Saturday, February 21, 2009

TV Commercials I Love To Hate

Honestly, if I hear that "free credit" commercial one more time, I swear I'm going to march down to that tacky fish and chips restaurant and yank the earring out of that faux pirate's ear. But, unfortunately, as far as the success of the television advertisement goes, this irritating- to-the-nth-degree waste of electricity has done its job. If you watch the Super Bowl, or any other major event, like the Oscars, you know that ad agencies trot out their best and brightest and most entertaining 30-second spots (sometimes they are going to 20s). The problem with many of those is that while the next morning you remember the commercial with the talking monkey or the half-naked supermodel or fill-in-the-name-of-the-hottest-sports-hero-who-hasn't-publicly-shamed-himself-yet-here. You remember that it made you laugh your butt off. But you don't remember the name of the advertiser. And there's a few hundred grand down the drain.

But as far as the irritation factor goes, this one has totally overshot the mark from brand retention to oh-my-God-if-I-see-that-thing-one-more-time-I'm-going-to-shoot-the-television. No matter how bad my finances get, if I lose everything in this economic downturn, I will never, never, for the rest of the days that I am conscious, even if I have any control from the great hereafter, I will not, nor will I allow anyone else I love, to get their credit reports here.

Avast ye, you stupid pirate. Consider this a shot across your bow. And by the way? Your parrot killed himself.

And like nearly everyone, those "Head-On" spots give me a headache. Apparently, this message has gotten to the manufacturers, because when was the last time you saw one of these teeth-grinding, upchuck-inducing spots on the air? I don't know if anyone has ever tried the product, but I have. I was writing a review of topical pain relievers. And my comments? "Head-On, apply directly to the forehead. Head-On, apply directly to the forehead. Head On, apply directly to the forehead every 15 minutes because that's how long it works."

Also, I really wish "Smilin' Bob" would put that thing back in his pants. He and his big shoes, massively powerful golf swing, and massively grateful wife in the Enzyte ads make me want to reach for a barf bag. Get a room, already. Someday I'm going to count the number of metaphors for male potency in that ad, just for my own amusement. At least the Viagra spots tell like it is. And the background music is better.

Those Snuggie ads give me the dry heaves, too. What the heck? Yes, now you, too, can stay warm and look like Alec Guinness in Star Wars or a Vatican priest at the same time! Hey, Obi-Wan, could you pass me the TV Guide?

While we're on commercials about products with cuddly-sounding names that begin with the letter S, I want to smack that woman in the Swiffer ads. Not as much the new ones where she's being courted by her mop and broom (apparently, these household appliances are having some sort of sexual identity problem), but the older ones when she was maniacally dancing about to Devo's "Whip It" and dusting her own and other people's homes. Perhaps she should go to counseling with the jilted cleaning supplies in the new spots. I'm sure they'll be very happy together, if those crazy kids can only out work their problems.

This might be only a local annoyance, but commercials running in the Northeast for Mohegan Sun not only make me want to tear out my eyes and run from the room screaming, they are so repellent that I'm sure that if I were a die-hard gambler with an addiction problem and a thousand bucks of lottery winnings searing a hole in my pocket, I would drive several hundred miles out of my way to lose my money somewhere else, just so I wouldn't have to patronize them. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of viewing these little gems, they open with a bunch of idiotically smiling staff members dancing and singing to the spot's jingle, which is sung to the tune of - get this - Rick James' "Superfreak." Other spots feature similar gag-inducing songs from that time period, which many of us would assume rather forget.

For all that is good and holy, please, please I beg the agency that produced these monstrosities to burn every copy and delete the backups. Please. I'm sure that even Charlie Sheen or Jeremy Piven wouldn't go anywhere near this place. And you're making all of New England look bad.

No wonder the Patriots lost.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Strangest Things Always Happen at the Y

There’s something about meeting one of your literary heroes when you’re both naked that’s a little strange.

Let me back up a bit.

