Sunday, August 30, 2009

Where Has this guy been for the last thirty years?

Typical thirtysomething guy sits down at a table with a bunch of typical thirtysomething friends of mixed ethnicity (of course) at Olive Garden. "I know what I want already" he says.

Waitress: "Have you heard about our endless pasta bowl?"

Guy is gobsmacked- Endless Pasta Bowl? Wow, this is going to cause some major rethinking! "Friends" find this funny and burst out laughing, which suggests that they decided not to wait to get sloshed on Olive Garden's cheap wine selection and instead got tanked before dinner.

Ok, let's stop right here. "Have you ever heard about our endless pasta bowl?" ranks right up there with the cashier at MacDonald's asking me if I've ever heard of the Big Mac, or a kid at Seven-Eleven asking me if I'm aware that store sells hot coffee. Seriously, has this guy been in a cave for his entire life?

Back to the current situtation, in which this guy must now find a way to save face for his "I know what I want already" boasting (how dare he? How could anyone be so certain before looking at Olive Garden's extensive menu of crap faux-Italian food?) He pulls it off with aplomb- "I know what I want...FIRST." More laughter from his clearly shit-faced friends (if they aren't drunk, he certainly picked them well, as they seem capable of bursting into laughter at every mildly amusing thing he says. Maybe he's the boss back at the office, and his "friends" are actually butt-kissing supplicants.)

Come on. When you go to Olive Garden, it's for one purpose- to get cheap-tasting food at a reasonable price. If you want GOOD Italian food, you aren't going to the Olive Garden. Which means you don't go there for a nice steak, or good seafood. You go there for pasta. Lots and lots of pasta. And breadsticks. Because you're too damned lazy to make it at home, and don't mind shelling out ten bucks because at least you don't have to do the dishes when it's over, and you can pretend you treated yourself to a night out. But let's not make it more than it is. It's all the spaghetti and rolls you want, without waiting for the next church dinner. Period.

When you walk in, you know what you'll get. Because, really, it's all they've got.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Further Dumbing Down of America

There are a lot of these "if (fill in blank) ran the world" Nextel commercials, and they are all totally snark-worthy. There's the "if lumberjacks ran the world" one, in which some incredibly filthy dick holding one of those incredibly annoying chirping phones decides a divorce case by having his minions chop everything the couple owns in half, brilliant. There's the one featuring a cliche'd Bridezilla in which we hear one of my favorite questions ever- "Why is it raining?" Ummmm......

But I'll focus today on one that touches a subject near and dear to my heart. I teach AP US Government, and I take the concept of Democracy and the teaching of the genius of our remarkable, enduring system very, very seriously. So the "What if Firemen ran the world" commercial really ticks me off.

The firemen are sitting in what looks like the floor of the House of Representatives. The Speaker bleats into his phone "New Roads?" The "Representatives" reply into their own god-damned chirping phones "Aye!" "What about the budget?" asks the Speaker. "Balance it" chants the "Congress."

Done and done.

Except, NO. Here's the "problem" with a Democracy: Services and Costs must be balanced, which requires careful deliberation among 435 Congressmen, 100 Senators and 1 President in accordance with the rules set down by a 222-year old document. The decisions concerning the raising and spending of money involve the wants and needs of some 300 million people with widely divergent opinions, all of whom have the right to be heard. This commercial feeds what I like to call the Conceit of the Common Man- the conviction, fed not only by Nextel but also by Hollywood movies from Mr Smith Goes to Washington to Man of the Year and Dave, that if ONLY "average" people could be put in charge, all of our problems would disappear in the wink of an eye. Such a conviction might make us feel good about ourselves, it might fit nicely into our already well-established but largely ignorant distaste for "politicians," but it's about as rooted in reality as Swing Vote.

I don't think that corporations have an obligation to educate the public. It would be nice, however, if they didn't feel it necessary to reduce the national IQ to pimp their crappy products.

Progressive Insurance: Where are the Damned Windows??

These ads for Progressive Insurance really creep me out. For one thing, each one features the same scary-pale brunette who looks like she ought to be auditioning for the community theatre's upcoming presentation of Snow White. Seriously, does she EVER get outside?

