WASHINGTON, December 9, 2012 – With Christmas fast onrushing, we’ve put our thinking caps on, ceaselessly searching for that Perfect Christmas Gift. Preferably, a gift As Seen on TV! So why not give the gift of a Chia Pet? After all, like the Internet, they can’t put stuff on TV that isn’t true, right?
But wait! There’s more!
This year’s trending idea is to assure those being gifted that our gift is “green.” That is, something that saves the snail darter (again) or whatever new endangered creature they discovered this week; and is (ideally) good for you as defined by your betters in New York, Washington, and LA. So, if you really think about it, what better, more politically correct and distinctive gift can you possibly think of giving this Christmas than a colorful, lovable, and very green Chia Pet!
For the uninitiated, Chia Pets come in Chia Pet kits, which consist of chia seeds, chia goop, and a porous, absorptive little planter, made of a kind of terra cotta pottery and designed with one purpose in mind: to grow a bunch of chia seeds right onto the terra cotta planter, most of which are sculpted to resemble cute animals or, increasingly, popular or public figures and even Presidents. (The original Chia Pet was sculpted to look like a ram.)
If you do things according to instructions, in just one or two weeks, your Chia Pet will sport a luxurious mane of either green fur or green hair, courtesy of those feisty little chia seeds, of which more anon.
According to our research, the allegedly first Chia-Pet was marketed by a dude named Joe Pedott and was manufactured by his San Francisco area company (where else?) aka Joseph Enterprises Inc., circa 1977.
We say “allegedly” because Pedott actually bought the right to sell Chia Pets—which already existed—from another guy.
Apparently, the drugstore chain that the other guy represented had been selling these things like hotcakes for years. Who knew?
Turned out the durn things were made in Mexico, and Pedott was soon able to obtain the pets cheaper by cutting out the middleman and increasing his own profits in the process.
Then, so the story goes, when one of Pedott’s assistance was kidding around about the Chia Pets, he pretended to stutter when pronouncing the product’s name—i.e., “Ch-ch-ch-Chia Pets!”—which Pedott quickly adopted for the jingle he used in his TV sales pitches.
Like this classic commercial clip, allegedly vintage 2005, but probably earlier, given the graininess of the images:
This commercial remains one of the best examples illustrating how something that’s utterly stupid can end up making a lot of money, the ramifications of which we choose not to explore at this time.
After a slow start, the chia pets actually began to take off. Spinoffs and tie-ins still keep sales humming year after year. The darn things remain inexplicably popular even today, probably because they’re mostly cute, always stupid, but actually do grow stuff which gives even purchasers with black thumbs a sense of pride and accomplishment in their newfound gardening abilities. (It’s no surprise, BTW, that the product is now manufactured in Ch-ch-ch-China, just like everything else.)
Now here’s a kicker. The reason that the Chia Pet actually originated in Mexico is due to the chia plant itself. Yes, indeed, the stuff growing on your pet isn’t grass. It’s chia, something that’s grown in Mexico and central America as a food product. Turns out the seeds are loaded with—drum roll, please—omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia (aka chian or chien) is grown commercially in its native Mexico, and many other countries as a food product. But for some reason, even after all the chia growing on those Chia Pets, chia as food never really caught on in the U.S.—a surprise, really, given how health conscious important food vigilantes nutritionists like New York’s Mayor Bloomberg have become.
Now, however, at least some trendy Americans are waking up to the benefits of chia. We know they’re trendy because they read the New York Times which, in a recent article on the seed, observed the following:
“Now, chia is having a second life as a nutritional ‘it’ item. Whole and ground chia seeds are being added to fruit drinks, snack foods and cereals and sold on their own to be baked into cookies and sprinkled on yogurt… Recognition of its nutritional value can be traced as far back as the Aztecs.
“Companies like Dole and Nature’s Path have introduced chia products, which have begun showing up on shelves in mainstream grocery stores like Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons.”
Well, how about that? You’ve heard about the “it” girl? Now, introduce yourself to the “it” seed. We live in interesting times.
More interesting to us, however, are the many manifestations of the Chia Pet, that demonstrably useless product that got this hot new chia trend trending. So, just in time for the holidays, here’s our list of the Top Ten Really Stupid Chia Pets of all time.
Our list appears in descending order from ten (marginally least stupid or maybe even phony) to one (sublimely stupid). We begin this list with products that are probably apocryphal, then quickly proceed to the genuine articles. We like to think our list is sort of like TruTV: Not Reality. Actuality. (Mostly.)
Travel at your own risk. We admit no responsibility for the destruction of brain cells in the course of this journey.
10. Chia Bieber Pet
We have seen no evidence that this product actually exists, but it should. Based on the blazing hot pop career of this tween and teeny-bopper faux-rock idol, this equally faux Chia Pet currently exists only in the imagination of Mad Magazine’s master parodists and cartoonists, still going strong in slightly reduced format after all these years.
