Making It Real: My 10 Favorite Defictionalizations

Jun 20, 2014 • Elliott Spelman

Thanks to Adam Lisagor, (previously) at kottke.org, I have stumbled across a word that seems very relevant to The RoShamBusiness: defictionalization.

Defictionalized objects are things written into novels or movies which then go on to become real-world objects.

After a little research, I’ve put together a list of my favorites.1One thing to note: Stuff listed here has “become real” to varying degrees. There is a spectrum of real-ness going on. If you don’t think these things belong in the same list, then you read the post very thoroughly and I thank you.

Soma

In Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), soma is the literal2May not be literal, depending on fictional soma’s chemical composition. opiate of the masses. It induces a state of euphoric docility, and Huxley’s dystopian government actively encourages its use. Huxley apparently took the name from a common Indo-Iranian plant that’s frequently mentioned in Vedic texts, so maybe soma has gone reality > fiction > reality, but either way, Meda Pharmaceuticals markets a prescription pain reliever called Soma. It isn’t as malignant as Huxley imagined, but as a society we still have our fair share of opiates.

Soylent

If you haven’t seen Soylent Green, I won’t ruin it for you. Just trust me when I say that soylent green is a very weird thing to name your product after.3Even if you’re basing the name off of the original short story which inspired Soylent Green, it’s still pretty weird. In real life, soylent is a meal replacement drink, supposedly popular in the tech community. The company has its critics, but also has [raised money from Andreesen Horowitz], so who the fuck knows.

Buzz Lightyear

Movie about popular, fictional action figure generates incredible real-life demand for mass production of action figure. This is already unsettling on some level, but given the film’s central conflict (Buzz’s upsetting realization that he is one of many identical toys), it’s also contradictory to Toy Story’s thematic arc. It’s as if after watching The Matrix, we all collectively thought, “that looks fun,” and built one/it.

Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans

A lot of things from Harry Potter have defictionalized.4Quidditch, Platform 9 and 3/4, Butterbeer The Potter-verse is a lot like the Star Trek universe - its fictions are so ingrained in a collective generation that the label of fiction doesn’t really apply anymore. Is something still “made up” if everyone treats it as real?5My good friend Colin Dwyer assures me that the answer to this rhetorical question can be found here

Wonka Candy

Roald Dahl wrote the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it wasn’t until its 1971 adaptation that defictionalized Wonka-brand products first appeared. Quaker Oats actually financed much of the film in exchange for the rights to market Wonka-brand confections through a subsidiary. In the 40+ years since the movie, the Willly Wonka Candy Company of Itasca, Ill., (now owned by Nestle) has made some awesome candies,6Gobstoppers, Sweettarts, Laffy Taffy, Nerds, Fun Dip but it also must be the longest running cross-promotional advertising campaign of all time. I don’t know how to feel about this.

Bubba Gump Shrimp

I definitely know how to feel about this. It’s bad enough that Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is basically the Planet Hollywood Of The Sea. But let’s dig into it for a second. Part of the reason you name the whole operation after the character of Bubba from Forrest Gump is because you want to fulfill Bubba’s unrealized dream of running a shrimp-focused restaurant. Since Bubba tragically dies, it’s the best way to honor his memory. Except Bubba is fictional. They’ve carved out a feel-good food niche based on a fictional character’s dying wishes. It’s like naming a singles cruise Jack and Rose.

Red Swingline Stapler

Apparently Swingline only started mass producing red staplers after the demand generated by Office Space.7Why its single best idea never caught on, I have no idea There’s something emotionally manipulative going on here, too. Why do so many people want to buy the red stapler? There are other objects in Office Space that could have taken root. My guess: In buying the stapler, people feel a ping of solidarity toward the character of Milton, someone who is clearly mentally disabled and just needs a friend. It’s a purchase that enacts real emotion in the buyer via some imagined identification with a person who never really existed.

Holiday Inn

The movie came first. Proof, I guess, that over time the defictionalization can completely eclipse its fictional inspiration.

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Every sports team mascot is a kind of defictionalization, really. I mean, giants don’t actually exist. But Giants8New York Giants, San Francisco Giants, Yomiuri Giants, Gold Coast-Tweed Giants, etc. do. The inspiration behind most team names is a fictional, idealized character. The unique thing about the Anaheim Ducks, though, is the specificity of the character. The team has dropped the “Mighty” from their name, so technically they are just Ducks. Over time, they will shed their fictional inspiration and become just another sports team mascot. It really makes me wonder how many of these things just get lost in time. The other pop-culture-based sports etymologies that I can think of9Albuquerque Isotopes, New York Red Bulls rely on recent references.