Secondly, the "store" in these ads look like the inside of a florescent bulb, or that lab where Mike Teevee got turned into a billion floating specks in Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. Shouldn't they be handing out sunglasses at the door?

Third, if the dope who asks about discounts is planning on buying Online ("DISCOUNT!"), why is he even there, talking to the scary-pale brunette? Isn't the reason that the "store" is gleaming white is that it's supposed to be a representation of a web site anyway? I'm so confused.

Fourth, the "guy hogging the remote" bit: Congratulations, Progressive- you somehow managed to fit in the prerequisite "all men are self-absorbed idiots, watch as their women roll their eyes in resigned disgust" message in.

--and on a related snark, the little balding man who asks "what if mother won't let me drive?" Um, why are you in this commercial? Oh yes, to play Beaten Down P-whipped Guy. Ever think of doing any yogurt commercials?

Fifth, the "name your own price" gag? Please. I go on to and type in that I want to pay a hundred dollars a year for car insurance. responds that no insurance is available at that price. Yeah, that makes me feel "empowered." You know what, I can save big money on my food budget too, if I just quit eating. And I can "name my own price" for rent by living in a piano box. Give me a break.

And I didn't even get to the "you must be interested in motorcycle insurance" ad, where the Scary-Pale girl brags about her bike. No need. These ads have already worn out their welcome, and need to go, now.

If only we could find a way to get Scary-Pale girl to take that Gecko and the Cavemen with her....

They'll be lucky to have you, after a few minor adjustments

Middle-aged guy nervously adjusts his tie in the mirror as he tells his teen-aged daughter doubtfully "it's been a long time since I've had to wear a tie..."

Teen-aged daughter: "Dad, you're going to get this job, I know it." And she holds up a box of Just for Men hair coloring.

(Yes, I've snarked on Just for Men before- check the archives. Some companies just keep gift-wrapping presents for me. )

The guy uses Just for Men to change his hair from gray to brown. Next thing you know, he's walking through the door and telling his anxious daughter "Honey, it looks like I'm going to need......some more ties!"

"YES!" Exclaims daughter, and she gives her dad a hug. Aww, how sweet. I guess Dad can keep custody now.

Ok, so what's the big deal? What's so snark-worthy about this commercial. Simply this: As in all "Just for Men" hair coloring ads, we are being sold the concept that there's something WRONG with having gray hair. Gray hair means you don't get dates. Gray hair means that the cute girl at the bar won't give you a second glance. Gray hair means that you are doomed to remain unemployed and your teen-aged daughter is going to have to go live with mom Upstate.

And what happens if gray-haired guys use Just for Men? They get dates. They get picked up by the cute girl at the bar. They get jobs. They get their daughters' respect and admiration.

Really, why stop there? Why don't we see commercials where the daughter hands her father not just a box of hair coloring, but a paper bag which contains Hair Coloring, Lifts, Botox, a two-month supply of Dexatrim and a Gym Membership? Because "they'd be lucky to have you," but they aren't going to give you a second glance unless you are younger-looking, taller, and slimmer, right?

I wish Just for Men would include the tagline "Because Once You Have Gray Hair, nobody is interested in you, period." I also wish their commercials would stop implying that every guy out there who has gray hair is a divorced loner who needs affirmation from the Little Girl in His Life. There's something really creepy about seeing daughters begging their dads to pretend to be younger than they actually are. But maybe it's just me.

What kind of "Party" is this?

Here's a guy walking through an opulent-looking house filled with people engaged in conversation, holding a bag of Chex Party Mix (maybe. I think it's Chex Mix. It hardly matters.) His problem: People keep sticking their hands in his bag of snacks. They are eating his Chex Mix! What a bunch of jerks!

The narrator offers a helpful solution: Stick your bag of GOOD snacks into a bag of "Boring Chips." Seriously, the Brand X-style bag is labeled "boring chips." Presto, the guy is now free to walk about the house, chatting it up with people, with no fear that any of the other guests will want any of his well-disguised GOOD snacks.

Um, huh? Raise your hand if you've ever been to a "party" which is not merely BYOB, but also requests that you bring your own snacky-type foods, too. Who threw this party? What did the invitation say- "hey, come to my house Saturday night. I'm asking everyone to bring whatever they want to eat and drink, and to eat and drink it at my house?" I've been to parties where I've been asked to bring a dish of something for everyone to share. I've been to parties where people have brought snacks which are then poured into big bowls and placed in centralized locations. I've never been to a party where people bring their own snacks and walk around hoarding them.

