The Fish Story

Cold Winter Nights Staring at Cheetos; Make Coming Year Green As Can Be

By JAY MANN | Dec 18, 2019
Photo by: Jay Mann SNOWLESS SNOWY: This big male snowy owl, which recently lit upon Holgate, possibly for the winter, will soon see some coldness, but likely no snow to match his glow. The late-arriving raptor reached LBI over a month later than previous owl arrivals. Experts say this one had been hanging up in coastal New York. Those Empire State folks had him to themselves long enough.

Surf City, NJ — Weirdness can arrive in many forms. Take, for orange instance, the ongoing rush for big-dollar Cheetos. You heard me right. In fact, maybe you’ve heard about this shape-shifting junk food search. If not, boy, have I got an idea for how you can spend the arriving long, boring winter evenings immersed in a finger-staining treasure hunt.

Here’s the gist of it: Amid millions of annually produced, randomly shaped Frito-Lay Cheeto snacks, people of high standing within the spare-time realm have begun sorting out standout Cheeto pieces bearing what they hope bear uncanny resemblances to everything from saxophones to body parts to, most notably and noticeably, a “Rare Original Crunchy Cheetos Shaped Like a Standing Nun Reading.” That studious nun Cheeto is allegedly worth a pretty penny, priced at $1,500 … or $73 a month for two years. Should someone decipher what exactly she’s reading, her value could fly up to the high heavens. In viewing pics of the reading nun, I must admit I can clearly see her, plain as day, albeit a very foggy, windblown, rainy day with sand in my eyes.

The whole Cheeto shape search, which has been going on for quite a few years now, took on a whole new form when the Frito-Lay Co. offered a $25,000 prize for what it must see as 2019’s finest shaped-like-something Cheeto. The big winner was Laverna Parsons, who said her husband almost ate the winning piece, shaped like an “American football player.” The player is now bound for the Frito-Lay answer to the Hall of Fame, its Cheeto Museum. See

I warned you this was way weird – so weird that Laverna fears she might now be type-cast. “Oh, my goodness, don’t tell me that I’m going to go through life and my legacy is going to be I’m the cheesy lady, the Cheetos lady!’” she said.

It’s here that I get to bandy about the term “pareidolia.” It’s pronounced just like it looks. Huh? Simply saying pareidolia in a matter-of-fact manner conjures up the image of someone assuming the shape of an intellect – unless one walks around repeatedly saying it in a public forum, in which case the nurses in brisk white outfits will soon be bringing you little bowls of Cheetos over at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, pareidolia wing.

Anyway, pareidolia is the art of discerning sensible shapes in otherwise amorphous matter, exemplified by inkblot tests, or noticing images of rare Panamanian river rodents in clouds. I know, who hasn’t, right?

Seeing shapes in Cheetos has become the new Gestalt. And it has gone batty. Hell, a Cheeto shaped like a fruit bat was purchased at an undisclosed price, i.e. an “Offer accepted” amount. It had listed for something like $2,000.

So, what might you look for when Cheeto TH’ing (treasure hunting)? Well, I’m guessing the holy grail of all Cheeto shapes would be, perhaps, the Holy Grail. If you find it, make sure to carefully search the rest of the bag, lest you miss any Knights Templar within. The value of a snack-grade holy grail Holy Grail? It must be up there with bookworm nuns and a “dino shape Cheeto,” priced in the many-thousands, or best offer … plus $11.20 shipping. If that dino Cheeto realizes only the shipping cost, it leaves the finder with enough profit to buy 10 more bags to look through.

It all has a lottery feel to it.

As to a few other eBay askings: “Bigfoot Sasquatch Shaped Cheeto Collectible Treasure,” $999; “Statue Of Liberty,” $100; anatomically correct male body part, $1,000; “Original Flaming Hot Cheeto Shaped Like RARE Bootie” (I can’t even envision that one), $200; “LLAMA Farm Animal” (rare) $400; “Tom Brady Shaped Cheeto Collectible Treasure,” $1,000; “Man with Monkey on His Shoulder,” $99.99; “Rare Baby Butt Bottom Adorable,” $45; “Sperm Whale Manatee Shape,” $4,999.99.

For the ideal Christmas gift for someone who is thought to have everything, how about “Rare I HATE CHOCOLATE Mary’s Mother Spongebob Character Shaped Cheeto,” listed at $25,000 … or best offer.

There have already been a slew of pareidolia-esque Cheetos gobbled up by buyers on eBay. A “Cheeto shaped like a Pistol with Trigger” went for $1,400. “Mother Teresa Holding A Baby” went for $3,550, plus $13 shipping. There are many others found in eBay’s “Sold” department, under “Cheeto shapes” listing.

The shipping might sound high with many a Cheeto sale, but things get costly when you have to mail it out in one of those indestructible black boxes they have on aircraft. Very few people can recognize worthy shapes in a pile of orange crumbs. I see a bag of crumbs being sold under the eBay listing: “Cheeto shaped like nun holding Baby … Some assembly required, $2,000 … or any offer.”

Personally, I’ve been wondering if I should apply for a second mortgage to buy an amazing Cheeto quite obviously sporting the shape of a fellow named Brian from the 1964 Mormon Tabernacle Choir, third row. I’m just worried he might not stand the test of time, falling to an onset of staleness shriveling, hurting his projected value appreciation. Nah. Cheetos have enough preservatives to assure that even male body part Cheetos will stay firm.

ENDLESS SUMMER AT SP: Welcome to the first week of summer! It feels great, right? Make sure to slather on enough extra-strength sunscreen. And make doubly sure your pet koala stays hydrated.

