a Vines song comes up on random play in iTunes, I skip it within the first three seconds. Whenever Ace of Base comes on, however, I'll probably listen all the way through. On the macro scale, the difference is even more exaggerated: if forced to choose one band to listen to multiple times a day for multiple days on end, I'll choose Ace of Base ten times out of ten. It's not that I like them or think they're great artists/singers per se, it's just that I can't stand the Vines. My distaste for them is not token; it is real, it is powerful, and it has nothing to do with the fact that they're a tossed-off garage band from Australia.

    More to the point of this blog, the only cereal I dislike as much as I dislike the Vines is Honey Nut Cheerios. They're gross.

  4. Hmmmmm, I think you may have just uncovered the underlying fundamental, ideological conflict here (beyond the fact that we probably listen to music in different ways--me more for background, you more for sonic enjoyment). Perhaps we'll simply have to agree to disagree. Honey Nut Cheerios are fantastic. I don't understand how you could dislike them. Do you not like honey? Do you not enjoy nuts? I know you admire Cheerios (particularly the multigrain variety). Why wouldn't Honey Nut Cheerios be a good addition to one of your mixes?

    When David Simon was choosing a cereal for Omar Little to crave, he chose the Honey Nut. He did this for a reason. They are bad-ass. That bee is one of my oldest friends. He will always have my back, and I will always have his.