I've got a suggestion for this selfish pig: the best way to avoid having to share ANYTHING is to avoid human contact. The next time you get an invitation to attend a weird "bring your own Everything" party, just politely decline and stay at home with your precious snacks. Trust me, you won't be missed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Smoke Assassin: Sometimes, the Snark Writes Itself!

There are days when I really have to reach to add to this blog. I realize that I haven't posted in a while, so I write up some snark concerning an ad that I find only mildly annoying. Then there are days when I'm so irritated and/or angry at a commercial that I can't WAIT to blog about it.

And now, I have to add a new kind of day: A day where I hear a commercial so blandly unenthusiastic about it's product that the snark seems to be built in, and all I have to do is repeat what I heard.

The product is something called Smoke Assassin, and right off the bat I know it's going to be a winner: "the price of cigarettes just keeps going up, the taxes just keep going up, and it's just not fair." Um, pardon me? What exactly is not "fair" about cigarette prices rising? What exactly is not "fair" about cigarette TAXES rising? I've heard enough of Cigar Dave to know that there really is an army of self-pitying idiots who think that they have a God-given right to blow smoke in my face, but let's get real.

It gets better: "Smoke Assassin- it looks and feels like the real thing, but emits water vapor instead of smoke. We're not saying you'll stop smoking, but thousands quit every day." I just LOVE this line! Imagine a car dealer telling you "I'm not saying this car will operate properly, but millions of people drive every day." Or Rosetta Stone informing it's customers "We aren't saying that you'll learn a new language, but thousands are learning a new language every day." Brilliant!

It gets even BETTER: "We're not saying it's a healthy smoke, but you do the math: no nicotine, no tar....." Again, I just love it: this company comes right out and says "our product might not be good for you either, but it's not bad in the same way cigarettes are."

I don't know what Smoke Assassin actually is, and I'm pretty positive it doesn't work (heck, the commercials basically TELL me it doesn't work) but I have to applaud the radio commercials for their honesty and built-in snark. Maybe in the future the makers of Smoke Assassin will come out with a ten-second version- "Try Smoke Assassin- it might not help you quit, it's not healthy, but--- um, well--- Try Smoke Assassin." I'd love it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Maybe you wouldn't be so Damned Depressed if you'd just put down that doll

Did you know that ads for Prescription Drugs used to be illegal in this country? I'd like to see them made illegal again, mainly because while the principal task of ALL commercials is to make you feel crappy about your life and then offer you a solution through the purchase of some product, there seems to be something downright evil in using the same marketing strategy to sell drugs. The constant "suggestion" that you "Ask Your Doctor" about this drug or that if you feel this symptom or that has at it's base nothing more complicated than a desire by Big Pharma to turn this country into an army of pill-poppers constantly harassing their doctors for more. And, of course, turning doctors into well-paid pushers who would rather hand out the drugs and collect the fees (not to mention the junkets to "medical conferences" and free goodies ranging from golf trips to ball-point pens) than actually talk to their patients.

The most recent obnoxious drug ad I've seen is one for something called "Pristiq." It features a truly creepy-looking, pink-cheeked doll with a massive windup key attached to it's back. A woman tells us that "every day, it was as if I had to wind myself up to get myself going." (Shot of doll being wound, and then slowly walking across a table, sad look on face, arms moving back and forth slightly, and quickly winding down.) "Then I'd have to wind myself up again." (Repeat scene of creepy doll taking tiny steps across the table.)

Narrarator tells us that we should "ask our doctor about Pristiq." What's Pristiq? One of a dozen or so prescription medications designed to treat Depression. How does it work? Well, this is interesting- we are told that "Pristiq MAY work by...." followed by the industry-standard cartoon graphics suggesting that the movement of little pink and blue squares from one synaps to another limits the effects of depression, or something. So it seems that the manufacturer doesn't know, either.

But back to that doll. Now the woman has a slight smile on her face, and so does the doll (I don't want a doll that changes moods along with me. I'm happy with my portrait in the back room.) The doll marches across the picnic table, and the woman just stares at it with this insipid half-grin. In the background, her husband and children are playing happily, and they interrupt this woman's Doll Time by running to No Longer Depressed Mommy.

