It's called "swag." No, not the way people use it these days to say that they have style, or a style, or at least a shitty haircut. The way we use it is to describe the gifts we in the media receive from people hoping to get coverage, or a book review, or at least a mention online.
The way it works is this: We crack open a box of swag. If it's booze or beer or a cool book or record, we take it. If it's kinda cool, we put it on the swag pile, where it gets picked over by the interns and other visitors. If it's still there after six months, we figure it's not going anywhere and we cull it when we periodically go through the pile.
This time around, we decided to share with our readers six items of swag that even our most desperate intern refused to take.
No. 1: The English and Their History, by Robert Tombs
These days, with the multicultural, identity studies industry revved into full gear, we're seeing histories of every ethnic group and subculture the publishing industry can discern. Thank goodness a publishing house has decided to zoom in on the story of the underreported people known as the English. Ever heard of them? We hadn't either, until this handsome volume came our way. To our unending mystery, it had remained on the swag shelf undisturbed for many months now. Why? We suspect the tale of this unsung people is being discriminated against by a quiet bigotry.
No 2: Nine Essential Things I've Learned About Life by Harold S. Kushner
Who isn't fascinated with the progressive wing of Conservative Judaism? If somebody out there isn't gripped with interest with that topic, shame on them, because it's almost all we think about all day long. That's why we decided to do a good deed and put this book on the swag pile, where we felt it was certain to be snapped up by anybody excited about hearing nine important points from one of the most respected seventysomething rabbis to ever receive six honorary doctorates. The fact that it remains on our swag shelf must rank as one of God's greatest mysteries.
No. 3: Slow cooker sauces from McCormick
The good people at McCormick shower us with gifts year after year. Whether it's vanilla flavoring, food coloring, or special containers of herbs, we've come to expect big things when we see that return address on the package. This latest installment brought these packages, which squish in the hand sort of like an MRE, and are designed to be ripped open and poured into a slow cooker for a fuss-free meal. Why didn't anybody take these squishy bags? They're loaded with such healthful things as high fructose corn syrup, natural smoke flavor, and modified corn starch! It must be the lack of MSG.
No. 4: Lighter cases
These things are cool. You take your Bic brand lighter, pop it inside these, and all of a sudden that bland Bic becomes an exciting, colorful tableau that will bring wonder to you and your friends every time you spark up. As a point of fact, we received about a dozen of these. Only six of them remain. Who wouldn't want a snowflake on his lighter? Well, we guess everybody who's ever come in here and passed them by ...
No. 5: Vacation beer koozy and car air freshener
Another one of life's great mysteries: How can it be that we put out these unbelievably cool items of swag in July and they remain on the pile? We think about all the people who could have taken them and shake our collective head. We think, "They could be keeping your beer cool or freshening the air in your car right now, and yet you coldly passed them by." For shame ...
No 6: Killer Karaoke press kit
What? Nobody wanted the digital press kit for Killer Karaoke, hosted by fortysomething Sugar Ray vocalist Mark McGrath? You MANIACS!