Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Name Changes: I Now Live In Blogosphere Estates

1)  My Favorite Cereal

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I was walking down "aisle 10" in Ralph’s Supermarket today to buy my usual healthy, but cardboard-tasting "high-fiber" cereal, when I started reminiscing about the sugar-high cereals of my youth:  Lucky Charms, Trix, Frosted Flakes, and my all time favorite — Sugar Pops — or Sugar Corn Pops, depending on what year you started eating them.  I used to love those bright yellow crunchy bits of sugar that somehow were related to "wholesome corn" and kept their crunch quite well, unlike the wimpy and soggy Rice Krispies.   

My current supermarket had many cereals on sale, almost too many, and there was a whole section devoted just to Kellogg’s products.  But when I saw the familiar yellow box, I was quite surprised to learn that Sugar Pops were not called Sugar Pops anymore.  No.  Now, they are just called Pops.  The word "Pops" was written in some pseudo-graffiti font and there was some sort of promotion going on for snowboarding.  This was obviously a Sugar Pops for a new generation.   But are parents so stupid to think that Pops are any healthier than the Sugar Pops they used to eat, just because Kellogg’s dropped the "Sugar" from the name?

Maybe Sugar Pops are more successful nowadays as just Pops.  Changing names can be a powerful illusion, like changing Kentucky Fried Chicken to the heart-healthy KFC.

2)  Real Estate

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When I was growing up in Flushing, there was a housing project across the street.  The residents were mostly those on welfare and other federal assistance programs.   While it was a noble idea in principle, it was a nightmare for the neighborhood.   The crime rate zoomed, and women were frequently attacked walking the streets.  After a few years, there was so much community uproar about "the projects," that they were closed down.  A few months later, they were taken over by a private company, quickly painted over, and renamed "Georgetown Mews."   My friends and I always joked about this, as if this ultra-pretentious name somehow transformed this ugly complex into something sophisticated.

With real estate so hot, I see this type of "naming" used all the time.   For instance, on the way to Palm Springs recently, I noticed what used to be an empty lot in a god-forsaken desert area between LA and Palm Springs.  Now, it has been transformed into "Rawhide Ranch," as if any actual horse wouldn’t immediately drop dead in the area’s 120 degree heat. 

New York and San Francisco have always been very successful in turning a rundown part of the city into some hip enclave.  Step one:  promote the area with some cool name like Tribeca, Soho, DUMBO, etc.  Los Angeles is now getting into the game by "trying to trick hipsters into leasing Skid Row lofts: the Old Bank District."

Why not?  It works.

3)  Concentration Camps

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Changing your name is frequently a way of hiding your past.  When a company does something illegal, they often come back with a changed name — and a fresh start.  Sometimes a name is associated with a disaster. That’s why after ValuJet crashed in the Florida Everglades, they changed their name to AirTran.  It’s not surprising that Poland even wants to to rename Auschwitz.

"Poland is trying to change the name of Auschwitz concentration camp to emphasize that Nazi Germans, not Poles, were responsible for the most murderous center of the Holocaust.

The government has asked the United Nations to change the name of its World Heritage site from "Auschwitz Concentration Camp" to "the Former Nazi German Concentration Camp of Auschwitz.""

Who’s going to say that mouthful?  I think most people remember that the Nazis were the bad guys.   Name changing is a powerful instrument.  What do you think Poland is trying to forget about it’s own past?

I understand that living in Auschwitz might be a drag.  But, hey, why not just build a Six Flags there so Auschwitz can change its reputation from the "place with a death camp" to a "place for fun?"

25 Comments

  1. They call them just ‘Pops’ now? When did that happen?

    Wanted to stop by and say hello (been reading since you commented on my site a while back)…I look forward to meeting you at TequilaCon this Saturday!
    Maybe we should rename that to something more pallatable for the non-Tequila drinkers among us?

  2. Thank you for helping me to wake up this morning with a good laugh. OK. So the Coke that I’m drinking has also helped a great deal.

  3. 2 things:
    -Poles did help Nazis, and very actively at that. Yes, it’s a drag to live in the place called Auschwitz- but it’s a matter of choice, isn’t it? Unlike for those who went out in smoke from Auschwitz’ pipes. People normally don’t build houses on a graveyard – why not level the village alltogether?
    -your example with projects is incomplete. What happened to the crime/filth of the neighborhood when the buildings became rentals? If the situation improved, I would say – yes indeed the private company who managed it changed more than a name.

  4. Pops? As in the nickname for one’s Dad? Kids these days…I don’t know about that.

    And, I would like to scoff, and say that a company changing it’s name doesn’t fool anyone…well it scarily often does, doesn’t it?

  5. It’s Auschwitz. It always has been and always will be. And why do they need the “Nazi Germany” qualifier? Don’t most people already recognize that it was Nazi Germany that was responsible for the Holocaust? Am I missing something?

  6. I think it’s a bit rich of Poland to be trying to absolve itself of its involvement in Auschwitz when even now anti-semitism is still endemic there.

  7. We do this re-naming thing all the time in my line of work. College students don’t live in “dorms” because “dorms” are “dormant.” They live in “residence halls” because that suggests warm happy living. Our students are not “freshman” because that a) suggests a gender and b) implies that they are 18 year old recent high school graduates. We have “first-year students” because that does not hold any of those connotations. I don’t have “girl” or “boy” students, I have “women” and “men.” There are hundreds more… it’s a bit ridiculous actually!