I don't want to make light of Depression- I know more about it than I'm willing to discuss here- but maybe one problem this woman was having was that she was spending way too much time playing with the Most Depressing Toy Ever Invented. Seriously- a doll with a massive key in it's back, which takes tiny steps when wound? Yeah, that's a better choice than YOUR HUSBAND AND CHILDREN, WHO ARE RIGHT THERE! Cripes, poking a dead squirrel with a stick would be less depressing than this doll.

At least those sad floating heads in the Zoloft commercials have an obvious excuse for being depressed- THEY DON'T HAVE BODIES. But this woman is just bringing it on herself with that stupid doll.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Totally Incomprehensible Heineken Ad

Two guys are being lead to their seats in the nosebleed section of an basketball arena. Just before they can sit down, some dope jumps up and knocks the tray of beers out of one guy's hand, drenching their seats. "No problem" says the guy to the usher. "Don't sweat it."

The usher is enormously impressed with the coolness of these two guys, who are apparently about to take their seats without even asking him to, I don't know, towel off the massive puddle of beer that now occupies them. (There's no word from the guy who knocked the beers over, either- apparently he's gone right back to watching the game, without so much as a "pardon me," let alone an offer to replace the beers.) How impressed IS the usher? Enough to mutter "you know what? Follow me" and lead the guys to seats right on the court.

Before we move on, let's analyze this sequence of events thus far. Guys get their beer spilled, and don't make a fuss over it. Their reward is to be taken from the cheap seats to the floor level- and handed seats that are reserved for VIPs like Jack Nicholson and which retail for thousands of dollars. Because they are cool with getting their beer spilled. Riiiiiiiiiiggght.

Tag line- "Enjoy the Upgrade."

Then we get the commercial's Happy Conclusion- a leggy beer girl offers the guys bottles of Heineken Light. They sure look like glass bottles. Glass bottles on the floor of an NBA game- oh sure, I can't see any danger inherent in that. Not at all. Why not offer the guys spiked shields to hold in front of them during the action, too?

And finally- Eva Longoria asks them to hand her a bottle of Heineken. So, the leggy beer girl is just standing there after the guys got their beers? The leggy beer girl isn't willing to walk over to Eva Longoria to offer her a beer?

Well, whatever. Let's never mind the choad who spills the beer and doesn't offer word one of apology. Let's ignore the leggy beer girl with the glass bottles. Let's instead focus on the utterly logic-bending idea that an USHER at an NBA GAME has the authority to hand two dopes in the nosebleed section two seats reserved for CEOs, Oscar nominees, or stars of the music industry. I'm so sure that this happens in real life without serious money being exchanged. I'm so sure that ushers are always handing these seats to nameless working-class stiffs on a whim. Jesus, at least show us one of these guys sticking a few hundred-dollar bills into the usher's jacket pocket before he leaves. I mean, come on, Heineken.

At least give us a sequel, where Spike Lee shows up and wants to know why these two white guys are sitting in his seats.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wow, I feel so Honored!

There are several different radio commercials out there selling products which sound the same and promise to do exactly the same thing- Hydrolyze, Hydroclean, Hydroxodine--- and all their commercials are just awful. One script for Hydroxodine was recently purchased by Rosetta Stone, with the words (a "conversation" between a skeptical caller and a "helpful" operator) tweaked only slightly to sell a language program instead of facial cream. But a recent commercial for one product, Hydrolyze, especially irritates me because it seems to be offering some exclusive deal to only certain types of people, when in fact it's just offering the same chance to purchase their product to everyone willing to call their toll-free number.

The announcer tells us that "if you have bags under your eyes, or dark circles from blood pooling under the skin, you're eligible to participate in a free trial of Hydrolyze!" Hey, I've got bags under my eyes, and ocassional dark circles- so I'm eligible! Yay! And just in case I'm not sure, the word "participate" is used no less than FIVE TIMES during the commercial. Sounds like some kind of university study looking for volunteers to test their product for FREE, right? In fact, participants in this kind of study are usually PAID to try it. Count me in!

