Nation Demands Easier Instructions

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Vol 35 Issue 22

Woodstock '99 Revenue Projections Displayed On Multi-Colored, Laminated Boards Somewhere In L.A.

LOS ANGELES—Revenue projections for Woodstock '99 were recently displayed on laminated, multi-colored boards somewhere in L.A., it can safely be assumed. "Success of previous Woodstock ventures combined with media interest in the festival's 30th anniversary spells maximum name recognition for Woodstock in the year 1999," a man wearing a suit probably said while standing at the head of a 12th-floor glass-walled conference room in one of those big office buildings there. "The soundtrack album in particular shows potential for high returns in both urban and suburban markets." At the same time, 3,000 tie-dyed Woodstock '99 T-shirts were being manufactured in one of those Indonesian factories.

Guatemalan Earthquake Registers 0.3 On Area Man's Consciousness

PEORIA, IL—A massive earthquake with a current death toll of 206 hit Antigua, Guatemala Tuesday, registering 0.3 on the consciousness of local banking assistant Ed Zurlo. "Oh, yeah, there was something about that on The Today Show," said Zurlo, paging through a book of the upholstery samples available for his new Toyota Camry. "They had that tornado or flood or whatever down there in South America." Zurlo, who was also dimly aware of such previous disasters as Hurricane Mitch-related flooding in Honduras and the Lockerbie, Scotland, crash of Pan Am Flight 103, said he will likely select the burnt-cocoa crushed velour.

Mrs. Butterworth's Bottle Central To Terrifying LSD Experience

ATHENS, GA—An anthropomorphic container of Mrs. Butterworth's-brand maple syrup took on nightmarish qualities for University of Georgia sophomore Kevin Duffy, 20, Tuesday during a harrowing, LSD-induced hallucination. "She was talkin' to me, man," the visibly shaken Duffy said following the four-hour experience. "I was zoning out on the linoleum patterns in the kitchenette when I heard this soothing, matronly voice. Then I saw her, gently gliding across the countertop and gesturing eerily with her tiny, translucent arms." Duffy's terror, he said, reached a fever pitch at approximately 4 a.m., when the parameters of four-dimensional space-time began closing in around him "like a waffle iron." "She took off the top of her head, man," Duffy said, "and there was this amorphous, semitransparent mass inside, sticking to me no matter how hard I tried to escape."

Area Man Refuses To Accept Bus-Route Change

LUBBOCK, TX—After three years of catching the bus to work at the corner of 4th and Houston, area resident Willard Dawes refused to accept the Lubbock Area Transit System's reworking of its weekday route, which had been clearly delineated in several flyers. "The C bus should've been here at 3:18," Dawes said Monday, standing on the sidewalk in front of the MovieTime video store, two blocks east of the new pick-up point. "I know it will show up. I just have to wait longer." The change is the most jarring event in Dawes' LATS ridership since 1998, when a fender bender with a taxi seriously shook his faith in Chuck, the eight-to-four weekday driver.

A La Recherche Du Temps Stupide

I was recently informed that the Twentieth-Century is nearly at an end, which astonishes me, because it seems like just yesterday that I was toasting its genesis in New-York's Winter Garden with Harry Houdini, Stanford White, the Floradora Girls, and Mutt & Jeff. Well, I hope you bastards all had fun this century, because I spent the latter half of it confined to a dank, fetid bed-chamber while having my urethra scraped.

I'm Thinking About Cutting Back On The Weed

Hola, amigos. What's up? I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I've had a lot of problems lately. First off, I been slaving trying to find a new job. The last time you heard from me, I was moving furniture. Well, a few weeks ago I was out for a night of partying with Ron, and before you know it, it was 2 in the morning and we were still going strong. Since it was a work night, and I like to drink responsibly, I was taking it easy on the beer. The weed was flowing like water, though.

Cybercrime

Last week, computer hackers altered several U.S. government web sites, causing the temporary shutdown of Internet servers including those for the FBI, the Department Of The Interior, and the White House. Why did the hackers launch the attack?

Everyone Doing It, Schoolyard Sources Allege

CHESAPEAKE, VA—According to top-level schoolyard sources, everyone is doing it. "Come on, we all do it," an older kid said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. "What are you, scared?" Anyone choosing not to do it may be subjected to an intensifying campaign of "bock-bock" chicken noises, students standing by the fence warned.