The Nightman Cometh

This one isn’t as popular, but it’s a good example of a story spawning a story. In It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s fourth season finale, the characters stage an incredibly offensive musical called “The Nightman Cometh.”10Quick summary: There is a Coffee Shop Princess. She is in love with a small man/boy. While the man/boy is sleeping, the Nightman pays a Troll to gain access to the man/boys room. He sexually assaults the man/boy. The man/boy then turns into the Dayman and fights the Nightman. The end. The play is bad. The show’s main characters are idiots, so of course the play is bad. Yet there was enough demand for a live version of the play that the show’s cast put on a multi-city tour, selling out every venue. It’s basically the plot of The Producers, but in real life.11Which, given the history of The Producers, is all kinds of meta-confusing.









Making A Sandwich With Everything

Jun 11, 2014 • Elliott Spelman

bamwich-header

The RoShamBusiness is the first company in the history of the world1We assume. Also, if you are unfamiliar with The RoShamBusiness, the company that makes things literally, we recommend reading our introductory blog post and/or checking out our homepage. to sell a sandwich composed of two slices of bread that have been to perfectly opposite sides of the world. The RoShamBamwich is a unique product. But that doesn’t mean it was our idea.

I first stumbled across the earth sandwich concept in Ken Jennings’ book Maphead in late 2012. He traces it back to internet humorist Ze Frank, who mentioned the idea on his blog in 2006. There are a lot of weird topics in Maphead, though.2Geocaching, geography bees, Florida as America’s phallus, etc. The idea of an earth sandwich just sat somewhere in the back of my brain.

Then in March 2013, I was out in Joshua Tree with a few friends when we stumbled upon the idea of the RoShamBamwich.3Let the record officially state that Joey Ricci invented the words “RoShamBizzers,” and “RoShamBamwich.” In joking around, we thought a RoShamBamwich could be any sandwich that was infuriating to both make and eat.

At some point after I’d started actually making the RoShamBizzers in May 2013, I realized a RoShamBamwich could be Ze Frank’s earth sandwich, but as a product. A sandwich with everything. That’s when I started researching antipodes.

Antipodes

The antipodes of a point on Earth’s surface is its exact inverse point on Earth’s other side. As a kid in a sandbox, you commonly cite your intentions to “dig a hole to China,” but unless you are in Argentina, such intentions are misinformed. Anywhere in the continental United States, for example, a hole straight through the middle of the earth would land you in the southern Indian Ocean.4Fun fact: the most recent search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is directly antipodal to Wisconsin.

Ze Frank created a handy little tool on his website to help people visualize antipodal points. It’s broken now, so with help from the awesome people at MapBox, I created another one below.

One thing you’ll notice when researching antipodal locations is that remarkably few of them are both on land. The pickings are slim. It would have been nice to travel to two major cities, but the most antipodal major cities are Shanghai and Buenos Aires (pictured here), and even those are roughly 200 miles off. I still looked at Argentina/China (as well as Brazil/Philippines, Peru/Cambodia, and Colombia/Indonesia), but I eventually settled on New Zealand/Spain.5For reasons including travel cost, ease of inter-country transportation, and overlap with already-planned travel to be mentioned in next paragraph.

In October 2013, Adrian, my roommate and RoShamBusiness conspirator, mentioned that his sister was studying abroad in Madrid until December, and that he was thinking of visiting her on his way home to Australia. I would obviously be assigned the New Zealand leg. We began to conspire even further.

The Location

Brief digressionary question: Even though you’ve settled on two antipodal countries, how do you choose an exact location? After all, there are technically an infinite number of pairs of points that would fit the bill. Deciding between a location and another location ten feet to the right can seem arbitrary. We wanted the sandwich to have meaning, so we tried not to pick just any old patch of land.

My first strategy to finding the right patch of land was, even within the scope of an admittedly unusual project, pretty unusual. I thought it would be handy to stay at two houses/hotels that were close to antipodal places,6WiFi so I got in touch with a friend at Airbnb who routed me to Matt Weisinger, one of Airbnb’s data scientists. Thanks to Matt’s genius, I figured out that the two most antipodal Airbnbs were, in fact, in Spain and New Zealand, and that they were only about 200 feet from perfectly aligned.7Pretty crazy, right? No wonder Airbnb is worth 19 trillion dollars.

I immediately set out to reserve both, but it proved too good to be true. The slow-to-respond but still very genial New Zealand half of the Airbnb equation told me that in the middle of New Zealand’s busy summer holiday, he couldn’t justify a one-day rental. He wanted at least a week.8Note to anyone reading this from Airbnb: I am still on board with this idea if you are.