Oh, but wait: How, in fact, does one go about "participating" in this "free trial?" Turns out that if you call their 800 number, the Operator will take down your credit card number and your address, and you'll receive a starter kit for Hydrolyze for free- you just pay shipping and handling. And if after thirty days you aren't satisfied with the results, you can just send it back at your expense. If you don't send it back, you'll get MORE Hydrolyze in the mail- conveniently charged to your credit card, of course. And just in case you were wondering- at no point are you asked by anyone to prove that you have bags under your eyes or dark circles- in other words, your "eligibility" is never confirmed. Just your credit card number.

So--- what exactly are we participating in, again? The purchasing and usage of Hydrolyze, that's what. Wow, don't we feel special. Did you know that the last time you went to Burger King, you were "participating" in an "opportunity" to purchase junk food? Of course, that "opportunity" is contingent on your level of hunger and ability to pay- dark circles are not necessary.

More deceptive advertising- where would Satellite Radio be without it?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Michael Jordan, Stalkers, and Underwear

Hanes Briefs Commercial # 1: Cuba Gooding Jr. receives a gift of underwear from Michael Jordan, complete with a card which reads "hope you enjoy the underwear" (or something like that.)

Quick aside: Why is Michael Jordan giving Cuba Gooding Jr. underwear? I mean, I know that Gooding's acting career hasn't exactly panned out like he planned ( remember Jerry Maguire? Of course you do. Remember Radio? Of course you don't. How about Shadowboxer? The Fighting Temptations? Didn't think so.) But according to IMDB, he's appearing in a lot of films, so he's drawing a paycheck. So what's the deal?

Hanes Briefs Commercial # 2: Charlie Sheen really, really, REALLY wants to thank Michael Jordan for turning him on to the comfort and style of Hanes. All Jordan wants to do is to put his golf clubs in the back of his convertible and continue with his gold-plated retirement. Sheen says that they should get together, do lunch sometime. Jordan is non-commital. Sheen is so anxious to hook up with Jordan in the near future that he tosses his cell phone into the back of Jordan's car as the former NBA star drives off.

Charlie Sheen has something in common with Cuba Gooding Jr.- he's not a successful movie star. Back in the eighties he played the leading role in a few mildly successful flicks- mostly light comedies in the by-now-beaten-to-death spoof genre, but his film career has essentially tanked. But he's a very successful tv star (God knows why- there's no accounting for taste.) I'm sure he has no problem finding ways to rub shoulders with the great and near-great; so why is he begging for a date with Michael Jordan? I mean, this guy was married to Denise Richards once!

You know who would have been a better choice for Charlie Sheen's role in this commercial? Emilio Estevez. I can totally see Estevez begging for the opportunity to spend time with Michael Jordan. Think Sheen has his number?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Add Yoplait to the List of Sponsors Who Hate Men

Guy is standing in the kitchen, talking on the phone to an unseen buddy about how he's losing weight despite eating all this great food- "yeah, every night it's something different- key lime pie. Coconut creme. Yeah, and I'm actually losing weight. It's been great!"

Woman who is apparently his wife walks into the room behind him as he talks and proceeds to eavesdrop on his conversation as she opens the refrigerator door. Ah-HAH!! Stacked on the top shelf are a dozen or so cups of Yoplait Brand yogurt, in all the flavors that the guy on the phone has mentioned to his friend! Busted! Except, of course, it's hard to see what this guy has done wrong, or why it's any of this woman's business.

Nevertheless, she feels compelled to interrupt his conversation with "Um, Babe?" The guy turns around to see that she's holding the "incriminating" evidence of his malicious deceit- a cup of yogurt. The guy sheepishly turns his back toward the camera and tells his friend "Um, I gotta go." As he puts the phone down his chin drops to his chest, and he has this remorseful, caught-with-his-hand-in-the-cookie-jar look on his face.

Um, WHY? What the HELL did this guy do that was so damned horrible that he had to be slapped down for it? He told his friend that he was eating all this great food, which turned out to be flavors of yogurt- SO? What if the opposite was happening- what if he was telling his friend that he was losing weight by eating yogurt, but was actually consuming junk food? Would that have been more acceptable?