I Believe The Robots Are Our Future

Though we live in uncertain times, we must not forget that the most important thing in life is the legacy we will leave behind for future generations. It is not for our sake, but for theirs, that we must preserve and protect the basic values we hold dear. As we foolishly pursue our short-sighted goals at the expense of those who will follow in our footsteps, we must pause and be mindful of the little ones, our progeny, who will inherit our planet in the next millennium and beyond. Time and time again, gazing into the innocent, trusting photoelectric receptors of a tiny, newly developed cybernetic construct, I am reminded of a fundamental truth: I believe the robots are our future, and we must teach them well and let them lead the way.
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  • Night Out Consecrated With Opening Exchange Of High-Fives

    CHARLOTTE, NC—Kicking off the evening with their customary expression of excitement and camaraderie, a group of friends reportedly consecrated their night out on the town Friday with a ceremonial opening exchange of high-fives.

Energy

Nation Demands Easier Instructions

WASHINGTON, DC—Decrying needlessly confusing directions for the use and assembly of countless products, citizens across the nation are organizing advocacy groups to demand that American manufacturers simplify the instructions they place on packaging.

Above: A new and improved Kellogg's cereal box featuring clearer instructions.

"I'm a busy father of three," said Richard Graham of Chester, VA. "I don't have time to wade through all those words and confusing pictures on the box of flavored instant-oatmeal packets. Why can't I just get the bowl of hot oatmeal without going through so much trouble?"

On behalf of dissatisfied consumers like Graham, the Washington-based activist group Citizens for Easier Instructions has delivered an ultimatum to corporations: Replace current directions with easier versions or face a consumer boycott.

"We demand that product manufacturers provide their customers with intuitive, easy-to-follow directions featuring larger pictures, color coding, shorter words, and no words at all where a letter, number or pictograph would suffice," CEI director Melanie Pruitt said Tuesday at a press conference kicking off the group's "Crusade For Clarity '99" campaign. "For too long, the people of America have stared blankly at monochromatic, densely printed lines of instructions on cans, bottles and boxes, straining to digest the elaborately worded directives. We say, 'no more.'"

Pruitt, who nets a six-figure salary as one of the country's top instruction-clarity advocates, then unveiled a large placard showing the multi-step instructions on a can of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli.

"The first instruction, 'Empty contents into saucepan,' is only the first problem with this mind-bogglingly byzantine label," Pruitt said. "No clue is offered on how to retrieve these 'contents' from the hard, silvery shell surrounding them. In fact, our research staff has determined that a tool not included with the can is necessary."

Moving further along the label, Pruitt noted additional directions which would pose comprehension problems for the average consumer: "'Stir occasionally until hot,' the label instructs. How often is 'occasionally'? If I only prepare ravioli 'occasionally,' should I not stir at all?"

Perhaps the label's most confusing factor, Pruitt said, was the existence of two separate series of instructions, depending on the heating device used.

"The already-baffling 'Stir occasionally until hot' is not even properly identified as the final instruction in the stove-top-specific set of instructions before the text flows right into the second set, making the cook think that the next step in the preparation process is 'Microwave,'" Pruitt said. "The second set of instructions is even more paradoxical, demanding such tasks as, 'Stir once during heating,' despite the fact that the food product is heated in a microwave which ceases to function if it is opened to get at the food."

To avoid a consumer boycott, Pruitt recommended that the maker of Chef Boyardee print the words, "Requires can opener, saucepan, stove and electrical power" on the front of every label in large letters, and present the instructions in the form of pictographs showing a gender-neutral stick figure traveling sequentially through all the steps of preparation, from opening the can to emptying the product into the saucepan, all through the cooking process, transferring the contents from the saucepan to a serving dish, and finally consuming the food using appropriate utensils.

"We believe the entire process can be rendered in as few as 22 pictographs, which could be large enough to be easily read if printed on the inside of the label," Pruitt said. "All that would be needed is an exterior instruction directing the preparer to remove the label and read the full, interior instruction set."

"Corporations that fail to respond to the changing needs of Americans will lose customers," she added. "We as a people no longer have the time or patience to read lines of text and struggle to decipher their meaning."

Manufacturer Procter & Gamble has already announced it will soon introduce new "EZ 2 Follow" instructions that will clearly spell out "even the simplest and most obvious of operations."

The redesigned Old Spice aftershave lotion bottle, company representative Albert Conrad said, will feature explicit instructions regarding where and how to apply the lotion, as well as warnings not to drink Old Spice or use it as a marinade in cooking.

Sheets included in other Procter & Gamble products will warn against eating Crisco straight from the can, squirting Vicks NyQuil into one's eyes, or re-using Tampax products.

Many other corporations have already made moves toward similar changes based on the overwhelming number of questions and complaints they receive at their 800 numbers every day.

"I used to answer 30 to 40 calls a day from people asking what 'Apply liberally' meant," said Carla Enway, an operator for Coppertone. "My job has been a lot easier since we changed the bottle to read, "Spread a whole bunch all over everything but your eyes and mouth."

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