Yellow boxes

Trademark doesn’t understand my Cheerios people.

US intellectual property regulators are rejecting General Mills’ bid to trademark the yellow background color on boxes of Cheerios cereal.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board on Tuesday set aside the cereal maker’s two-year quest to trademark “the color yellow appearing as the predominant uniform background color” on boxes of “oat-based breakfast cereal.” A contrary ruling could have given the Cheerios maker an exclusive right to yellow boxes of oat cereal.

And I understand that the world doesn’t understand. “The baffling reason many millennials don’t eat cereal” (cleaning a cereal bowl takes work) and whatnot. Count me on the side of appreciating bowls.

And I’m not sure cereal and I have the same relationship as we used to. Sam Sifton’s case for making breakfast is starting to work for me in theory, if not in practice just yet.

But yellow boxes of oat cereal are Cheerios.

For my brother, on his birthday

Rob took this photo for me a long time ago, and it has sat around ever since. For his birthday today, I salute him and his accompanying note: “Fyi, the cheddar flavor creates a perfect cross between Cheerios and Cheetos.” This is why we are brothers and why I respect and love him.

Not only is he a fine investment banker (and an upstanding investment banker, it must be said in this day and age), but he understands and, I know, appreciates the finer things in life. Like Cheerios! And Cheetos!

Happy 29th, brother Rob! Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. It’s sure hard to believe you’ll be 30 next time. Give me a year on that one.

To continue the celebration, more pictures, nearly lost on my machine, of boxes of cereal, all of which remind me of my brother in some way…

Continue reading For my brother, on his birthday

This would be the greatest story about Cheerios ever

Via the Post‘s Story Lab blog this month, we find Things They Carried author Tim O’Brien’s 2009 Atlantic essay on narrative, “Telling Tails.”

The blog post is a sign of how Story Lab has democratized its views on storytelling, and the essay is terrific. “MY SONS, TIMMY and Tad — both fans of Winnie the Pooh — have taken lately to wearing tails,” O’Brien begins to tell us. “At our local Wal-Mart, and occasionally at church, the boys sport lengths of clothesline dangling from their trousers.”

More of the lede: “They prowl the neighborhood trailing an assortment of ribbons, coat hangers, telephone cords, fishing line, belts, blankets, drapery tassels, and electrical extension cords. People notice. Things have gotten out of hand.” O’Brien sews as a master. Reading further, you get a great story about Batman, and then you get the Cheerios.

Above all, a well-imagined story is organized around extraordinary human behaviors and unexpected and startling events, which help illuminate the commonplace and the ordinary. In daily life, one would not say to a drinking companion, “Hey, here’s a great story for you. Yesterday morning I ate Cheerios. Then I set off for work. Work was boring. Nothing happened. I left the office at five o’clock sharp. That night I ate a steak, not a great steak, but a pretty darned good one. I went to bed about nine.” Very quickly, I think, one’s drinking mate would seek more interesting company. A better story, though not necessarily a good one, might begin: “Yesterday morning, over my usual bowl of Cheerios, I was alarmed to note that the Cheerios were shaped not as standard circles, but as semicircles, as if someone had used a surgical scalpel to slice each individual Cheerio precisely in half. Odd, I thought. And odder still, those particular Cheerios tasted only half as delicious as Cheerios usually taste. And even odder yet, I found myself half hungry at work that morning, half wishing for a bowl of Cheerios. My hunger was soon tempered, however, by the disturbing realization that I was now but half a man.”

File next to the flying car

I’m trying, I’m trying. New York Times “Year in Ideas,” December 2001.

Next spring, General Mills is expected to introduce www.mycereal.com, a Web site that allows users to mix and match more than 100 different ingredients to create and name their own breakfast cereals, delivered to their homes in single-serving portions.

You want Cheerios to come with the marshmallows from Lucky Charms? Done. Mix Cinnamon Toast Crunch with French Toast Crunch? Sure. Wheaties with blueberries, almonds and grains? No problem. Add a tropical touch to your Cocoa Puffs? Have them throw in some coconut shreds and dried mango.

Via Mediaite’s 2009 review of the ’01 ideas list. The site’s comment on cereal: “My Honey Nut Cap’n Crunch Choculas never really caught on.”

Mycereal.com remains under General Mills control, sadly unused.