And more to the point- WHY does this woman feel compelled to get involved in the conversation? WHY is it her business what this guy is telling his friend? And my biggest question- WHAT is with the hangdog look this poor choad has at the end of the commercial as he says "I gotta go?" Does he have to make amends to this woman now? WHY? Did he fail to ask permission before using the phone?

Here's a better ending for this commercial- woman says "Um, Babe?" Guy turns around, acknowledges wife, and says "I'm on the phone right now, is it important?" When she basically has to concede that no, it's not important, she's just being a rude bitch (who, by the way, seems pretty determined to undermine his confidence and, therefore, his diet,) the guy turns his back again and continues with this conversation.

If he's lucky, she packs a bag and leaves before he's ready to hang up. Trust me, buddy- you've suffered no loss. Now open a bag of Fritos and treat yourself to a beer in front of the TV.

The Horror of Daytime TV- Pity the Poor SAHMs

It's summertime, which in the immortal words of Otto on The Simpsons means "three months of Spaghetti-O's and Daytime TV!" It also means that I get a chance to see a certain type of commercial that during the school year I would miss- the type aimed at Stay-At-Home moms. The commercial I'm going to snark on today played during "The View," which was unfortunately playing on the only television at the gym. Though it makes for good material, I think I would have rather missed this one.

It's a cartoon. Lots of daytime tv commercials seem to be cartoons- apparently ad agencies have convinced the makers of diapers, fabric softeners, and absorbent towels that stay-at-home moms are basically big children who react well to colorful animation and pretty music. It's an ad for Charmin Bath Tissue (which we in the real world refer to as "toilet tissue," but whatever) and it features a little pink bear who has apparently done something to displease his mom- he's "used the restroom" (in as much as there are restrooms available for bears in the woods) but the cheap toilet paper he used left pieces of the stuff attached to his butt.

Stay with me. I haven't even reached the bad part yet.

Momma Bear- who is also pink and is absolutely enormous- hands Little Bear a roll of Charmin and directs him to "try again." (At this point, I really wish I was dead. Or back in school. Anything to avoid this horror.) Little Bear proceeds to squat behind a tree which is equipped with a roll of Charmin. I wish I was kidding. We are supposed to imagine that Little Cartoon Bear is defecating behind Tall But Not Quite Wide Enough Dammit Cartoon Tree.

Little Bear presents himself for Momma Bear's inspection- and (why did God curse me with eyes?) we see that Little Bear still has a few scraps of paper attached to his butt, but they quickly fall off with a few shakes. Momma Bear is sooooo pleased with Little Bear.

Message I got from this commercial: Yes, Bears do shit in the woods, just like the old joke says. But most "bath tissue" leaves pieces of paper attached to the user (seriously? I had no idea.) Charmin magically seperates itself from your butt, even (I guess) if it's covered with fur. The makers of Charmin think that SAHMs are brain-dead children. The makers of Charmin also hate me and don't care that they make me long for Labor Day and a return to 9-hour days teaching, so I don't have to risk accidental exposure to this dreck again.

What happened to Mr. Whipple, that guy addicted to squeezing Charmin yet dedicated to preventing others from doing the same? I miss that guy. Especially now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Summer of Smirnoffs

Ok, I have to admit straight out- I've seen this latest installment of Assholes Get Drunk on Smirnoffs And Behave Like Reckless Children about four times, and I'm still not quite sure what's going on. Maybe it's because each of these commercials literally makes me tear up in despair, they are so far off the Brain-Dead Stupid Meter. But I'll give it a shot:

It seems that this time, the lucky (?) survivors of Commercial # 1 (diving down slick highways of plastic sheeting, risking paralysis in the name of Something Had To Be Done) and Commercial # 2 (dumping purple paint all over an abandoned gas station, wearing miner's goggles and jumping up and down like clueless preschoolers) are actually doing some work- pushing pencils and making photocopies for some totally unkewl soulless corporate behemoth. Clearly, once again, something "must be done." As near as I can tell, what "must be done" is taking every piece of foam in the office, carrying the tons of scrap to the roof, and throwing it all in a huge pile. Then what? Well, since a thousand bottles or so of Smirnoffs vodka has magically appeared in this OFFICE BUILDING, the natural answer to "then what?" is to hurl ourselves into the pile of foam!!