I took a swim at the Y this afternoon, my favorite time to go, when I practically get the whole pool to myself. After my usual flapping about (don’t know what else to call aqua-jogging, except, well, aqua-jogging…or the more well-known term, jogging in deep water while wearing a giant floatie around your waist), I marinated in the hot tub, avoiding eye contact with the other tubbers (often advisable because of some of the other people who use the pool in the afternoon, who usually want to tell me more than I want to know.)

Anyway, the sequence of events-flap, tub, shower, dress-was timed down to the last second, because from there I had a doctor’s appointment. It was at one of those offices where they have that snooty sign in the receptionist’s window (the kind that slide closed so you can’t hear that they’re talking about you) that if you are more than a minute late for your appointment you “may be rescheduled,” and if you’re a no-show, you’ll be charged a $25.00 fee. Come on. When has a doctor ever been on time for our appointment? Do you see me asking to be rescheduled? Do you see me asking for my co-payment back? No. I’m pacing around in a paper smock and bare feet. (Always a hit with the other people in the waiting room.)

So I’ve tubbed, I’ve showered, I rush into the dressing room, and there’s an older woman who is also wrapped in a towel. She’s having a chat with Fran, the wonderful, big-hearted woman who cleans the place, but I kind of look upon her as the housemother of the ladies’ locker room.

During this conversation, the woman says that she’s going to Hawaii to give a talk about her book.

“You wrote a book?” Fran asks, and my ears perk up. For those of you who don’t know me, I write books. Most of which are romantic comedies. All of which are unpublished.

“What kind?” I ask.

“It’s about end of life issues,” she says. She also says that she writes a column on personal health.

I tell her I do, too, and then I ask her name.

It’s Jane Brody. Holy freakin’ shit. I am at the Y with Jane Brody.

For those who don’t know, Jane Brody has authored many books about health and nutrition, and she is a pioneer in her field. One of her cookbooks (extremely well-worn) is sitting on my kitchen counter. And the column she writes is in the New York Times. And I’ve been reading her work for decades.

And…damn. I’m chatting away with Jane Brody and I’m supposed to be at the doctor’s office in five minutes.

And…she’s a lovely woman, and smart, and witty. And she says I should contact her publicist about promoting her book on my web site.

Why do you always run into famous people when you’re late for an appointment?

I don’t know. I guess it’s just one of life’s little jokes.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What Can Brown Do For You?

I had to ship something last week, and stopped by the handy UPS store in town. The clerk was already waiting on a customer, who had, when I walked in, been chewing the clerk's ear off with a long, rambling story about what he was shipping and why he had to ship it, and why it had to be at its destination in a certain time frame and what would happen if it wasn't. I missed the beginning (damn, I hate when I miss the beginning!), but I'm sure it had something to do with what the guy had for breakfast and what color socks he was wearing.

Luckily the box I had to ship was very light.

When the guy finally reached his conclusion (I had tuned out somewhere between the package's destination and the consequences if not reached), the ever-patient clerk beckoned me forward.

After the door closed behind Mr. My-Wife-Probably-Doesn't-Listen-To-Me-Anymore, I said to the clerk, "You must hear a lot of interesting stories."

Yes, he said, he did.

I asked him what was the strangest thing he ever shipped. He smiled.

"Someone wanted to ship a body," he said.

I assumed it was a dead one. "Uh...the body? Or was it cremated?"

"Cremated," he said. "But we couldn't do it because we couldn't take the liability if it got lost."

"So Aunt Sylvia could be sitting around in some warehouse somewhere?"

He nodded. "There was also a human skull, once. A guy wanted it shipped to a museum."

(insert your own head joke here)

He also said someone wanted a Picasso shipped. And a frozen cat. And, he said, grinning like he was saving the best one for last, a turtle. A live one.

I wasn't sure why he thought this one was the most interesting. What I wanted was the back story on the frozen cat.

He didn't know. He just ships stuff; he doesn't ask why.