That greeting is for a decent-sized handful of readers who follow The SandPaper’s online edition from a Down Under vantage. In the past year, I’ve gotten a goodly number of Aussie and New Zealand messages, most often regarding fishing, especially when sharks come into write-about play.

How do faraway places hear tell of such a small-away place like LBI? It all comes down to Google – and the power of placement therein. When this column so much as mentions, say, “sharks,” which it does in abundance during spring and summer shark fishing times, it instantly reaches the far corners of the webisphere.

Last spring, I garnered Aussie responses when writing about a now-banned Florida shark-fishing method whereby anglers bloody beachside waters with chum, meant to draw in sharks. In the Land Down Under, word of the practice went fully WTF. Apparently, a stunt like that in Sydney would get you permanently banished to the distant, deep-desert outback. One Oz shark expert emailed, “It’s no wonder your Florida has the highest shark bite rate in the world, mate.” OK, so maybe I added that “mate” part. I responded by explaining that even Yanks of a shark fishing persuasion thought chumming near swimming beaches was inordinately insane. Apparently, the state of Florida did, too.

Of international note, The SandPaper’s online reach – when combined with my independent but oft related blogs – has earned me planetary responses from such faraways as Spain, Great Britain (aplenty), Iceland, the Ukraine, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, India and my all-time favorite: Tibet, where a researcher emailed me that climate change has forced essential fungus and vegetation to move toward higher elevations, something called upward migration.

Many foreign communiques often have a global warming tilt. I’m sensing a worldwide brotherhood developing in response to our ailing atmosphere – and the fight for big sky changes. It’s becoming Dumas-esque out there, i.e. one for all and all for one … in the fight for a cleaned-up atmosphere.

This is a perfect lead into the meat of this week’s column: trees, glorious trees! Read on to discover the greatest New Year’s resolution that a warming, wavering planet has heard in many a moon.

I’ll commence with a quote from world-class atmospheric expert Professor Tom Crowther of ETH-Zürich, who said, “Forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today. … If we act now, this could cut carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by up to 25 percent, to levels last seen almost a century ago.”

It comes down to our working on behalf of the atmosphere’s good, as opposed to attacking it with ugly emissions and such. The reforesting concept is absolutely taking off. Tons of the best brains in the business are suddenly homing in on the high likelihood we can add good gases, namely oxygen, into the sky, while simultaneously removing bad gases.

In an Eco Watch article, “Planting Billions of Trees Is the ‘Best Climate Change Solution Available Today,’ Study Finds,” writer Olivia Rosane cites research that reforestation is the most effective solution for mitigating the climate crisis. Findings then highly emphasize that tree planting is not a replacement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or phasing out the use of fossil fuels. As Crowther puts it, “None of this works without emissions cuts.”

Billions of new trees would not only issue high-grade O2, but would remove around 200 gigatons of carbon, or two thirds of what humans have pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Such a wholesale bad-stuff removal would take more than a few nights worth of foresty absorption. However, when coupled with humanity’s efforts to reduce evil gases, the bennies of mass retreeing could show in merely a decade or two. In your yard, it could show in nothing flat.

PITCH AND PLANT: The whole rapidly growing concept of planting the planet back to atmospheric health has really grown on me. I’m hoping it will branch out to all the corners of the world. I hope I’m planting the notion herein.

I’m obviously willing to use every corny tree pun necessary to get Americans to fulfill our reforestation and replanting obligation. With Johnny Appleseed’s heritage coursing through our veins, we should be more than able to (bumper sticker potential) “Make America Green Again!” I’ll leave it at that.

To re-green that which we have clear-cut to bareness, we have a load of planting to do. In fact, to give a local feel to our revegetating coastal Ocean County, I say we call it replantishment. Say it out loud, quickly, and you’ll get the beachy ring of it.

We of a coastal development faultiness are far from the only clear-cutters. Forests and jungles, even meadows and dales, are disappearing like there’s no green tomorrow. According to the World Bank, the world was denuded of 502,000 square miles of forest between only 1990 and 2016! Since humans started cutting down forests, 46 percent of Earth’s trees have been felled. Over the past 50 years, 17 percent of the Amazonian rain forest has been destroyed. That stinks. The woods and sky deserve better.

And we don’t have to green-over farms and such. BBC News tabulated how much new forest the Earth could support without encroaching on farmlands or urban areas. It came up with a figure of 0.9 billion hectares, an area roughly the size of the U.S. That doesn’t include any added acreage realized through an insanely clever concept of vertical forest condos, whereby city dwellers in high rises foster enough vegetation on landings to all but compensate for trees and foliage lost during the construction of their buildings.

THE RACE FOR TREE DOMINANCE: In a nationalistic sense, I must unreluctantly admit – prior to our going on a 2020 tree-planting tear – we probably cannot out-plant China, where the government is initiating a program whereby every last one of its roughly 1.4 billion people must plant a tree. Show-offs.

Rooting off China’s gang greening, nearby India is more nicely asking its 1.3 billion in-country folks to kindly plant trees for deceased family members, using a Hindu concept that wandering familial spirits need a place to properly reincarnate. A massive tree will perfectly suit Aunt Aavya’s spirit, allowing her to breathe new life into the air. Hey, I’m willing to go to some conceptual extremes to get over two billion trees planted in very short order.

As to us, I’m not suggesting every man, woman and child in North America plant a tree. Don’t be ridiculous. I’m suggesting every man, woman and child plant a slew of trees for a slew of years to come. Fighting the good fight against the over-industrialized man has never been so easy. Imagine breaking ground for the betterment of sky-kind, as opposed to just mankind.

Crowther has said, “(Planting) is a climate change solution that doesn’t require President Trump to immediately start believing in climate change, or scientists to come up with technological solutions to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. It is available now; it is the cheapest one possible and every one of us can get involved.”

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