Smirnoffs naturally concludes this ad, which not only lacks the tiniest shred of social value but I'm convinced has pushed my soul closer to hell's outer ring, with the words "Be There." Um, be WHERE? WHERE is this HAPPENING in REAL LIFE? WHERE are people getting drunk in the middle of the fricking day, in the middle of an office building, and then throwing themselves into piles of trash on the roof?

I can only hope that before Labor Day, Smirnoffs concludes this ad campaign (which, seriously, has left me convinced that there Is No God, because God Would Not Allow Such Things as these commercials to Exist) by having this entire crowd of worthless choads engage in a wild, "I can't believe I was there" gas-pump free-for-all, a la Zoolander. Heck, instead of gasoline, just have these witless losers douse eachother with Smirnoffs. Then light a match. That commercial would restore my soul and my faith in ad agencies. And it's not like anyone can argue that ALL of these idiots deserve to die a horrible death. Right now.

"Well, I'm at Least as Relevant as my Guests!"

Once Upon a Time....there was this trailblazing pioneer in television news. Her name was Barbara Walters. In an era when males all but monopolized a very limited medium, Walters managed to become a familiar face for television viewers throughout the United States-- no, make that throughout the world. For fifteen years she hosted The Today Show. Then, she cohosted and ultimately replaced the iconic Hugh Downs on 20/20. Finally came the ultimate honor- becoming a host of The ABC Nightly News. By the 1980s, Walters had really arrived- she was an honored professional taken seriously by both her peers in the journalism community and by the public. Now nearly eighty, she continues to draw good ratings with The View (I'm not a fan, but kudos to Ms. Walters for not being willing to just slip into the background.)

Which is why the commercial for her Sirius/XM Radio show, Barbara Live, is so damned depressing. Here Walters breathlessly tells us that we should tune in and listen to her interview "the most fascinating people in Hollywood and the Music Industry!" Examples? "The great Elton John. Michael Caine. And LIZA!!"

For my readers who are under the age of fifty or so, "LIZA!" is Liza Minelli, best known for being Judy Garland's daughter. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1972 and then went on to star in several box-office flops. She had a decent stage career in the 1960s and 1970s, but by the mid-80s had more or less fallen off the radar screen. Elton John doesn't need any introduction, but more than a dozen years after that God-awful remake of Candle In The Wind (A God-Awful song in it's ORIGINAL form) does he really qualify as one of the music industry's "most fascinating people?" And Michael Caine--- seriously, Michael Caine??

Just for the record- Liza Minelli is 62 years old. Elton John is 63. Michael Caine is 75. I've got nothing against Seniors, but only Barbara Walters could think that these people represent the "most fascinating people" in Hollywood and the Music industry. At least she doesn't refer to them as "fresh young stars," which would REALLY date the host.

I'm looking forward to Walters' warning us not to miss future shows featuring Twiggy, Kate Jackson, and Lee Majors. I'd suggest that she perform a duet with Tiny Tim, except I'm pretty sure he's dead. I wonder if that disqualifies him from being on this show.

Seriously, Barbara- it's nice that you are still on tv and the radio (and you sure as hell don't look like you are going to be eighty in September,) but you are dating yourself with this nonsense. Still, I won't snark on you too harshly- at least you aren't hosting that Pet Psychic show or trying to sell me a Credit Card Counseling service. For that, I'm eternally grateful.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Do People STILL Fall for Extended-Warranty Scams??

A well-dressed guy is being given the bad news by his auto mechanic: "you'd better plan on leaving your car here for a few days, it needs a lot of work..."

Well-Dressed Guy (who has greasy geri curls and looks like he fell out off the set of "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka") replies "yeah yeah, no problem....."

Mechanic: "No really, we're talking at least $1900 for parts....and then there's the labor and taxes..."

Well-Dressed Guy, who is barely paying attention: "Whatever, whatever, uh huh..."

Mechanic: "You're going to have to rent a car..."

Well-Dressed Guy: "Hey, it's no problem, I got Mogi!" And he whips out a little green credit card. Ah, I get it! This guy went to, bought an extended warranty for his car, and it's covered! He's right, there IS no problem!