In our opinion, at least, young Justin has the kind of smug, baby fuzz face you want to slap, and slap often. But judging from the critical reception at his concerts, legions of squealing ‘tween girls would be happy to take a number and and queue up to lose their virginity to him. The best way for dads to protect their young daughters from the consequences of such thoughtless behavior might be to buy them this infinitely less harmful Chia Pet as a suggested substitute activity.
Meanwhile, a hat tip to MAD, for the continuing undiminished quality of its own product. But, at the same time, consider Chia Bieber Pet, in the immortal words of Dan Rather, to be “fake but accurate.”
9. Chia Thug and Chia Britney
Does this guy look familiar? Yep, it’s Saddam Hussein.
Excuse me. The late Saddam Hussein. Mission accomplished.
We have no evidence that this Chia Thug edition was ever manufactured, legitimately or otherwise. But it looks like some wag with PhotoShop picked up the notion and ran with it.
If anyone out there in commentator can actually find proof that a batch of these Chia Thugs ever saw the commercial light of day, please share the experience below and we’ll update this description. Right now, it’s a pretty good laugh. A rueful one to be sure, but a laugh nonetheless.
Could not have happened to a worser guy.
Tied for number nine on our list is the likely apocryphal Chia Britney, a concept whose time appears to have come and gone.
Obviously this spoof Chia Pet was created around the time that Brit got the bright idea to shave her head, back in the day when she was busy doing her pre-Lindsay Lohan Lindsay Lohan impersonation.
Brit seems to have recently got her mojo back along with at least some of her dignity. Lindsay is still striving mightily to touch bottom, however; and that bottom, in reality, may be much further down than the bottom of the Marianas Trench.
Perhaps there’s a Chia Pet in Lindsay’s future? Or do Pop Tarts just grow up to be bigger and badder Pop Tarts. (See also Miley Cyrus.)
8. Chia Taz
From time to time, the Chia people have managed to license and/or produce various pets in the shape and form of classic cartoon characters. We’ve seen examples of Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and Tweetie-Pie, all from the Warner Brothers stables, but we’ve not been able to verify their continued existence.
Not so with the volatile Taz, who seems to be popping up on collectibles webs sites everywhere. Taz appears to be stupid, which is why he’s in our list.
But on sober reflection, his extremely bad attitude and bad hair are likely a rational reaction to the 21st century and its whole scale endorsement of stupidity as exemplified in Western democracies whose collective populace correctly denounces their politicians as thieves before proceeding to re-elect either them or their doppelgangers each and every time. We’re with ya, Taz!
7. Chia Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, and Garfield
As we gradually descend this ladder of madness, we begin to encounter cartoon characters whose surpassing stupidity is so profound as to elicit knowing laughter at even the mention of their names. Plus, once again, they provide a metaphor for 21st century life.
Scooby-Doo’s classic observation, “Rhut-Rho!!” pretty much mirrors our reaction every morning when we read the daily news; or every evening when we watch the TV news or the insane yammerings of Chris Matthews who presides over the funniest comedy show on TV.
Meanwhile, Scoob’s human companion, Shaggy, is the very embodiment of the kind of good-natured vapidity and lack of brainpower that generally leads to those “Rhut-Rho!!” moments. Shaggy is actually the intellectual peer of the average Congressperson which is truly frightening if you think about it. But funny, too.
Scoob and Shaggy make an excellent pairing. Like any Washington politician, their unanimous reaction when anyone accuses them of anything at all is “Who, ME????” They’re yet another metaphor for our times.
As for Garfield? His smugness and superciliousness reminds us of another flavor of Washington dumbness, but that’s a whole nuther dissertation. In the meantime, we could never quite understand his appeal to the masses. We still can’t. It’s just dumb.
Anyhow, check out Scooby, Shaggy, and Garfield in the Shia Pitch below. (BTW, don’t miss the Chia Alarm Clock, no doubt a free bonus if you ACT NOW!)
6. “Duck Dynasty’s” Willie Robertson
Say no more, say no more. What better transition from ‘toons to humans can we possibly find than this lovable character from yet another inexplicably popular “reality show,” A&E’s “Duck Dynasty?” So this is what American manufacturing has come down to, eh? Duck calls. What the heck. The Chicoms probably can’t undercut us on this particular product, so let’s keep duck stuff here. If you can do fur and hair with chia seeds, who says you can’t do beards? And few have bigger and better ones than Willie. BTW, if you’re hot to obtain this particular Chia Pet, here’s the shameless promotional link.
5. Mr. T
I pity the foo’ who don’t have one of these.
Yes indeed, it appears at one time that the scary but lovable Mr. T had his very own Chia Pet and promoted it, too. Mr. T’s first claim to fame was as the incredibly baaadass opponent who tore Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky back down to earth. One of filmdom’s truly great one-shot roles, that one. It’s a mystery why he didn’t go further on the silver screen with his larger-than-life persona.
In any event, he did score a hit again playing a similar character on the relatively short-lived but highly popular “A-Team” series on TV.