But I'm sure if that guy ahead of me was shipping a frozen cat, we would have known.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dirt. It’s What’s For Dinner?

While I do wash my hands before I eat (and at other appropriate points during the day), I worry that many of us have become freakishly hygiene-paranoid. All that Purell can’t be doing us any good. And it leads to conversations like this one, which I overheard last night between a mother and her son (who looked to be about six or so), as I followed them out of a mall exit...

(read rest of article here)

Monday, February 02, 2009

A Little Wisdom From A Wise Soul

Lately, when faced with a dilemma, I ask myself that eternal question—not “what would Jesus do?” but “what would George do?”

That’s George Carlin, I mean.

And I think in these troubled times, his wisdom might be just what we need. For instance, what to do about our dwindling fossil fuel supply.

We humans, we find something, and we use it up as fast as possible. That’s just our nature. ‘Cause the cavemen, they didn’t know that another mastodon was just around the corner. They thought that was the only one they’d ever see, and the only food they’d ever catch. So they stuffed themselves silly, and hoped that would last them as long as possible.

They just didn’t know.

We’re still like that. People came to America, they were heating things up with wood and fire. Then one day someone dug a hole in the ground, and found this black stuff they called “coal,” and said, “Screw the wood, look at this stuff! It burns a lot longer! And so what, it smells bad. So do you!”

And then we went about digging up all the coal. So what if people were dying from diseases, we didn’t live that long, anyway. And most of the people we sent down into the planet to get the coal up were poor, anyway, and the people with money didn’t give a shit about them. So they sent a canary in. Those poor little birds, they were being slaughtered by the thousands because nobody had invented a carbon monoxide detector yet. Bet God is pissed about the canaries. He kind of liked them, too, they were so pretty and had their little songs.

So one day, some dude out west digs a hole a little deeper and this black stuff starts gushing out all over him. “Oh, shit,” he must have thought. “I made the earth bleed!” But then later on someone figured out that this goo worked better than that crappy coal and you could make more stuff out of it, too! All kinds of fuel! And then we could have tons more technological junk. That led to cars, and trucks, and while there was less coal dust in the cities, it led to other problems.

‘Cause being stupid little humans, we got greedy. We tried to use up all that oil as fast as possible. Now people are telling us, “We must conserve! We have to find other things that burn besides oil!”

And we cringed. Some people were good about it. They bought hybrids, they put solar panels on their roofs, they turned the thermostat down and wore sweaters, like Jimmy Carter.

You know, in a lot of ways, it’s like shampoo. You get a new bottle and you think, “Hot damn, I’m all set here! I got a lot of shampoo! I can use as much as I want!” So you pour out a big glob. You mush it all over your head. You even lather, rinse and repeat.

Until…you pick up the bottle one day and notice that it’s starting to run out. “Oh, shit,” you think. So you start using a smaller glob. You don’t rinse and repeat. Then…now admit it, you all do this…you put a little water in the bottle, so you can get more out of it. And then when that’s gone, you start using other people’s shampoos…your spouse’s, your kids’…when you’re desperate enough, you’ll use the dog’s. Or you’ll start washing your hair every other day.

Finally you break down and get a new bottle. “I’m all set!” you think, all smug and happy. Then you pour out a big glob, you lather, rinse, and repeat…

But what if you go out to your drug store they’ve run out of shampoo?

“Sorry,” the manager says.

“Nothing?” you ask. “No Prell, no Pantene? Not even any of that Fructis stuff?”

“All out,” he says.

“Not even baby shampoo?”

The manager shrugs. “We used it all up.”

This puzzles you. “We…used it all up? How is that possible? Can’t we just make more? This is America, for God’s sake…”

“I’m afraid we’ve run out…” Then he smiles. “We’re working on some alternative forms of hair care products…might I suggest in the interim you use soap? You might even be eligible for a tax credit.”

Damn. I knew I should have skipped that “lather, rinse and repeat part.” You sigh. “Fine. Give me the application.”