Except, come on now. Well-Dressed Guy is suffering from a severe reality detachment if he really thinks that Mogi is going to cover thousands of dollars in damages to his car just because he happens to have an extended warranty with them. Extended warranties have ALWAYS been dicey propositions bordering on rip-offs-- they rarely if ever are worth the additional cost involved, either because the item being "covered" could be replaced for less than the premiums or because the most common repairs are conveniently left off the list of those covered. Extended car warranties are even bigger scams- since companies like Mogi know damn well what is likely to go wrong with automobiles when they reach a certain age or mileage level, they simply fail to include those in the warranty- something you find out ONLY when you need the work done on the car. Plus, extended warranties purchased along with the item usually accomplish nothing beyond jacking up the price of that item, providing no benefit to the consumer; I've lost count of how many times I've been "offered" an additional six months or a year of "service" (which usually involves sending the product through the mail to some factory, on my dime of course) on a vacuum or clock radio which adds maybe twenty percent or more to the price. It's almost always cheaper and more convenient just to chuck the thing and buy a new one when it breaks down beyond the manufacturer's warranty.

Check out these testimonials concerning automobile extended warranties:

You'll see that companies like Mogi are in business to scam people into shelling out their hard-earned money on worthless warranties. Of course, this should come as no surprise to anyone who has matured enough to realize that no insurance company is going to offer complete coverage for your 2001 KIA with 180,000 miles on it for a reasonable price. That won't stop Mogi and others from trying, however; I'm still getting monthly "warnings" from College Park Honda that the warranty has expired on my 2003 Honda Civic EX. Gotta give them an "A" for Effort, I guess.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

KGB: Because You STILL Aren't Using Your Cell Phone Often Enough!

A guy is standing in his yard, surrounded by friends and what looks to be some kind of physician doing an examination of his condition. The guy appears to be frozen.

"He's suffering from brainlock" announces the "physician."

"He was trying to remember who played first base for the Red Sox in 1986" a girl suggests helpfully.

Grooannn...stop right there. Of all the stupid things to get "brain freeze" if anyone, ANYONE who knows ANYTHING about baseball could suffer "brain freeze" on the question "Who played first base for the Red Sox in 1986?" At LEAST the question could be "who was Bill Buckner's defensive substitute?" I can see missing THAT. But BUCKNER? Oh well....

"Physician:" "Buckner." And the guy unfreezes. Problem solved.

The commercial is for something called "KGB" (it's not just a brutal police force operated by a totalitarian Communist state anymore!") which offers to answer dumbass questions like this for you if you just use the cell phone you already have stapled to your palm to text it to 542542. Yes, there's a fee involved. Yes, if you just give yourself a couple of seconds or- hey, here's a concept- actually ASK A HUMAN BEING IN THE VICINITY, you can probably get the answer without texting or paying a fee. Yes, any answer available through KGB is also available through a 10-second Google search. But KGB gives you another excuse to whip out your cell phone and start developing that third layer of callouses on your thumbs!

And that's what drives me nuts about this commercial. It's not enough that "tweeting" went from rather silly non-activity to common practice adopted by CNN in about five minutes. It's not enough that we've been made to believe that if we don't have streaming video and XM radio and this "Ap" and that "Ap" with our phones, they are just paperweights that will leave us showing poorly to our friends. Now we are being told that any time we can't remember something, we should abandon the old-fashioned methods of thinking for a few minutes or asking someone (after all, the latter might start a CONVERSATION with a person who is ACTUALLY THERE- a conversation carried out without the use of cell phones, is such a thing stil possible??? Is it really conceivable that no one at this little lawn party knew the answer to this guy's "brain freeze" question?) and instead go right to our electronic security blankets. Because God Knows we don't ever, EVER want to debate or discuss ANYTHING with ANYONE, EVER, right?

Not to mention that in this economy, who WOULDN'T mind dropping a quick dollar or two every time it takes you more than a few seconds to remember something? After all, thinking makes my brain hurt. Not knowing is bad and wrong. Instant Gratification- that's where it's at!

So the next time you can't remember who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1988, for God's Sake do NOT ask someone in the same room. Do NOT give it any thought at all. Just text away- it's probably what you were doing anyway. And when you look up and you find yourself alone, breathe a sigh of relief that there's now no chance that your texting will be interrupted by one of those organic life forms you are forced to share the planet with.