As it eventually came out, though, Mr. T, who’d really suffered through tough times on the streets as a kid, was actually a pretty mellow character who just liked Mohawks, fearsome looks, awesome pecs, and lots of jewelry. His legendary Mohawk was a perfect alternative to the standard Chia Pet planting routine, adding some art to the artifice. Hence, the launch of his Chia image and likeness. These are apparently collector’s items now, and we don’t believe they’re being made any longer.
4. Chia Rick Perry with bonus Bill White
We’re getting warmer now.
Having already traveled from Toonville to Duck Dynasty, it’s just a hop, a skip, and a jump to the equally cartoonish world of American politics. As we can confirm in any given news cycle, right up to today, the Republicans remain firmly in the lead as the Stupid Party, and the Democrats remain unchallenged as the Evil Party. Problem is, in Chia-Land, Stupid is by definition funnier than Evil, so the purely political portion of our program is Republican-centric by default.
And what could be funnier than The Short, Unhappy 2012 Campaign of Rick Perry? Actually, Rick started out with a bang, saying all the right things to get Conservatives fired up. Until he didn’t. His previous campaign for re-election as governor of Texas in 2010, however, was touched by genius, as the photo below conclusively proves. Boasting two Chias for the price of one, Perry supporters created a special, Texas-sized Chia Rick. And, in a burst of bipartisan fairness, they paired it with another depicting Chia Bill White, his 2010 Democrat opponent.
The image below is unattributed as far as we can tell, but it initially appeared in the online Atlantic (2011) with the following informative verbiage:
“The fertilizer company Cow Wow originally created it to commemorate the 2010 Texas gubernatorial race.”
Cow Wow? Any relation to ShamWow? Or more closely related to the well-known by-product produced in quantity by all politicians.
All we can say at this point is “Damn.” (Generally pronounced with two syllables south of the Mason-Dixon line.) No word as to whether anyone actually bought one or both mega-chias via eBay, though.
3. Newt Gingrich Chia
Since Newt’s campaign was more spectacularly newsworthy and colorful than Governor Rick’s, we have to place him one notch closer to the top of our list. We admit to being attracted to Newt’s candidacy initially, and he sure dissed the right people. He’s smarter than the average pol. He demonstrated that in the election of 1994 and again in brief flashes earlier this year in the 2012 campaign. Except when he didn’t.
Problem is, the Newtster’s sheer intelligence often made him veer considerably off course like an unguided missile with vocal cords, and this was ultimately his undoing. That said, his campaign was enough to earn him the honor of his own Chia Pet, and the caricature in this product makes it one of this year’s funnier Chia Efforts.
Sales probably tanked after Newt dropped out, but it looks like you can find Chia Newts in various places around the net. Meanwhile, here’s our vote for Newt to replace Chris Matthews on CNBC. Almost anyone could raise the ratings in that time slot and Newt could be just the one to do it. Besides, there are those campaign debts…
2. Mitt Romney
This is really a first place tie, so see #1.
1. Chia Obama vs. Chia Romney
Yep, we conclude with an electoral Battle of the Chia Pets, 2012 Edition. All the shouting is over and in one way, shape, or form, The One triumphed yet again over another hapless Republican candidate. The election wasn’t really that funny for either side. But the Chia Pets of the candidates sure are.
Chia Romney, whether intentionally or not, looks just like the kind of bland loser the media made him out to be. Benign, inoffensive, Chia Romney inspires respect but not votes, which pretty much reflects what happened out on the hustings. More lefty battlefield prep behind the scenes here? Hard to tell, but if the Chicoms manufactured these…
Meanwhile, Chia Obama shows a lot more verve and character, and the chia treatment of the hair seems somehow more effective and appropriate on this model.
Chia Obama actually first appeared on the scene as a special commemorative edition following the 2008 election. Unfortunately, that Chia pet debut was instantly dubbed “racist” by the usual suspects, and many retailers, most notably Walgreens, pulled Chia Obama from their shelves rather than deal with the negative fallout. Two questions remain from that period: One, was Chia Obama really racist? And two (which perhaps complements one), why did we never see a Chia McCain? (We’re open to opinions on this matter that are likely to agree with ours.)
At any rate, as you puzzle over this conundrum, take a gander at the promotional video for the first Chia Obama and judge for yourself:
2008 aside, you can’t keep a good Chia Pet down. Both the rejuvenated Chia Obama and the all-new Chia Romney battled it out in Chia-Land right along with the 2012 electoral cycle as the following genuinely over-the-top ad illustrates. Thrill to the cliché-drenched faux patriotism as the commercial gamely attempts to conceal the true nature of its smarmy bipartisan sales pitch.
No question: We have our winner(s) in the 2012 Top Ten Stupid Chia Pet competition. Will we have another one next year? That probably depends on what kind of Chia Pets we see between now and then.
Final notes: if you really lust for any of these Chia Pets or are an avid collector, sightings occur regularly all over the web. But quite a few new and vintage Chias tend to show up on Amazon and eBay. Just be careful about the kind of faux chias we noted above. Hint: Chia Romneys are likely to be a better deal right now than Chia Obamas.
For a comprehensive listing of the official chia product lines issued over the years, check out this Wikipedia entry.
Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.
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