You could hear teeth gnashing all the way from China last summer when the Wall Street Journal announced it would begin accepting front-page advertising. This may not have seemed like a big deal to outsiders. After all, crack the paper's seal and you'll find advertising for everything from Cadillacs to Pravda vodka.
But there was something about placing an ad on A1 albeit a discreet ad, in the right-hand corner below the fold that told us the vaunted Chinese Wall between editorial and advertising had been irretrievably breached. The barbarians were storming the palace; the state had entered the church.
Why so squeamish? Simple: It doesn't look good when readers come across an article praising GM's first-quarter earnings while on the opposite page there's an advertisement for the sales-slumping (but still dope!) Cadillac Escalade ESV.
"What?" we worried readers will think. "Did GM buy the good press?"
Here at Riverfront Times, we keep editorial and advertising apart. Sure, we mix occasionally at a Christmas party or softball game, but our socializing is like vinaigrette on a salad: It's good while it lasts, but soon enough the vinegar separates from the oil, the salad wilts and we return to our separate floors at RFT Central.
So I've got to commend RFT classifieds rep David Rogers for bridging the gap, when he writes:
"I love your column, I've pushed its remnants aside in the company refrigerator several times, I'm sure. But where is the challenge anymore? Thousands of Ritalin-induced children have kept down a Choco-Fudge Sundae or an Oscar Mayer hotdog. But, where is the Fear Factor type of Keep It Down that we all knew and loved? ...I miss the multi-car pileup of a column that was once so outrageous that I couldn't believe I was reading, but from which I couldn't look away....
"There's a 3 week old, once frozen, Michelina's dinner (Rotini with Prosciutto) that is in an empty desk down here...yours for the taking!"
My, but this is embarrassing. Must I really chow down on the fermented remains of a sales rep's lunch?
But when I go hunting for what might be Keep It Down's last supper, David (to my not insignificant relief) informs me: "As a sleezy ad-guy-type, I...let you down! They cleared out the old desk. So the rotini challenge is extinct (but I appreciate your balls to undertake such a rotten endeavor!)."
By this time I'm ready to inhale just about any old thing I can find. Reaching into the culinary grab bag that is my desk drawer, I fish out a can of Companion Mun-Cha'i-Ya Peking Vegetarian Roast Duck, grab my officemate's Leatherman Super Tool and pry the lid off the ten-ounce can of gluten.
OK, so it's no three-week-old pasta with prosciutto, but I've got to hand it to the culinary minds behind Companion Mun-Cha'i-Ya Peking Vegetarian Roast Duck: This is one of the most visually disgusting products I've ever seen. Not only has Companion aped the erect papillae remainders of plucked duck skin, they've imbued their product with a brown hue that reminds me of a milk-fed infant's soiled diaper. They've even gone so far as to form their foodstuff into an ersatz cross-section of a roasted duck breast. Its smell? A dead ringer for a hydrated bowl of Gravy Train.
But these, of course, are mere quibbles. How does a chunk of Companion Mun-Cha'i-Ya Peking Vegetarian Roast Duck taste?
Imagine chewing on a piece of Styrofoam fished from the "River" Des Peres. Companion Mun-Cha'i-Ya Peking Vegetarian Roast Duck offers a bit of springy resistance at first, but a moment later you realize that was just for show. Instead of the varied textures of duck breast (or a Twinkie, for that matter), Companion Mun-Cha'i-Ya Peking Vegetarian Roast Duck possesses a processed, textural monotony that, when combined with the product's faux duck wheatiness, induces a sensation best described as...despair.
So, no: A can of Companion Mun-Cha'i-Ya Peking Vegetarian Roast Duck is not an encouraging milepost along the food-manufacturing highway. But we can still take heart in the fact that RFT's Chinese Wall has not been breached. Yet.