  8. My mom wouldn’t be fooled by Pops. We couldn’t have any cereal that listed sugar as one of the first 4 or 5 ingredients. (That effectively knocked out all the good stuff when i was a kid.)

    The World Heritage site aspect of Auschwitz is interesting. Poland had to nominate it to be included, and now that it’s on the list, they’re stuck with the camp.

  9. Come to Six Flags over Auschwitz and ride the Hitler death drop. It’s fun for the whole family.

  10. I sort of like the idea of getting a fresh start with a new name. I’ve always had this burning desire to run off, change my name and start a whole new life.

  11. the only time i ever got to eat that cereal was when i was a kid at the cottage and during the summer, my mom would buy that pack with all those little boxes that you cut open, add milk and eat right out of. it was always a fight over who got the pops and who got stuck with the bran flakes, heaven forbid you throw out a box of bran flakes.

  12. Melissa — There is a long tradition of name changing — actors changing their names to something more actorish, athletes undergoing a religious experience like Muhammad Ali, etc. For some reason, I differentiate between doing it for personal reasons and doing it to manipulate. But, then again, language has always been as much about manipulation as communication — as bloggers should know.

  13. Sugar is a dirty word nowadays in the no-carb culture. That said, I was always curious about Cookie Crisp.

  14. “Moo-oom! Daaa-aad! Can we PLEASE go Auschwitz this summer? Please?”

    Love it. Also love “Rawhide Ranch”– maybe the horses instantly turn to rawhide the second they step into the sun.

  15. Corn Pops!!! Brings back memories.

    I was 6 snd recovering from Chicken Pox and finally allowed to go out in public with pox healing.

    My mom took me to the grocery store and I saw the Corn Pops. I grabbed a box and ran down the aisle, “Mommy these look like my Chicken Pox!”

  16. I miss PeanutButter Cap’N Crunch. I don’t think they changed it’s name so much as just got rid of it once they realized it was the #1 cause of obesity amongst children 3-21.

    Speaking of real estate, I love how Flatbush is now becoming absorbed into Williamsburg as the hipsters pretend that their Bohemia is real.

  17. I think they should have dropped the ~pops~ portion of Sugar Pops. Mmm..now you’re cooking with gas, baby!!

    Mmm..kraut. Tall..blonde..piercing blue eyes…

    Oh, wait..
    ha!
    ~L.

  18. That was one thing that really freaks me out every time I go to the US: going to a grocery store and trying to choose which cereal to buy – it is insane how much choice you have when it comes to just picking a cereal. And don’t even get me started on the 20 different types of milk!!

  19. I still eat Corn Pops. I consider that one of the small benefits of adulthood — eating whichever brand of sugary cereal you want. Kind of like having ice cream for dinner, just because you can.

    I do, however, think the Corn Pops rebranding sucks ass.

  20. in the mid-90’s my friend moved into a new apt in nyc. she met one of her elderly neighbors and told her “i’m really excited to be living in the east village!”. her neighbor said, “dear, you pay enough rent to call it the east villege. i’ve been in my rent controlled apartment for decades, so for me it’s the lower east side.” =)

  21. Update:

    In related news, the German government in association with the Del Monte Canned Foods Division have requested that the Motion Picture Association of America eliminate all references to the word “Kraut” from old World War 2 movies.

    “Since the release of Private Ryan several years ago, sales of Del Monte sauerkraut have gone down 34%” said John Robins, vp marketing for Del Monte.”

    The German Government and the German automobile industry, in a unique promotional campaign aimed at showcasing the new 2007 German car models, have requested that references to “Kraut” be replaced with more positive branding terms for the Axis forces, such as “Little Beemers,” “Audi-heads,” “Porsche-ites,” and “Lousy Farfignuggens.”

    “Today, German engineering and their orderly manner of scheduling is seen as a positive. Why should Germans be stuck with such a negative self-image because of a few bad apples sixty years ago?” asked Gunther Grassheimer, sales manager at Berlin’s top VW dealer.

  22. I first thought Poland’s requested name change was insane, but since so many younger people are completely ignorant of the events of WWII, I can almost see their point. The fact that there were thousands of Poles who aided and abetted the Nazis doesn’t take away the fact that Auschwitz WAS a completely German-run outfit. Many Poles were virulently anti-Semitic but my Polish Roman Catholic friends whose parents were ALSO prisoners in Auschwitz go nuts whenever people assume that all Poles were Nazi supporters.

    What about Kentucky Fried Chicken officially changing their name to KFC? And lots of neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley are giving themselves fancy names to try to create some mystique (not an easy thing to do in the Valley–maybe Van Nuys could change its name to “The Former German Concentration Camp of Van Nuys”).

  23. Why did I have to name myself after Arkham Asylum? Anne Auschwitz has a much better ring.

  24. I can’t recall whether they were just sugar pops or sugar corn pops when I ate them, but I do remember laughing when they just took the “corn” out of it altogether and said, “For pity’s sake, there is nothing natural in this box! Just eat it!”

  25. Wow. Cukoo for Cocoa Puffs and Concentration Camps, all in the same sentence?

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