So, Adrian and I went back to the drawing board. Said drawing board, however, got messy in a hurry. Surprise, surprise: It’s very difficult to synchronize travel plans on opposite sides of the world. Given our long list of criteria for the locations91) proximity to Madrid 2) proximity to Auckland 3) specific travel windows 4) availability of transport 5) availability of lodging 6) desirability of location 7) public accessibility, it took us awhile to agree on logistics. Eventually we got our shit together, and final times/locations were chosen: On December 22nd, I would be in Kuaotunu, New Zealand at 7:00PM local time and Adrian would be in Rincon de la Victoria, Spain at 7:00AM. Exact map of our chosen locations below.

The Bread

Meanwhile, the bread.

I really wanted to do it with edible bread.10Even going so far as to contact Don Stull, CEO of MicroZap Inc, a Texas microwave technology company that claims its product can keep bread mold at bay for up to six months. Someday it will happen. For this first version, though, I needed to make some tasty-looking fake bread. This was surprisingly non-difficult. Huge shout out to all the fake bread makers out there on the internet, particularly Anna Warren of Fake ‘N Bake. Really carrying humanity forward. Thanks as well to Juan at Bob’s Foam Factory in Fremont, CA. Given the sole descriptor of, “something that feels like bread,” you really pointed me in the right direction. Plus look at those Yelp reviews. Bob’s turn down for what.

bamwich-bread

The Journey

On December 12th, 2013, carrying six slices of newly-minted fake bread, Adrian set off for Spain. The next day my girlfriend Danielle and I flew to New Zealand with six counter-slices of our own. We backpacked through Abel Tasman National Park during the week before The Sandwiching, and I was so nervous someone would steal the slices11An extra-irrational fear given the slices’ incredible uselessness pre-Sandwiching. that I slept with them most nights.

On the day of The Sandwiching, we flew from Nelson to Auckland, and then rented a car for the drive to Kuaotunu. Kuaotunu is on the Coromandel Peninsula, about three hours east of Auckland and home to things like this and this. We got to the exact spot around 6:00PM (about an hour early), so we had time to put the bread slices into pretty much every imaginable configuration.

bamwich-elliott

Meanwhile, Adrian and his sister were doing exactly the same thing in exactly the opposite place, cartographically speaking. They got the short end of the stick and had to sandwich-build in the dark.12Given the sun’s inability to shine simultaneously on total antipodes, one of us had to do it.

bamwich-bunc

My favorite thing about the exact sandwich-making moment was the realization that a) we were as far away from Adrian and his sister as it’s possible for two earth-bound people to be, and b) within the three dimensional plane of outer space, each pair of us was standing upside-down relative to the other.

bamwich-times

Sandwiches made, it took about two months to get both sets of slices back together. Adrian delivered his half by hand upon his glorious return to America.

For the Kickstarter13Coming in July, we’ve updated the design of The RoShamBamwich, but all of the key features remain. You’ll still be free to put whatever you want on it. Just know that whatever you do end up putting on the sandwich will have already been on it before.

bamwich-new


Welcome to the RoShamBusiness

Jun 5, 2014 • Elliott Spelman

This blog post is meant to explain the RoShamBusiness. We make things literally. The RoShamBusiness is dedicated to giving new (and probably unnecessary) life to ideas that previously only existed as ideas. We’re taking concepts with a high degree of meaning and making objects with no degree of meaning.1Examples

Does that sound overly highbrow and esoteric to you? Good! The RoShamBusiness strives to be many things, but easy to understand is not one of them. We want to make incredibly self-congratulatory, useless things that require a surprising amount of money to purchase.

Look for our Kickstarter in late July!

We plan to operate under our Patent-Pending 82Though the name “Patent-Pending 8 Point Compass RoShamBusinessPlan®” must remain exactly the same for legal reasons, the number of points has already expanded to nine and may continue to further expand in the future. Point Compass RoShamBusinessPlan®, outlined below:

  1. Don’t make useful things.
  2. Hire everyone.
  3. Everyone we hire gets to choose their own position.3Choosing your position involves choosing a title, rank, and up to three subordinates who must be subordinate to you regardless of their own positions.
  4. There is only one position that is required to exist at all times: VP of Sales.
  5. When the current VP of Sales leaves, the next one must be chosen from the remaining employees.
  6. The next VP of Sales must be chosen in a competition wherein all remaining employees vie to determine who has been actively seeking employment elsewhere the hardest. Employees must submit evidence to their concurrent job searches. The person most in danger of immediately leaving will be named the new VP of Sales.
  7. Integrity.
  8. Answer questions that nobody has really asked.
  9. All products will be priced with two prices: the actual selling price and the alternative price of “whatever is expensive to you.”4This is obviously only a price that you yourself can know, but as a rule of thumb we suggest people compare it to the luxury tax in Monopoly - 10% of your total net worth.

If none of this makes sense, our business can also be summarized by the picture below:

skymall

The RoShamBusiness is now fully operational. See the whole dealio on our homepage.